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The Antelope

The Antelope

Study abroad immerses students in new point of view

keegan francl studying abroad


Do you ever wonder why foreign exchange students choose to study in the Kearney, Nebraska?

This is the question I posed to four UNK Chinese exchange students who explained it is for safety reasons. With China’s former One Child policy, the safety and education of the one child is the upmost importance to Chinese families and highly emphasized throughout that child’s life. Kearney is a prime spot for foreign exchange students looking for a safe environment. 

At first, Divya, Nana, Fan, and Jason seemed a bit timid to open up about their experiences as exchange students until I told them how I was an exchange student myself in the Netherlands. Instead of opting for the faculty-lead group trips, I went the untraditional route by going on a solo adventure at a rigorous university through the Honors program to stay on track with graduation.  

Rather than adventuring through all of Europe, I mostly stayed in and poured over my impossible coursework. I vividly remember the night I spent 72 hours putting together a history presentation on a psycho nuclear warfare think tanker named Herman Kahn. I presented it to my class, which was taught by a famous warfare professor and Dutch diplomat. 

The handful of times I did travel ended up being complete disasters. For example, my German friend and I planned a spontaneous trip to Prague and the Auschwitz camp over spring break. On our way back, the German police pulled over our bus, and I was the only traveler who didn’t have my passport. (Before you judge me, I genuinely thought my Dutch residence permit would be enough for travel documents.) The German cops wrote up deportation papers and basically told me to get the heck out of their country and not come back until I prove I have a passport. 

After I finished sharing my stories to the wide-eyed interviewees, I asked with an encouraging smile, “Do any of you have similar stories you can share with me?”  

They exchanged glances before sharing a laugh.

I quickly learned that they were not here for adventures and wild cultural experiences but to learn American culture in a university setting and achieve academically. To them, studying abroad isn’t for individual betterment or to simply flex on their locals but to “improve the Chinese economy,” quoted Nana. 

There are more than a handful of reasons to study abroad. For the Chinese exchange students, they are here to better their society as a whole. For me, I wanted career opportunities and a true cultural experience. Instead of partying at the clubs on the weekends, I had my Dutch friend take me to her home town to celebrate Holland’s famous Carnaval holiday. I made friends with the locals rather than finding comfort with other American exchange students. 

While immersed in Dutch culture, I began to understand my own. I realized America’s role in the world. United States policies and pop culture plays a massive impact globally. Young adults from all over the world dream of America the way we dream of Paris, France or the Bali shores. To find appreciation for your culture, you must separate yourself.

UNK students are blessed with a wide variety of study abroad programs. To find out for yourself and learn more about the program, visit:

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