Parent Spotlights

The Education Abroad Parent Spotlight is an exciting way for parents whose children have studied abroad to share their experiences . It provides a different perspective on the education abroad process and benefits.

Below are responses from several parents of Penn State students who have studied abroad.


Student: Kristine Stryker

Parent: Ford Stryker

Program: Cape Town, South Africa: Parks and People

Kristine Stryker Parent Spotlight 3

Kristine and her family in front of the Blyde River gorge in Eastern South Africa

What was your initial reaction to your student telling you they wanted to study
abroad? 

I was very pleased to learn that Kristine decided to participate in the Parks and People program.  My wife and I had gone to South Africa in the fall of 2013 and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit there so we encouraged her to consider a term abroad.

How did you and your student prepare for this study abroad experience? 

We talked about our travel in SA with Kristine and discussed various logistics issues like phones, WiFi, shots, clothing, etc.  Kristine attended orientation sessions put on by Neal Brown and the Global programs.  We gave Kristine some of the guide books we used to learn more about the country.

How will this study abroad experience be beneficial to your student’s future?

I think this experience was good for Kristine’s future from two ways.  First I think she gained self-confidence by working with the group and taking on leadership responsibilities.  Secondly SA is a very diverse country; culturally, ethnically, economically and environmentally.   The Parks and People program exposes students to many different aspects of SA in a short period.  It’s a once in a life time opportunity to learn a lot about another part of the world and the people who live there.  I think these kinds of experiences provide a broader context from which to view economic and social issues in the US.

Kristine Stryker Parent Spotlight

Kristine and her family at a game lodge in South Africa

What were some of the changes you saw in your student after they returned home from studying abroad? 

The biggest change I noticed was before we left SA.  Before the term abroad Kristine was apprehensive about going to SA; however, at the end of her stay she didn’t want to leave.  I think this reaction demonstrated her appreciation for the experience of spending in term in SA.

 


 

Student: Cara Ulizio

Parent: Wendy Ulizio

Program: CIEE Seville, Language and Culture

What was your initial reaction to your student telling you they wanted to study
abroad? 

My first reaction(the mother) to our daughter studying abroad was “no”. We had discussed the subject before and agreed that studying abroad was not a viable option for various reasons. Because Cara is a student athlete the only time she could study abroad was in the summer due to her athletic schedule the rest of the year. My biggest concern was that she needed to have a safe environment that was conducive to practicing daily while abroad. So, she asked if she could at least apply to the program and then we could go from there. I agreed. She applied, was accepted and she was able to take (2) sessions abroad that would fit in with her sport commitment. She wanted to study in Seville because it appeared it would be a safe place where she could practice alone her sport. Her Dad’s first reaction was yes, apply for the program.

How did you and your student prepare for this study abroad experience? 

We prepared for the study abroad experience through the info the CIEE provide to us. We researched and read all the links. Cara contacted the PSU/US CIEE representative  via email and phone with any questions we needed clarified or answered. If I(mom) had any further questions or wanted more details on a subject I looked up the information on the internet. (ie: name and location of American Embassy in Spain and the American ambassador contact information). I also bought Rick Steve’s book on Spain and read thru the sections on Seville, Madrid and Barcelona.  Once I sorted thru all the information that CIEE provided us with, along with my information I had gathered, I  summarized all the info and made Cara a packet that had the information readily accessible, easy to read, and usable as a resource. The folder contained emergency information, answers to any questions she might have from buying a phone for international calling, how to contact the closest hospital, sights not to miss in each city, the various transportation systems, which ATMS to use, or how to  purchase items with USD or Euros.  I sent the packet with Cara to Spain as well as her own copy of the Rick Steve’s book.

How will this study abroad experience be beneficial to your student’s
future? 

This study abroad program will be beneficial to Cara in the future because she is obtaining a double major in college and the second major is Spanish. Cara went to Spain to improve her verbal skills and with much diligence she became a fluent Spanish speaker. I do not think she could have become a fluent speaker if she had not gone abroad.

What were some of the changes you saw in your student after they returned home
from studying abroad? 

I think Cara learned to become more self-reliant from being alone in a  foreign country. If she needed an answer to something, she took advantage of talking to the CIEE staff or researched the issue she needed to resolve. She explored Seville and would visit the sights on her own time whenever she could. I think Cara grew more confident and independent than she already was and plans to travel on her own once she graduates from college. We were fortunate to visit Cara for 10 days when she was in Seville. It was a delight to watch her speak Spanish so effortlessly and watch her navigate us so comfortably through the city that she came to know so well. She appeared to be a “local”.

