Michelle Sudyka was planning to study overseas, perhaps in France.
But after considering the language barrier in France and beaches at the University of Wollongong, on the eastern coast of Australia, she opted to go to Australia last year. She's glad she did.
"I think I learned more outside school than in school while I was there," said Sudyka, a senior from Omaha, Neb. "It's just interesting to get away from America and see how people view us. All of the sudden you're the one with an accent."
Despite the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, heightened world tensions because of the war in Iraq and the SARS outbreak, enrollment in Kansas University's study abroad programs has remained virtually the same as in past years. This fall, 489 students have enrolled to go overseas.
KU offers more than 100 study abroad and exchange programs in approximately 50 countries.
"We're holding our own in enrollments, which is great," said Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, director of study abroad. "A lot of things have happened in the last two years. It's been tough. It's been hard."
The most recent challenge has been SARS, which led to the movement or postponement of five summer study abroad programs in SARS-affected areas. As of July, all fall programs were to go on as planned. Seven students will study in China and two in Hong Kong.
Gronbeck-Tedesco's office has added several new programs this year. One of the highlights is a trip to the International Festival of New Latin American Film in Cuba. Students also will attend three weekend seminar meetings during the fall to discuss Cuban culture and history, before going to Cuba in early December.
Gronbeck-Tedesco said Australia was the most popular destination for KU students a few years ago. Now, Italy and Spain are the most popular sites.
She said more students seem to be planning to study overseas and working it into their long-term education plans.
"I consider studying abroad one of the major ways to change the world and gain world peace," she said. "We have to understand other cultures to live together more equitably. It's easy to be isolated in the United States, and it's really easy to be isolated in Kansas."
For Sudyka, her trip to Australia led to new friendships she hopes will last a lifetime. One of her Australian friends came to visit her this summer in Omaha.
"It was hard to come home," she said. "I spent half my life on the computer talking with people and wasted 20 phone cards away in no time. I always am pushing people to go abroad."