November 17, 2023

Purdue students’ international education opportunities abound abroad

When it comes to study abroad opportunities, Purdue students have no shortage of choices. From adventurous spring break study tours and semester-long sessions to immersive internships and cooperative education programs, Purdue offers Boilermakers hundreds of unique ways to embark on fulfilling experiences while broadening the horizons of their knowledge.

Each year, approximately 2,000 students participate through their choice of more than 400 Purdue-approved study abroad programs in over 60 countries, including those who take part in additional programs organized by colleges and departments across campus. These experiences, ranging anywhere from one week to one year, help students like Booth Kayonga, a senior majoring in political science, gain global perspectives and open doors for future academic opportunities.

pt-study-abroad-kayonga-800x533 Booth Kayonga, a senior studying political science, spent the duration of her yearlong exchange program in Bristol, England. (Photo provided) Download image

“I think studying abroad really helped reformulate the way I think about the world around me,” Kayonga says. “The quality of education I received was fantastic, and it aided in my understanding of international politics and really had me questioning my own political beliefs. I was able to look at my own thoughts and critically analyze them in a way I never could before because I was just kind of in this bubble in the States.” 

Though the thought of being alone in a new environment initially intimidated Kayonga, she took the leap and spent the duration of her yearlong exchange program pursuing coursework focused on international relations at the University of Bristol in England. There, she immersed herself in topics she wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to study and formed bonds with her peers, lecturers and professors.

Now a Purdue Study Abroad peer advisor, Kayonga shares her experience with other students as she guides them through the first stages of the study abroad process, easing their nerves along the way. Her time in Bristol, along with the communication, problem-solving and collaboration skills she gained before, during and after her program, played a key part in her decision to apply for graduate programs at home and overseas.

“I feel like my experience abroad has really helped me feel more confident that I will be able to successfully complete graduate studies,” Kayonga says. “It’s not just the study abroad experience itself. The skills that I gained and the problems I had to solve during the process aided in making me a well-rounded student and competitive candidate.” 

pt-study-abroad-ecuador-800x533 Weekend excursions, like white-water rafting in Ecuador, were a memorable part of Catherine Bradley’s study abroad journey. (Photo provided) Download image

Purdue’s international education offerings also extend beyond traditional study abroad journeys. Administered by the Office of Professional Practice, the Global Engineering Alliance for Research and Education (GEARE) is an international work experience program that integrates language coursework, study abroad, cultural training, domestic and international work, and research experience and global design team projects into the College of Engineering curriculum. 

More than 400 students are currently enrolled in GEARE, including Catherine Bradley, whose interest in the program first formed as a high school senior on a tour of Purdue’s campus. Now a senior majoring in chemical engineering and president of GEARE Ambassadors, Bradley says joining the program has been a highlight of her Purdue journey. 

“I’ve never been in a student organization that gives so much freedom to go out and try new things and grow the program in the way that GEARE has. Whatever you want out of your experience at Purdue — whether it’s research experience or learning more about other cultures — you can find that within GEARE, and there are resources here to help you.”

Bradley’s involvement with GEARE led her to spend a semester of her junior year studying at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, where she soaked in coursework delivered entirely in Spanish. Her months abroad were filled with weekend trips visiting research facilities, scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands and exploring the city.

After her spring semester abroad, Bradley embarked on a second endeavor during the summer — this time in Bogota, Colombia — where she conducted nanoparticle research at Universidad del Rosario and absorbed the many ways universities collaborate to foster innovation.

Bradley knows the interpersonal and leadership skills she’s gained during her time with the program will serve her well in the future when she continues her pursuit of higher education and looks toward a career in defense. 

“It’s given me confidence in myself,” Bradley says. “It’s a hard thing to go abroad like that, and now coming back and having done it, I’ve realized I can do a whole lot more than I thought I could. I know that will make me more successful when I talk to people about my research, when I work with people and, even beyond that, when I begin my job search.”

Additional information about Purdue’s study abroad programs can be found on the Office of Programs for Study Abroad website. For more information about international education programs offered at Purdue, visit the Global Partnerships and Programs website.

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