I want to express my satisfaction with the CIEE program. I was so pleased with the type and amount of information they sent out via email as well as informing us of all the employees and their contact information. I felt the program was well monitored and the orientation of the students to the city, the transportation systems, the neighborhoods, etc was very thorough. I also was relieved that the students could change their host family choice anytime and move in with another host family or in the school housing. I felt that the program had so much flexibility for the benefit of the students and yet the students always had a CIEE employee they could contact if needed. I was impressed with all the day, overnight and weekend trips that were included, as well as, the admittance fee to the sightseeing and transportation. I have told so many people how wonderful I thought the program was. I am so happy Cara had the initiative  to apply for this CIEE study program abroad and that PSU chose to be involved with such a well organized and reputable program.


Student: Sarah Doyle

Parent: Susan Doyle

Sarah Doyle Parent Spotlight 1

Program: CIEE: Prague, Central European Studies

What was your initial reaction to your student telling you they wanted to study abroad?

We were thrilled! In a connected world, we feel it is very important to immerse herself  in the world and not just be tourists.  We made a point of having a family vacation in Prague during Easter so she could show us her home and meet her host family.

How did your student prepare for this study abroad experience?

Sarah went to Prague in the Czech Republic. She researched the country and language on the internet and took a primer on the Czech language. She also contacted Study Abroad for information and assistance.

How will this study abroad experience be beneficial to your student’s future?

Sarah wants to see the world and wants to meet people of different cultures. This experience gave her a first hand experience of different perspectives of people living in Europe.

What were some changes you saw after she returned home from studying abroad?

She spoke Czech and drank beer. But seriously, she was more interested in world politics, business and understanding the perspectives of others. She loved learning the history, culture, art and language and want to see and learn more.

Sarah Doyle Parent Spotlight 2


 

Student: Lauren Horner

Parent: Antoinette Horner

Program: Besançon, France: French Language Studies

“When my daughter Lauren expressed interest in studying abroad early on at Penn State I was excited for her but thought that she would never actually pursue her dream.  But as time went on she would still express that she wanted to travel abroad and complete her minor in French. For two years we would faithfully attend the parents weekend study abroad information session together and hear the different fellow students from all walks of life sharing their experiences. As a parent I always supported her desire and encouraged her to follow her dream. Lauren completed the application process in her junior year and was accepted for the summer session enriching her French at the CLA in Besançon, France. We were able to join Lauren as a family and we traveled around different parts of Europe enjoying the beautiful sites, culture and diversity. We also were able to spend time with her host family who where gracious and welcoming. We felt reassured as a family that Lauren was safe and truly enriching her French language by being a part of a host family who spoke only French to her. Lauren did not realize how really well the family could speak English until we arrived and they began to speak fluent English with us.

Lauren Horner Parent Spotlight

Leicester Square, London

I believe experience is a great teacher and that Lauren has broadened her thinking about her future through this study abroad program. Lauren is now considering international law as an option, so that one day she may return and possibly fight to elevate the oppressed, to speak for those who have been unspoken for and raise awareness of global issues. Social activism is something that is enduring to her heart and Europe would be a great place to achieve that goal. Her French has improved greatly by the fact that she had to communicate primarily in French. I see that she has matured as a young woman and has more compassion and a greater understanding of the different cultures she has encountered due to this experience.

I think this was a wonderful learning experience that every student should aspire to do.”


 

Student: Katherine Kielceski

Parents: Lori and Steve Kielceski

Program: Arcadia: Perugia, Umbra Institute, General Studies

Katherine Kielceski Parent Spotlight

Kate and her family in front of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Assisi, Italy

What was your initial reaction to your student telling you they wanted to study abroad?

We were very happy that she had the opportunity as this is something she had wanted to do for some time. We had a lot of questions about programs, costs, safety, etc. but she had access to all the information we had questions about through the Penn State website.

How did you and your student prepare for this study abroad experience?

Our daughter handled most of the preparation-applying to the program, submitting the required paperwork, obtaining the necessary visa. She also investigated the best ways to travel during her stay and the easiest way to communicate with us here at home. We were in a supportive role – getting her to the airport, making flight arrangements, supplying the needed documents.

How will this study abroad experience be beneficial to your student’s future?

