Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Get to know the Education Abroad Team!
In case you haven't had the pleasure of stopping by our offices in Royce Hall, here's the first round of Education Abroad Q&A!

First up is Donna Anderson, Director at the Education Abroad Office. Check out her stories below, including the time she bribed an East German Official!

Donna Anderson: Director Extraordinaire

Q: Have you studied abroad? If so, where and when?
A:Undergraduate Summer 1987 - Short-term, faculty-led program to Germany & Austria; Summer 1988 - Short-term, faculty-led program to former Soviet Union, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, & former Czechoslovakia; AY 1988-89 Study abroad in Erlangen, former West Germany.  1998 - Present - program development/site visits/recruitment in Australia, Brazil, China, Fiji, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.  Summer 2009 - family volunteer vacation in Belize.   Since 1987, I have studied, worked, volunteered or traveled in 33 countries on six continents... still looking for a way to get to Antarctica!

Q: Describe the most delicious food you have ever eaten while traveling.
A: There is so much delicious food out there, it is hard to say which I enjoy the most!  I do find the food in many Asian countries to be especially tasty.  Noodle and curry dishes are among my favorites.  The combination of spices used in cooking throughout Asia is absolutely fabulous.  On the sweeter side, few things beat a good gelato.  This Italian frozen dessert is the ultimate indulgence in my book.

Q: Have you ever had an unexpected travel experience that turned out to be the highlight of your trip?
A: In the spring of 1989, during my junior year abroad, I visited the host family I stayed with in Warsaw, Poland, the previous summer.  At that time, during the Cold War era, residents of Poland and other Eastern-bloc nations were restricted from travel to countries in the west, including West Germany.  At the end of the visit, I boarded an overnight train to return to West Berlin, a political island closely affiliated with West Germany and surrounded by East Berlin and East Germany.  From West Berlin I would catch a train back to Nuremberg in West Germany and then back to school to Erlangen.   

I waved goodbye to my host family from the window and found a seat in one of the crowded compartments.   Not too long into the journey and jovial conversation with my compartment-mates, I realized that I was in a car full of East German citizens, which meant that the car would be stopping in East Berlin in the middle of the night and disconnecting from cars further up on the train that would continue on to West Berlin.  I was in the wrong part of the train!  I worked my way up the train hallways to get to the cars that would be going on to West Berlin only to find the door to the first West Berlin-bound car locked.  Two other unfortunate souls, a West German businessman and a young man from Israel, joined me in pleading with an East German train official to help us solve our dilemma, but he would not oblige.  Determined not to find myself stranded in an East German train station in the middle of the night, I discreetly told the train official that I had U.S. dollars.  After a brief and silent transaction, the official led us to the front of the train to a private sleeper car.  The next morning we awoke in West Berlin.  

Bribing an East German official was probably not one of the wisest decisions made by this 20-year-old abroad, but it certainly made for an interesting story in the years to follow!  I will never forget that experience.

Q: Describe the most meaningful international or travel experience that you've had. 
A: By far my most meaningful international experiences were those during my undergraduate years when I was able to spend extended periods of time living abroad "like a local".  The year in Germany, in particular, was one of incredible growth and self-actualization.  It was a series of victories (empowering experiences) and defeats (confusing & humbling experiences) that combined to shape me into someone who not only had a better understanding of myself and my own culture, but also the culture of others.  

Q: What would you most like to say to students that are considering studying abroad?
A: Whether you go for two weeks or a whole year, the most important thing is to do it!  It will never be more affordable to go abroad than it is now when you have access to grants, scholarships, and financial aid, nor will you ever have more opportunities to do it than you do now as an undergraduate.  The benefits and impacts are numerous and last a lifetime.  It is one of the best investments you can make in yourself. 

Q: If a penguin walked through the door right now wearing a sombrero, tell me: 1) What would he say? 2) Why is he here?
A: He would say that he was in the Americas on holiday and is now returning to his home in Antarctica.  He is here because he understands that I have never been to Antarctica and wonders if I would like to join him!

You can find Donna in 101 Royce Hall or e-mail her at anderdon@uwplatt.edu!
Be sure to stop by the Markee to vote in our 2013 Photo Contest and check out Trivia Night from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Pioneer Haus in the Markee!

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