Diving under the waters off the coast of New Zealand, Dason Maloney found himself in a metal cage surrounded by great white sharks—all for the thrill of it. From bungee-jumping to mountaineering climbing, he learned why people call New Zealand the Adrenaline Capital of the World.
For his study abroad experience, Maloney, a junior majoring in construction engineering, wanted to go someplace exotic. Maloney is one of the many University of Alabama students studying abroad. Over a thousand students traveled outside the country for the 2014-2015 year.
“I chose somewhere a little off the grid,” Maloney said. “New Zealand was everything I had hoped for and more. There was never a dull moment in this outdoor paradise.”
Chad Berry, the assistant director for Education Abroad, said students have over a thousand different program options. The three basic types include faculty-led programs typically held in the summer, exchange programs for the independent student and finally affiliate programs, which feature different excursions.
“Our top five countries are Spain, Italy, England, Austria and France,” Berry said.
The Education Abroad program offers a scholarship for those who are abroad if they write a blog to chronicle their experiences.
“The Education Abroad Scholarship is a scholarship students can apply for online,” Berry said. “We give out a certain number of those every semester, with a 3.0 GPA requirement, maintaining a blog post and their reasons as to why they wanted to study abroad this semester.”
Megan Wolf, a junior majoring in public relations, spent her summer in Dublin, Ireland, interning for the Special Olympics. Wolf kept a weekly blog about her days, adventures and even new words she learned.
“They do not have ranch dressing here,” Wolf said in her blog. “So save yourself the embarrassment and do not ask for some with your chicken fingers.”
She said if someone asked about crack, they’re not talking about the drug. Craic (pronounced crack) means to have a good time in Ireland. Wolf wrote this misunderstanding confused her at first.
“So, when my boss asked if I had craic yet, you could probably guess my answer and how red my face was,” Wolf said. “The Scottish and Irish are BFF’s. Also, shorts are not a thing here.”
Maris Grantham, a junior majoring in communication studies, mentioned how hard it was to put her Italian experience into words.
“Trying to sum up my time abroad isn’t easy,” Grantham said. “I don’t think you can ever share with others the actual experience you had, but I will do my best. I spent two months in Rome, Italy, living in an apartment by myself. While discovering what Rome had to offer and traveling on the weekends to different countries, I learned so much about the world and myself.”
Maloney said leaving alone to go to a foreign country at a young stage is a big step, especially at a young age. There is a sense of independence that one gets from the moment they step on that airplane until the moment they return home.
“New Zealand gave me a sense of independence that I will not soon forget,” Maloney said. “Being by myself on the other side of the world from all my friends and family forced me to become independent and fend for myself like I’ve never had to before.”