Our student studied in Italy and she is working towards a minor in Italian so that was academically beneficial. Regardless of the country, spending a semester abroad is a way for students to broaden their horizons unlike any other.  There are new people, new ideas, new cultural experiences, as well sites and sounds. Any and all of these things will be beneficial in the future both personally and professionally.

What were some of the changes you saw in your student after they returned home from studying abroad?

Thanks to the many opportunities Penn State has to offer, our student has been fortunate to travel abroad prior to this trip but this was the longest amount of time our student was away. While we didn’t see any specific changes after her semester, I do know that the semester did add to her love of studying new cultures, meeting new people and reinforced her belief in herself to handle any situation that presented itself. She is also pursuing career options that would allow her to continue traveling internationally.


 

Student: Katelynn Conedera

Parent: Debbie Conedera

Program: Dublin, Ireland: Representing the Irish Landscape, Literature and Visual Arts

“My daughter, Kat Conedera, studied in Ireland for a month this past summer. When she first told me she was interested in study abroad, I was very excited for her. Kat has always loved to travel and explore new cultures. We did some research about Ireland, and when she asked me to join her there for her first week, I was thrilled with the idea that I would get to see where she would be staying, and to help her get settled in.

I think exposure to other countries and cultures is always an educational experience, and this was no exception. Kate came back with some unique perspectives on the economy of Ireland and the part that tourism plays. I can only say positive things about her experience, and the influential Irish authors/poets/and artists that she met there. A+, Penn State!”

Katelynn Conedera Parent Spotlight


Student: Kaitlyn Spangler

Parent: Jennifer Spangler

Program: CIC-SPA: Nairobi, Kenya, Studies in International Development

Kaitlyn Spangler Parent Spotlight

Kaitlyn and her mother with Kaitlyn’s host family in Nyeri, Kenya

What was your initial reaction to your student telling you they wanted to study abroad?

Our initial reaction was fear that our daughter was traveling across the world for 4 months.  It became exacerbated when Kenya was attacked 3 months before she was to leave. My husband was convinced she should not go.  I spent time on a conference call with advisers from Penn State and University of Minnesota and started reading overseas news reports and ultimately decided she would be safe and protected.

How did you and your student prepare for this study abroad experience?

Our daughter did a lot of the preparation and was able to sit down with me and show me everything she would be doing in the time she was in Africa.  She and I came up with the monetary figure she would need and went to her bank to be sure they knew where she would be and set myself up on her account to be able to manage her funds.  We made copies of everything she would be taking as far as documents and contacted our health insurance company to see what would be covered.

Kaitlyn Spangler Parent Spotlight 2

Kaitlyn and her family on safari in Maasai Mara National Park

How will this study abroad experience be beneficial to your student’s future?

Our daughter’s time spent abroad has been immensely rewarding and beneficial in her majors and helping to narrow down specific interests in her fields of study.  She has grown from her experiences abroad and is eager apply her knowledge.

What were some of the changes you saw in your student after they returned home from studying abroad?

It helped tremendously to have my other daughter and myself be able to visit her after she was finished with school.  We spent 10 days and went to her school and stayed with both host families.  She was much more prepared to come home knowing we were there.  I would highly recommend families visit their children if able.


Student: Jill Kitzmiller

Parent: Mark Kitzmiller

Program: CIC:SPA: Quito, Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Jill Kitzmiller Parent Spotlight

What was your initial reaction to your student telling you they wanted to study abroad?

When Jill first told us about studying abroad, our immediate reaction was concern:  how safe would it be, how would we stay in contact, and how much would it cost?  Jill explained that there were several countries as study-abroad options, but that she was leaning toward Ecuador, mostly because the choice was unique and not mainstream.

How did you and your student prepare for this study abroad experience?

We prepared for the experience by sharing equally in the preparations, including reading as much information provided about the program as possible, ensuring Jill’s immunizations and health records were current, and participating in the acquisition of her visa.  In fact, obtaining her visa was probably the most exciting of our pre-departure activities, as it involved a road trip to Ecuador’s embassy in Washington, D.C. (with a nice side trip to the National Zoo).  The more we participated in the preparations, the more comfortable we became with the program.Jill Kitzmiller Parent Spotlight 2

 How will this study abroad experience be beneficial to your student’s future?

There is no question in our view that the experience was invaluable for Jill, and for her future studies and career.  She became quite fluent in Spanish during her four-month experience, and learned many things about Ecuador’s cultures and geography.  Having these experiences will allow her to speak authoritatively to her future Spanish classes, as well as to her peers in education.

