Often, those Pitt State experiences that have the greatest impact on a student’s life take place far from the Oval.

Senior Emily Allen said she thought she understood something about poverty until she went on a trip to Peru this spring to study the Amazon Rain Forest.

“Until this trip I feel like I never really understood what it meant to not have access to clean water or school supplies,” Allen said. “I had never seen so many individuals without shoes or clothes riddled with holes, because they can’t afford to buy any. The mortality rate where we were is very high, and if they had some of the medicines that are thought of as common in the States, it would save many lives.”

“I think you really gain a new appreciation for your own culture when you study abroad. By learning about other cultures, you learn a lot about your own.” – Emily Vue

The faculty who lead these off-campus study programs say it doesn’t surprise them that students’ lives are changed by the experience. In fact, that’s the point.

“The thing that I heard just about all the students comment on was that they didn’t realize that that level of poverty existed in the world,” said Delia Lister, director of PSU’s Nature Reach program. “One particular family we visited – it was grandparents, their son and their son’s wife and kids – collectively made maybe the equivalent of $150-$200 a year and that was it.

“But they were happy and they were welcoming and so I think that really struck the students,” Lister said.

Lister said the trip to Peru was her fourth such trip.

“This was my fourth trip,” she said. “I went in 2004 as a student. I never thought I would have a chance to lead a group, myself.”

She said she enjoys these educational journeys, as they teach everyone a lot about life and perspective.

“When I was a student, I realized it’s a pretty big world out there,” she said. “I’m pretty lucky to be an American and to have what I have. When I start complaining about something I stop and realize that’s a first-world problem.”

Emily Vue, who double majors in international business and international studies, spent part of this past summer at Hanyang University in South Korea. During her study abroad experience, she took courses in ceramic arts and the Korean language.

“The opportunity to study abroad is one of the best parts about being a student at Pitt State,” Vue said. “I knew I could come to Pitt, which isn’t all that far from my hometown, and still have the chance to see the world. It’s really cool.”

Vue credits the International Programs and Services Office at Pitt State for helping her accomplish her dream of studying in South Korea. Vue specifically thanked Assistant Director Angela Moots for her role in the process.

“Angela Moots really helped make this all happen,” she said. “I was a little worried about how I would pay for this, and she told me about the Gilman Scholarship.”

The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that enables students to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness.

“Angela helped me apply for the scholarship,” Vue said. “I didn’t think I’d get it since so many students apply. But then I got an email one day saying I had received the scholarship. It was probably the best email I’ve ever received.”

Vue said all students should consider studying abroad.

“You gain a new appreciation for your own culture when you study abroad,” she said. “When you get international experiences, you learn so much about new cultures and you see things you can’t see here in the United States. At the same time, by learning about other cultures, you learn a lot about your own.”

Pitt State students and alumni said studying abroad can be life-changing.

“My first day of freshman year here at PSU, I went straight to the study abroad office to start planning my trip and never looked back,” said Lauren Hughes, who studied for six months in Berlin, Germany. “I didn’t care how I got overseas. I just knew I needed to go.

“I learned more than I could have ever imagined over those six months,” she said. “My experience quickly became about more than just travel. My favorite thing about my time overseas was not the places I went, but it is hands down the people I met and the experiences I had with them. I walked away from Berlin knowing so much more about myself because of the people I spent my time with.”

Alex Ortiz was part of a faculty-led trip to London last year.

Ortiz, from Coffeyville, Kan., said he would encourage all students to take advantage of this opportunity while in school.

“I think other people should really consider the benefits that can come from studying abroad,” he said. “It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some and one you could regret passing on. It also provides you with international experience that can give you an edge when applying for jobs. It can be such an eye-opener and helps remind us that there’s a whole other world outside our own country.”

Hannah Pio agrees. Pio, who studied biology at PSU, spent a month in Kralendijk, Bonaire, a small island in the Dutch Caribbean. Pio said she chose that location because of her career goal of being a marine biologist.

Along with attaining valuable experience and information that will help in her future career, Pio said the experience also taught her lessons that will benefit her overall life.

“I learned so much during my time in Bonaire,” she said. “I learned to not be afraid to do things completely on my own, because the experiences you end up having are so worth it. It was really eye-opening to experience a different culture and to feel like an outsider. I feel like it really made me appreciate my home a lot more.”