“I’m living and learning and experiencing everything with people from all over the world,” Rhyne said. “I wasn’t with a lot of other Americans, so I think everything I find myself doing now I think twice on. Is what I’m doing super American, or is that typical of the rest of the world? I’m just constantly comparing I guess but in a good way.”
Rhyne’s decision to study abroad follows a national and University trend, according to the Open Doors Report. In the 2016-17 year, 2,244 UNC students studied abroad, an increase from the year before by around 100 students. Nationally, 332,727 students studied abroad with a 2.3 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Open Doors Report.
“It’s a great opportunity to explore the world, to gain a greater understanding about yourself and about how your academics fit on a global scale,” Kinnear said. “It gives you new opportunities to meet people, to explore new things, to explore your heritage possibly, to learn a new language and then also it’s something that employers are seeking after tremendously, so by studying abroad students are automatically setting themselves apart from 85 percent of other college students in the U.S. who don’t study abroad.”
For Lauren Sticklin, a sophomore who studied abroad this past summer in Ireland, the experience allowed her to gain confidence and make some of her favorite memories abroad with new friends. The only thing Sticklin thought UNC could improve on with studying abroad was the level of preparation the University provides students for their selected program.
“I don’t think I was really prepared initially about what to expect, and I wish that I had talked to other people who had done the trip before me and see how their experiences were,” Sticklin said.
Other students feel the University should have more accessible funding for students seeking to study abroad.
When Rhyne went to study abroad 101 sessions, she said she heard there were many scholarships going unused. She said she was lucky in finding a specific scholarship for relatives in a company her dad worked for, but many don’t have that option.
“You just have to find the right one, but they don’t make it very easy to find the right one,” Rhyne said. “I had to talk to a lot of people to find my specific one, and I strongly feel like there should be more funding for it.”
Kinnear said the University is looking to grow in the numbers of students who study abroad. This includes collaboration with the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid to offer more workshops, increasing donor involvement and exploring lower cost programs, international internships, international service learning programs and curricular mapping.
For now, for all the students who have the opportunity to study abroad, both Sticklin and Rhyne said students should take it.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Sticklin said. “You make so many new friends. You just learn. You’re able to be on your own and independent in a different place and you aren’t relying on anyone else.”