Getting Lost, Safely


“We encourage you to get lost, safely”

 Recently, I had the privilege of talking to Thomas Sweeney, a current electrical engineering major and former mechanical engineering major, here at UT Austin. I spoke with Thomas about his Maymester study abroad trip in Vienna in hopes of finding more information on what it means to study abroad and what studying abroad has done for him. Below is a summarized version of my interview with Thomas. 

Where/Why Did You Study Abroad?
When asked why he wanted to study abroad, Thomas revealed that he had always wanted to go to Europe and that college is a place of opportunity where studying abroad is a prospect worth considering.

Thomas wearing chainmail at the Arsenal in Vienna

Last May, Thomas went to Vienna, where he took a mechanical engineering class in design and graphics. He had the opportunity to learn about his subject in a beautifully constructed city focused on those very ideas, making the experience all the more exciting.

Benefits of Studying Abroad:
Originally, Thomas studied abroad for a fun new experience with the chance to learn about not only mechanical engineering but also a new culture and a new way of life. In retrospect, however, Thomas would tell you that he got far more out of his trip than he originally expected.

Thomas traveled with a small group of UT students, none of whom he had known before. Yet, by the end of the trip, he had developed close friendships with all of them. The bonds made with other students while figuring out what to do in a brand new place full of novel experiences will last a lifetime.
Furthermore, many of us will end up traveling at some point in our lives, either working overseas or spending time, however briefly, in an unfamiliar place. 
With that in mind, how will we find our way around, make friends, and adapt to the new environment? Study abroad provides the opportunity to learn these invaluable skills with a safety net - one that may not be there when we travel on our own for the first time. 
Lake Geneva

And lastly, students get the chance to enjoy the general benefits of traveling, learning, and experiencing a new culture. This includes sight-seeing, familiarizing themselves with another part of the world, learning a different language, and appreciating the livelihood of people in other parts of the globe.

  1. Cost: While the cost of study abroad may seem insurmountable, there are scholarships available. Use the study abroad website and go to the study abroad office. Thomas applied and got a $1,000 scholarship to help fund his trip.
  2. Scared: Don’t worry. While students are given the independence of adulthood, they have all the resources you need to feel secure. Thomas discussed a seminar class that teaches the students everything they needed to know about the city to which they are traveling. Additionally, there are people living on-site that are available to help
  3. I can do it on my own: While this may be the case, I find it highly unlikely. UT provides the benefit of other students, resources, class credit, and direction when it comes to traveling. In addition, students get to cultivate their independence and figure things out for themselves with a cohort of motivated, like-minded students. It seems almost impossible to do all of this on one’s own.

Steps to Study Abroad:   
  1. Go to the website: 
  2. Look at programs offered. Pick the places you would like to go and determine how long you would like to be there.
  3. Talk to your family about what you want to do and what your options are.

  4. APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS: There are numerous scholarship opportunities available if you seek them out. Ask for them at the Study Abroad Office or check the study abroad website.
  5. Go to the Study Abroad office: They are extremely friendly and they want to help you.
  6. If you study abroad through UT, all credits should transfer. Talk to your academic advisor about your degree plan and make sure study abroad fits in your schedule.

Night In Budapest
Ultimately, the courses they are enrolled in tend to take a back seat to the experiences they have. If this is the kind of experience you want, one in which you are having valuable experiences outside the classroom, then studying abroad is something I urge you to consider, provided it fits well with your schedule. In the words of Thomas Sweeney, “I cannot speak highly enough of the life experiences it gives you.”

Hangin' Out in the ATX

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