Park Spotlight: Study Abroad

In each newsletter, we’re spotlighting a different group of students, from cohorts to clubs. This month’s spotlight is on three students studying abroad.

Jeanine Ikekhua, Class of 2024
Tampa, Florida
Major: International Studies

I am currently studying abroad at the University of Manchester in Manchester, United Kingdom. This program is a semester-long exchange experience, and I am majoring in International Politics. I am currently taking International Politics classes such as Africa and Global Politics and Arguing About Politics, where I learn about the global economy and the political landscape of the world. 

As an international studies major, I am required to study abroad. I also wanted to experience a new culture and be surrounded by a new environment. Most of my family lives in the United Kingdom, so I wanted to be close enough to my family but still far away to explore Manchester on my own. I have learned how to be more independent and live in the moment. I live in a city where everything is accessible. If I want to volunteer or go out with friends, I can easily hop on a train or a bus and get there. I have learned to take advantage of the opportunities around me and always yes to a good adventure.

Park Scholarships has not only financially supported me during this experience but has also provided me with emotional support. Specifically, junior Park Scholars must do junior interviews and I did mine over Zoom in Manchester. During this interview, I spoke about my experiences with Eva, and she helped me deal with the new changes that I am experiencing. In addition, my Park Faculty Mentor, Dr. Taliaferro has been extremely helpful during my experience. We meet every month and whenever I am going through a difficult change, I can talk through it with her during our monthly meetings. The Park Scholarships program has provided me with additional people in my support system and made it possible for me to afford my study abroad program. 

I am enjoying exploring the city and meeting new people. So far, I have done everything. I go to salsa classes every week. I have been to a concert, gone to the city center, traveled to another city, and been to the movies and shopping center every other weekend. I love that I am able to explore and do fun activities. I did not realize how often I would be able to see family members in the UK. At NC State, I see my family members once every 3 months but, in the UK, I see them every other week. It has been nice to be surrounded by family. Overall, I am loving my experience and I am grateful to the Park Scholarships for funding it. 

Sonia Pereira, Class of 2025
Charlotte, NC
Major: German Studies and International Studies

I am currently studying abroad in Freiburg, Germany, but before that I was in Halle, Germany for the month of January. I completed a volunteer program with the Excellence Center in Europe (ECE) where I taught several English classes and received Arabic instruction each week. The ECE functions as a community center for refugees and students in Halle, and it offers several programs designed to teach foreign languages and connect visitors with the local Middle Eastern community. 

Since learning German at age 11, and taking part in a German exchange trip at age 14, I always knew that I would return to Germany and possibly study abroad there. Since my study abroad program takes place from March until July, I had to figure out what I would be doing in January and February. After searching for internships/volunteer programs in Germany, I came across the ECE’s website and found that their mission  aligned with my values and career goals. My students were a range of ages from 8 to 32; some were German students, others were refugees from Ukraine or Syria. I really enjoyed listening to their experiences and understanding how Halle is an ideal place for those who have been displaced. For example, one of my Syrian students knew of other Syrian refugees that had come to Halle, so their family felt a connection to the city. 

Another highlight was that I had a lot of creativity with my classes and how I taught them. With my oldest student, I had them give me a tour of Halle in English to practice it outside the classroom. With my younger students, I taught them the names of countries on different continents in English. My Arabic teacher was also really creative with their lessons, and although I learned Arabic through German (instead of English), I was still able to grasp everything. By the end of the program, I was practicing my Arabic in Middle Eastern stores and restaurants. In November, I received a Park Enrichment Grant to support my internship in Halle, as well as additional expenses, so the Park Scholarship is the reason I was able to volunteer at the ECE. I plan to return in the summer to conduct an ethnographic research study with some of the refugees I met in Halle, so I am looking forward to that!

Niasha Kodzai, Class of 2024
Southern Pines, NC
Major: Industrial Design and Psychology

I am currently studying abroad at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University. I have wanted to go to Australia since I was a child, and studying abroad is a mandatory part of my Industrial Design major, so I was overjoyed when I saw that RMIT was one of the approved schools for my experience. At first, I was nervous because I knew that I would be one of the only students studying in Australia (most of my major studies in Prague), but I also knew that I would regret not choosing the place that I have wanted to go to for so long out of fear.

I am currently in my third week of school, and I am loving all of my classes! So far, my favorite class so far has been my Hand and Machine studio, where we are learning about different metal working techniques! I’m currently making a brass spoon using a jeweler’s saw and a hydraulic press, which are both tools that I had never used before (the hydraulic press is really fun)!

I’ve also gone on many exciting adventures. I went to Philip Island and got to pet a koala, feed a wallaby and watch the penguin parade! I have also enjoyed exploring the Central Business District by going to the Queen Victoria Market, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Carlton Gardens, and anywhere that has live music (there is a lot of live music in Melbourne).

In my few weeks living here, I already feel like I’ve learned and grown so much. First, RMIT really works hard to make sure the students have a healthy work and life schedule. Our studios close at 5 p.m. and have a mandatory lunch break to make sure we are not prioritizing school over our health. Many shops also open and close earlier, which has forced me to be more efficient with my schedule. I have also become much more independent and less scared to try new things, like taking the tram an hour out of the CBD by myself or going camping for the first time. 

Overall, I am so excited to see where this journey takes me. It has been very reassuring to know other Park Scholars who have been to Melbourne before. I always know that I have someone to reach out to if I need advice on how to navigate living in the city and venturing beyond it.