WISE Roberto Moreira, Emma Bernal and Anna Hupper agree that returning home after the end of the school year is leaving them with mixed emotions.
The three directors of education completed a year of study at the University College of Virginia at Wise Saturday before going to their universities in Spain and Germany, and most recently they shared their experiences with Professor Witold Wolny, director of the international UVA Wise program .
English is important to our direction, said Moreira, who attends the University of Seville with Bernal.
I did not want to go to England, said Hupper, who attends Dortmund Technical University. The best thing about being here is that everyone is so supportive.
Hupper, Bernal, and Moreira each said that the environment at UVA Wise, a smaller institution than their home universities, meant more contact with professors and students in the campus community.
Relationships between students and faculty are more personal, Hupper said. All the professors know your name and are interested in how you are doing. At UVA Wise you have someone there to help you with your classes and your schedule, but in Europe you are responsible for doing all this.
Bernal said the range of events and clubs on campus meant more opportunities to socialize and get to know other students.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to play sports and make friends, and there is always something to do during the week, Moreira added.
Wolny said their experience is consistent with what previous exchange students have found at UVA Wise. Three UVA Wise students are at the University of Seville and Paris now, he added. The College maintains relationships with sister universities in Europe and plans to expand them to Japan.
Bernal said that while she found people in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee very friendly, she also found it difficult to form true friendships because of the limited time in the US and the large number of friendly people.
Hupper had been a high school exchange student in the US, and she said the college experience this time allowed her to meet more people instead of living with a family. She recalled that she was fascinated by how many people she saw wearing western shirts and cowboy hats, but knowing more people also helped remove the stereotypes she had about America.
It is always good to have someone who sympathizes with you, helps you and knows you, Moreira added.
Moreira, Bernal, and Huppert said going out to communities in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee was interesting in the way people were vocal about politics and religion, though they said they had never felt it was being owed to them.
All three said the faculty in the UVA Wise teacher education program always showed interest in their progress, even helping them find internships while they were in college.
I felt like they taught us some really good tools for the class and I really liked the program here, Bernal added.
I feel like I have learned more here in the last two years than in the previous three years in Dortmund, Hupper added.
In addition to the college experience, all three said the experience of traveling abroad is even more important.
We know we are all different, but we see that we are similar in many ways as well, Bernal said.
Even if you go and do not end up liking it, you can appreciate the experience more, Hupper said. It just teaches you more about yourself and others.
Being away from family and friends at home makes you appreciate them more, Bernal said.
If you are at home, you have everything you need for laundry, food, but being away helps you learn to love your family more, Bernal added. And I will also keep in touch with the friends I have made here.
You have to travel because it is good to leave your comfort zone and experience different things, Moreira said.