Kristin Uyl

Kristin visiting Cape Reinga in New Zealand, one of the most breathtaking places she has ever seen!

Kristin visiting Cape Reinga in New Zealand, one of the most breathtaking places she has ever seen!

Kristin studied abroad in Asti, Italy and Bangkok, Thailand, and also spent a year working abroad in Auckland, New Zealand.  Currently, Kristin is the University Relations and Marketing Manager for Barcelona Study Abroad Experience (SAE).

Where did you go to school?

Grand Valley State University: B.S. in Hospitality & Tourism Management

The University of Tennessee: M.S. in College Student Personnel

When and where did you study abroad?

Summer 2004: GVSU Faculty-Led Program in Asti, Italy

Spring 2005: Semester through the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) in Bangkok, Thailand

Spent a year (2009) post-graduation working abroad in Auckland, New Zealand

What was the BEST part about studying abroad?

Honestly, it’s so hard to name just one thing! From the lifelong friendships that I made, to the absolutely awe-inspiring places I’ve seen (and everything in between), my list of the “best” parts about studying abroad could go on and on…and on! I think I just loved the daily life of being in a foreign country – I loved the realizations that I had, the challenges that I faced, and the memories that I created!

When I reflect back on my time abroad, I am so thankful for the person that I’ve become as a result of those experiences. I learned how to become fully independent – whether it was figuring out which bus or subway to take, or making sure that my rent (in Thai baht!) was paid correctly and on-time. I became a more well-rounded person and developed interests I didn’t know that I had – whether it was learning to speak Italian or discovering my love for a good rugby or cricket match!

I became so much more culturally aware, not only of the cultures that I was immersed within, but of my own American culture as I gained a new perspective of my own roots in looking at them from a distance. Overall, studying abroad was so great in helping me grow and discover things that I never would have realized if I had permanently stayed on U.S. soil.

What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?

The biggest thing I learned about the world is that, while different cultures do different things differently, the underlying values are the same. Love is truly a universal thing and my experiences abroad made the idea of “one love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright” come alive for me.

As I mentioned earlier, I learned SO many things about myself through studying abroad, but one of the biggest surprises was discovering things about myself that I never knew; it’s so easy to think that you know yourself so well, and studying abroad can definitely challenge that in the most incredible way. It sounds so cliche’ – but studying abroad truly was a life changing experience for me and I am so thankful that I decided to step out of my comfort zone and explore our awesome world!

What was your BIGGEST challenge when studying abroad?

My biggest challenge was being away from the people that I left back home. As the youngest of four children (and the only girl!) it was definitely a challenge to be away from my family as we’re all extremely close. Thankfully, my family and friends were incredibly supportive of my choice to study abroad and did whatever they could to stay in touch – whether it was phone calls, letters or care packages. I even received a visit from my parents during my year abroad in New Zealand – something I definitely recommend for both the student, and of course, the parents (mom and dad – what better excuse for an overseas vacation then at the end of your student’s study abroad program?!)

Another thing to keep in mind is all of the wonderful resources that we now have to stay in touch. It was interesting for me as I studied abroad before there was Facebook or Skype, but I worked abroad once those were both in full force…and let me tell you, technology is a beautiful thing! It’s so amazing that we’re able to stay incredibly connected throughout the world thanks to iPhones and video chat…it makes this big world feel just a bit smaller!

How did studying abroad change your life?

Studying abroad was absolutely, without a doubt, a complete life-changing experience for me. I don’t know what else I can say that I haven’t said before (or that I can’t put into words) – but if I had to name the one thing in my life that I consider to be my proudest accomplishment thus far, it would be studying abroad.

What have you been doing post studying abroad?

It’s funny because during my undergraduate years, I would joke and say that I would choose study abroad as my major if they’d allow it! However, I never realized that a career in international education was even an option. After graduating with my degree in Hospitality & Tourism Management (and bouncing between the Hotel and Property Management industries), I decided to spend a year working abroad as I felt that there was just something more I needed to discover. Once I arrived in New Zealand, I was fortunate enough to land a job working for an amazing university – and that’s where everything came full-circle and I had my “light bulb” moment.

After returning to the U.S., I decided to pursue a master’s degree in hopes of securing a job within international education. After finishing grad school at the University of Tennessee and working in their Study Abroad Office for 2 years, I am now the University Relations and Marketing Manager for Barcelona SAE. I truly enjoy what I do, and absolutely love assisting students in pursuing their own adventures abroad!

What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?

DO IT! Even if you think it’s too expensive, or won’t fit into your academic plan, or you’ll miss out on things back home…I have never once met someone who regretted the choice to study abroad. With proper planning and research, studying abroad is ALWAYS possible. When you’re 5, 10, or 15 years post-graduation, you won’t look back and reflect on the football game that you missed or that one birthday party that you weren’t a part of…you’ll remember your experience studying abroad and the amazing impact that it had on your life!


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