Our Study Abroad Experiences

A picture of a student walking with members of the Maasai Tribe in Tanzania.

Lydia Lanski, a University at Buffalo Biological Sciences student, walks with members of the Maasai tribe of Tanzania.

We asked recent study abroad alumni about their experiences abroad. Here is what they had to say...

How did you make your study abroad experience possible?

David Fischer, Konan University, Japan, Summer

People observing sakura in Japan.

“It all started in my Japanese class.  The second day, a random person sat next to me.  We discovered we were in similar majors, and had similar interests.  The second week of classes, he asked me if I wanted to go to study abroad in Japan.  Not really thinking much of it at the time, I just said, “Sure, why not?”  Well, we started doing some research into it, we went to the various events for the studying abroad, and did a lot of independent research into all the SUNY programs we could apply for to see which one would fit our schedule and interest best.  We ended up going with the Konan University Summer Program, a 6-week intensive Language and Culture program.  We also looked into staying for a while afterwards to tour the country; we ended up staying for an extra 3 weeks after the program. 

In the end, it’s all about preparation and research.  We found which program worked best for us, we asked plenty of questions to former participants and the Study Abroad office, and we spoke with our language professors early about everything we needed to do.”

Ester Buckwalter, Monterrey Tech, Mexico, Fall Semester

“I took summer classes to get ahead in my curriculum so that I could focus on language, culture, and traveling while I was abroad. It was definitely worth it. I did have to pay out of pocket for summer classes, but my scholarships and financial aid applied during the year so my study abroad experience was less expensive than if I had gone in the summer.”

Peter Morgis, James Cook University, Australia, (Oswego) Spring Semester


Townsville, Australia.

“The first piece of advice is to pick a place where you can envision yourself having a great time. If you can do this while thinking about what your country has to offer, your experience will be amazing. This mindset is exactly how I made my study abroad experience possible. I picked somewhere I really wanted to go and from that, I was very determined to get all the grunt work done (course approvals and paperwork). I started an entire year ahead of time and did a lot of research, which made preparation much less hectic and stressful. After a lot of planning, exchanging of emails, signatures, and phone calls, everything worked out perfectly.”

Bonnie Tran, International Research Experience Program, Technical University of Darmstadt, Summer  

Darmstadt, Germany.

“As an engineering student [at Binghamton University] it was difficult to study abroad during the semester. SUNY Binghamton did not have a program that fit my interests but luckily as a SUNY student I could apply to programs at any other SUNY school. I looked for a program that I could participate in during the summer of my sophomore year. The UB program I participated in was perfect because it involved research. I realized that it was something that would help me in my career and give me the chance to experience a new culture. I worked on campus during the semester to save up for this trip and there was a scholarship for all of the students that applied that significantly reduced the costs.”

How has studying abroad led to other career, academic, and/or personal opportunities for you?

Grace Sokolowski, University of Salamanca, Spain (Cortland), Spring Semester

University of Salamanca, Spain.

“Studying abroad has led to other opportunities for me.  It set me apart from other candidates when applying to a very selective grad school program and it also allowed me the chance to apply for a part-time position in which I needed to demonstrate that I had fluency in Spanish.  My study abroad experience was the deciding factor for that.”

Steven Coffed, Aerospace Summer Program, France, Summer

“For the program in France, I spent a considerable amount of time going on technical visits to aerospace companies and events including Airbus, Rockwell Collins, the Paris Air Show, etc. In doing so, I've made contacts with major companies in the field that I hope to one day work in. Similarly, I've taken courses that both supplement what I've learned at UB, and taught me things that I would not have learned in the curriculum in the U.S. For example, I took courses in Aviation Safety and Aeronautic Economics, both of which I would not have had the opportunity to take at UB.  In a highly competitive modern world, these small advantages add up when looking for a meaningful job that has influence not only at home, but also on the world abroad.”

Esther Buckwalter, Monterrey Tech, Mexico, Fall Semester


“Studying abroad set me apart from other students. I can now speak Spanish comfortably, which is a major asset that opens doors in the job market. Studying abroad also gave me more self-confidence and self-reliance. I communicated and navigated in a different country using a language I don't speak fluently! It helped me become more independent, more creative, and stronger as a person.”

Michelle Ranieri, Havana (Oswego) Fall Semester; Merida; Seville, Calendar Year

“Studying abroad completely set the course for the rest of my life. Studying abroad in undergrad through another SUNY program to Cuba, and twice through my master's program at UB to Mexico and Spain has opened me up to hundreds of opportunities for my career. I was even awarded a Graduate Assistantship at UB's Study Abroad Office during my final semester! I now plan to pursue a lifelong career in International Education Administration, all because of my study abroad experiences.”

What did you learn about the country you studied in, the culture, and yourself while abroad?

Kaitlin Wisnieski, UB Health in Brazil, Summer


“Studying abroad in Brazil was one of the most incredible experiences that I've had in my life so far. The country, its people and their culture was amazing to learn about and immerse myself in. From the kindest people and families who opened their homes to our group like we were family to learning about Brazil's fascinating healthcare system, my study abroad experience helped open my eyes to the world around us. Traveling to through five different cities in Brazil, I really got a strong sense of the vastly different landscapes of the country, from rural farm towns to smaller cities to the indescribable city of Rio de Janeiro. All of the people we met in these places were so eager to teach us about Brazilian culture. History lessons, Samba dancing, the delicious food were just a small part of the learning experiences I had while in Brazil. In three of the cities we were hosted by Brazilian Universities. We were able to interact with students our age who were studying many of the same things as we were. It was easy to see how much we are all really alike, from Buffalo to Brazil, hoping to better ourselves and maybe even change the world in some small way."

