Joshua Castellanos Ramos panicked as his plane landed in Tokyo. The UO senior was by himself, nearly 5,000 miles from home and a close-knit family, wondering what on earth he was doing — and what everyone around him was saying.
As he waited for his connecting flight to Osaka, the planning, public policy and management major reassured himself. His first trip outside North America was a journey to be savored, made possible only through scholarships and financial aid. Plus he needed the credits to graduate.
Castellanos Ramos is one of 923 University of Oregon students participating in Global Education Oregon summer study abroad programs this year. That number surpasses last year’s record-breaking total, marking a new all-time high and a growing enthusiasm for international experiences.
Now weeks into his GlobalWorks International internship in Kobe, Castellanos Ramos is savoring all the experiences Japan has to offer, especially ramen. Living and learning in another country has provided many opportunities to get immersed in a different culture, he said.
“Honestly, it doesn't even feel like a month has passed. I've loved being able to make connections, explore and experience summer festivals. Studying abroad is really about that experiential learning that you just can't get in a classroom or out of a textbook.”
As an intern with Nippon Technology Solutions, Castellanos Ramos works with the company’s marketing and public relations department, helping with engagement and recruitment in foreign markets. He also translates and creates English and Spanish content.
The trip has been life-changing, he said. In addition to gaining professional experience and meeting new people, he enjoyed visiting a 16th century castle, one of the world’s largest aquariums and the Cup Noodles Museum. He also experienced Gion Matsuri, a famed Kyoto festival that’s one of Japan’s largest and runs throughout July.
Castellanos Ramos said the trip has helped him gain a more global perspective, adapt to new situations and experience solving problems on his own. It’s also given him a new appreciation for home. On Aug. 24, he’ll complete his journey, and his bachelor’s degree.
This summer, the number of UO students participating in the GlobalWorks program also set a new record of 156. The interns gain professional experience working for businesses and organizations around the world.
It’s one of many options for students interested in a transformative summer, said Dennis Galvan, dean and vice provost for global engagement.
“We’re thrilled there has been such a strong demand for these programs,” Galvan said. “Global education opens a world of new perspectives for students. They see themselves and their home culture through new eyes.
“Employers tell us how much they appreciate students who’ve stepped up to the challenge of living and learning in another culture and language. We want every UO student to experience the personal growth and career boost from international education.”
Global Education Oregon summer study abroad programs range from two weeks to two months, offering experiences in 37 countries that focus on an array of academic and professional areas. Students can live with host families, in residence halls or apartments and study 11 different languages, from beginner to advanced levels.
One program offers opportunities to work for nongovernmental organizations in Southeast Asia. A service learning experience in Ghana focuses on global health.
Language-centered sessions offer intensive Arabic programs in Amman, Jordan, and Spanish immersion in Queretaro, Mexico. Other examples include exploring sustainable bicycle transportation in Europe, wine marketing in Italy and architecture in Rome.
The breadth and diversity of the study abroad opportunities enable students to match their interests, majors and career goals to relevant programs, said Luis Ruiz, assistant director for student success and analytics.
In addition to helping students find their best fit, Ruiz added that his staff connects them to financial resources.
“We aspire to make study abroad accessible to all students,” Ruiz said. “Scholarships play an important role in removing some of the barriers that can keep students from living and learning in a new country.”
—By Ed Dorsch, University Communications
—Top photo: UO study abroad students in Segovia, Spain