U’s Learning Abroad Program Offers Immersive Learning Experiences


Marco Lozzi

The desk of the Learning Abroad office inside the A. Ray Olpin Student Union in Salt Lake City on May 19, 2023. (Photo by Marco Lozzi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By TJ Ross, News Writer


When film and media arts major Grace Watters voyaged to Osaka, Japan in the summer of 2019 through the intensive Japanese language program offered through the University of Utah, she had a great experience.

“Learning abroad pulled me out into the open ocean of knowledge and the restriction of fluency in only a single language,” Watters said.

Watters had an initial feeling of isolation at the beginning of her abroad experience but it didn’t take her long to feel a sense of belonging and self-actualization.

“It pushed my comfort zone beyond what I thought was possible and helped me just begin to learn my potential,” she said.

619 students and faculty at the U went abroad during 2018-2019, according to the U’s yearly statistical report. The students and faculty spread across 103 majors, 18 college departments and 43 countries.

Through self-reflection, Watters also learned more about American culture.

“American culture revolves heavily around our language use of primarily English to express our needs, wants and desires,” she said. “Throughout this unintentional idealism of language superiority, we’re unknowingly limiting ourselves as a culture because we don’t take the time to adjust to other language preferences.”

Watters said these experiences allowed her to gain transferable skills, such as how to empathize in social and professional situations. She added she began growing her confidence in uncomfortable situations and in her overall career outlook, being able to go abroad, while also gaining credits and staying on track to graduate.

The University of California Merced has collected a variety of different studies that help students gauge the potential benefits of studying abroad. Students who study abroad earn a 25% higher starting salary, and 90% get accepted into their first or second-choice grad school programs. They also found employment at a 97% rate within the first 12 months of graduation compared to only 49% of all other college graduates who found employment in the same period.

Opportunities like studying abroad have immense growth for students personally and professionally, said Eric Boscan, the U’s learning abroad coordinator. When Boscan was a student at the U, he traveled to Egypt and got a degree in Arabic and Middle East studies.

“Immersion into a culture is undeniably a life-changing experience,” he said. “You get to see how culture is tied into language and vice versa.”

Boscan said he still uses his abroad expertise he learned from Egypt to help educate this generation of U students on a life-changing experience.

“[The] majority of our faculty and staff have studied abroad so we all have different outlooks to share with students,” Boscan said.

According to Boscan, only 1 in 10 students at the U take advantage of studying abroad, but the number of students studying abroad at the U has increased in the last two years.

Part of the success is from the scholarship funding the program has been given. Over the last couple years they’ve created six new scholarships.

Boscan said, in 2016 alone, the scholarships awarded to students studying abroad totaled $400,000.

“I hope the idea that ‘I can’t afford an abroad trip’ goes away, because we have resources to help students,” Boscan said.

Students who are interested in studying abroad can visit the learning abroad website where they will find a free Canvas course called Learning Abroad 101. Students can also subscribe to the abroad newsletter for additional updates with more statistics and testimonies. For a more personal experience, students can sign up for drop-in advising or schedule an appointment to talk with the learning abroad staff.

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