Bonnie Tran, International Research Experience Program, Technical University Darmstadt, Germany, Summer

“Having a study abroad experience reminds you that you are not alone in this world and that there are many out there competing with you! Other countries may have ideas or strengths that the United States doesn’t have and there are new opportunities that you are exposed to from the connections you make during the trip. These connections could be long lasting friends and could potentially help you in your future career. With social networks nowadays it has never been easier to keep in touch so build those connections!”

Samantha Hobbs, Konan University, Japan Academic Year

Konan University students.

“I wanted to go to Japan since I was 14 years old. Going to Japan didn't change how much I loved the language and culture, it only increased it. Going to a country and having to try to communicate in a language that you are still not fluent in, has made my confidence grow returning to America. I miss Japan daily and plan to live there and teach English in the future.”

What was your favorite memory or experience while abroad?

Mary Nguyen, CAPA London, Spring Semester

The London Underground, London, England.

“My favorite memory while studying abroad was taking the "Tube" or the London Underground transport system. Ironic though, since one of the challenges that I faced while living there was figuring out how to ride the train. I got lost an embarrassing number of times -- but I also got to explore parts of London that my classmates never got to see. Taking the Tube meant another adventure waiting to be experienced.”

Tara Negar Jamanli, Teatromania, Summer

“My favorite memory on this trip was having the chance to perform in an Italian play by a celebrated Neapolitan playwright and actor, Eduardo DeFilippo. It was my first time performing onstage in front of a live public, and practicing and performing the lines in Italian provided the perfect opportunity to enhance my Italian conversational skills”

Steven Coffed, UB Classics in Italy, Winter

Rome, Italy.

“My favorite memory in studying abroad was my first day in Rome.  We arrived in the city around 5 pm at our hotel, which was just outside the heart of downtown.  A group of us decided to explore the city.  We walked further downtown as the sun was about to set.  We were walking through what seemed to be a residential neighborhood, when some enormous columns appeared at the end of the street.  We walked beneath them, and found ourselves directly in front of the Vatican.  As if that weren't enough to shock us, we had stood for not thirty seconds when the lights turned on for the night, mixing with the setting sun to form a golden halo over the centuries old capital of Christianity.”

Weijia Zhang, Bauhaus University-Weimar, Germany, Spring Semester

Bauhaus Universität, Weimar, Germany.

“The best thing about the International Advanced Architecture Design (IAAD) class was the excursions. We had a 10 day road trip to Switzerland, Austria and cities in southern Germany. It was a great opportunity to study modern/contemporary European architecture. We also drove to Stuttgart to have a joint critique with students in University of Stuttgart.” 

Samantha Hobbs, Konan University, Japan Academic Year

Kobe, Japan.

“One of my favorite memories from Japan was a weekend I spent with my host family. It was a long weekend and each day I did something new and fun. With my host mom I went to the Zoo and aquarium on different days, which was an absolute blast. The last day, we went on a road trip to Amanohashidate in Kyoto. It was a gorgeous view of the beach and the sights on saw on the drive were some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.”

Angeline Walker, Monash University, Australia, Spring Semester

“My favorite class was my Australian Idol (culture class) because the teachers told you the truth even if it didn't put Australia in the right light.  I learned how to analyze and take more in from a place than just what the media/government wants you to see by reading news articles, talking to locals, and learning the government history.”

Matthew J. Zambito, Bilkent University, Turkey, Academic Year


“It is simply not possible to choose a favorite memory from my time abroad—my experiences would more properly be expounded in the form of a novel. Instead, I will choose a brief moment that is characteristic of the many challenges that I faced and overcame.

It was a cold January day. My birthday. I was sitting alone on the bottom bunk of a very hip, and not very clean, Istanbul hostel. My laptop was broken, so I responded to emails from friends and family by phone on a wireless connection. It was already dark outside, and the cobblestone streets of rainy Istanbul were not too appealing. Two days earlier I had been vacated for winter break from my dorm room in Ankara. A bus ticket to Istanbul was my natural reaction.

At twenty-five lira each night, I could not continue to hostel-hop for the next two weeks, so I emailed a friend about a teaching job a few hours north of Ankara. I didn't know yet, but there was one position left. The next day, I would take it. Five days later, I would be in a small town conservative boarding school—meter-stick and board marker in hand—teaching English to wide-eyed Turkish fifth-graders. Room and board would be free. My stipend would be two-hundred Turkish lira with free bus tickets. Several of the students would cry when I left. By early February when classes began again, I would be back in Ankara, in a new apartment, with some spending money in hand. It would be a good experience.

But as I sat alone on the bottom bunk of a dirty Istanbul hostel on my cold, rainy birthday, I didn't know any of that yet. And yet, I couldn't be happier.”

Why should current and prospective UB students consider studying abroad?

Angeline Walker, Monash University, Australia, Spring Semester

Melbourne, Australia.

“I would recommend to any UB student to study abroad.  Once you come home you realized how much you have grown as a person.  You begin to look at situations in a different light and have the advantage over others to think differently.  I experienced many things that shaped and changed my way of thinking and have broaden my thoughts and ideas.  It makes you believe you can do anything anywhere."

Grace Sokoloski, University of Salamanca, Spain (Cortland), Spring Semester


“Students should consider studying abroad because it really does open up your mind to an entire different way of living and makes you a much more well-rounded individual.  I face problems now with an entirely new perspective and I feel more confident in myself and what I am able to do alone."

Ready to find out more?