 What were some of the changes you saw in your student after they returned home from studying abroad?

Jill’s confidence level was certainly boosted by this experience, as was her independence.  She was able to see and do things that she would never be able to do in the U.S. (or even think of doing!).  She took advantage of many of the planned student activities, as well as many that involved her making travel and accommodations plans on her own.  She stepped outside of her comfort zone and the result is pride in her accomplishments and a stronger sense of self than she had prior to her experience in Ecuador.


 

Student: Alyse Phillips

Parents: Laurie and Al Phillips

Program: Pforzheim: Pforzheim University Business Program (Summer)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat was your initial reaction to your student telling you they wanted to study abroad?

Over winter break we had told our daughter to start looking into taking a few classes over the summer; thinking she would be taking some general education credits at a Penn State Branch Campus near home. When she called and told us that she found three classes to take all focusing on International Business and German Economics we were amazed that those classes were offered over the summer. Then, her father asked what campus they were at. When Alyse said, “Pforzheim University”  I new she had something up her sleeve. Upon learning the program was in Germany (my husband and I visited there a decade ago), we encouraged her to apply and when she was accepted we jumped at the opportunity to come visit her!

How did you and your student prepare for this study abroad experience?

We were heavily involved in her preparation for the program. Having have been to Germany, we began to tell her about some of the food, culture, and sites she needed to see while over there. Given that she did not speak German, her father took her to find a simple German Language book. They found one that also included a CD, which helped for pronunciation.

 Alyse Phillips Parent SpotlightHow will this study abroad experience be beneficial to your student’s future?

The study aboard program in which she participated encompassed most of the credits she needed in order to start/complete an International Business Minor; something we didn’t even know existed prior to the program. Likewise, Alyse came home with a greater understanding of world economics and seemed to have more of a specific idea of what exactly she wanted to go into upon graduating college. The program offered her not only a phenomenal education, but also a greater sense of cultural awareness and a new found “travel bug”. The entire family has grasped onto the idea of investing our time and energy into visiting different countries and immersing ourselves in their culture. Alyse came back with a love for Europe (having traveled on the weekends with fellow students in the program to countries outside of her host country) and a desire to  one day work overseas.


 

Student: Ali Greenberg

Parents: Marc and Nancy Greenberg

Program: DEPT HM: Florence, Florence University of the Arts

Ali Greenberg Parent Spotlight 2What was your initial reaction to your student telling you they wanted to study abroad?

We were so excited for her to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity! We were even more thrilled to learn that she could go abroad through a Penn State program.

How did you and your student prepare for this study abroad experience?

Ali did extensive research on her specific program and relayed the information to us. Her abroad advisor kept us aware of all information such as housing, visa, meal plans, and more. She also informed us of safety precautions being taken at the time of her stay.

How will this study abroad experience be beneficial to your student’s future?

Studying abroad truly heightens  their awareness of the world. Immersing them in different cultures, gave Ali an outlook on her future that she otherwise would not have had. It is incredible that so many students have the opportunity to have international experience and travel opportunities at such a young age.

Ali Greenberg Parent Spotlight


Student: Hillary Tilles

Parent: Alan Tilles

Program: Amsterdam, Netherlands: Dutch Criminal Justice (Summer)

Hillary Tilles Parent SpotlightWhat was your initial reaction to your student telling you they wanted to study abroad?

Not having had the opportunity to travel as a college student, we were initially wondering if this was another version of Spring Break.  How much learning would actually occur?

How did you and your student prepare for this study abroad experience?

Research, research, research.  Having our daughter provide us (and her) from other students that had attended the program was hugely important in preparing for the experience.  We (for the most part) were well prepared.

How will this study abroad experience be beneficial to your student’s future?

The worldwide perspective will help her make better decisions in life, seeing how others live, what folks in totally unrelated circumstances have as a perspective, and build upon those experiences to expand her sphere of influence.

What were some of the changes you saw in your student after they returned home from studying abroad?

It’s fair to say that the young lady that left for the trip was far different than the one that returned.  It was truly remarkable to see our daughter become a foodie, a wine expert and a cook.  More importantly, by taking advantage of opportunities to take side trip, she has developed a knowledge of other places and people far beyond our experience, which certainly isn’t limited by any means.  While she didn’t learn calculus while abroad, become a chemist or a Rhodes scholar, that one semester was hugely important to her development as a person, which is what college is also about.
HIllary Tilles Parent Spotlight 3