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"Surprise Yourself": The Benefits of Studying Abroad

LSU Honors students report from around the globe
"Surprise Yourself": The Benefits of Studying Abroad

Blake Kruger, left, and Hannah McLain "on location"

Every semester, a number of LSU Honors College students can’t be found anywhere on LSU’s campus. Instead, they’re living and learning in countries around the globe. With the help of Honors College advising and scholarships, Honors students regularly embark on study abroad programs that fit their fields of interest, the requirements of their majors, and the parameters of their wallets. We recently received dispatches from a few of our far-flung students studying abroad this semester.


Honors College senior Echo Matthews is a math and art history double major who’s just finishing up a year spent studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Matthews spent the second semester of her junior year and the first semester of her senior year taking art history and Spanish courses at the Universidad del Salvador through the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP). “I would definitely recommend a year abroad, especially if you’re trying to learn a new language,” she said. “It takes about four to six months until the language finally clicks, and that’s about the time a semester is over. Being here for a year also allowed me to go from being a tourist to feeling like a local.” Matthews noted that she spent her first semester in Argentina exploring the country and traveling with her international friends—other students on ISEP exchanges—whereas in her second semester, she’s spent time getting to know Buenos Aires and hanging out with her Argentinian friends. “I played on the university soccer team for the entire year, and that’s been one of the highlights,” she said. “I would recommend joining a team sport at the university to anyone who is studying abroad.”

Her classes ended last week, but this is not the end of Matthews’ adventures. “I’ll be traveling for a month before I head back to the United States,” she said. “In fact, I’m currently at the airport, waiting for my plane to leave for Ushuaia [the southernmost city in the world] in Patagonia. From there, I leave for Antarctica in three days." 

Nathan Babb is participating in an LSU Academic Programs Abroad Bilateral Exchange at the University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany. An Honors College junior, he’s continuing to take courses in both his math and economics majors, half in German and half in English. “I’m not a German major, but it was a goal of mine to apply my knowledge of the language to my academic curriculum without formally studying it,” Babb explained. “I saw Germany as a location that had similarities with American culture, yet also offered a unique history, political, and economic climate in which to learn.” He’s studying abroad with the help of three scholarships: a TAF Honors College Study Abroad Scholarship, and two German Academic Exchange (DAAD) Scholarships.

“Growing up in Baton Rouge and later attending college in the same city, I knew that going abroad for any amount of time would be a necessary component to my undergraduate career. Plus, early on I learned that studying abroad fit neatly into the LSU Honors curriculum,” Babb said. “I felt the experience of moving away, conversing in another language, and experiencing a new culture would prove essential for making myself into the college graduate that I aspire to be—and now that I’m here in Germany, I can definitely verify this to be true!”

“The way to look at studying abroad,” Babb concluded, “is not as a ‘lost’ year or semester away from LSU’s campus, but rather, an investment in your future which can be ‘cashed’ over and over again!”

Honors College student Heather Buzbee is currently studying Celtic literature at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, near Dublin. “I have always been in love with Ireland,” Buzbee said of her decision to live internationally. “Studying abroad is one of the best ways to see more of the world and meet new people. Plus, as a writing and culture major, I was interested to learn how different people write and interact in a different culture than my own.” Buzbee wasn’t afraid of missing a few months on LSU’s campus—as long as she could be back in time for the spring semester. “I chose to study abroad in the fall because it would be warmer in Ireland then. But seriously, a lot of important programs and classes come up for me in the spring, so I wanted to be back at LSU to catch all of that.”

Buzbee said that her time abroad has been “a spectacular experience.” She’s made new friends, traveled to other countries in Europe, and explored new literatures, landscapes, and histories. “I would strongly encourage all students to study abroad,” Buzbee said. “I think they’d be surprised by how much they learn not only about another culture, but also about themselves. Don’t be afraid to travel. Put yourself out there and try new things.”

Honors College sophomore Blake Kruger is spending the year studying abroad at Phillipps-Universität in Marburg, Germany, where he is conducting research on drug delivery methods for cancer patients. “I chose to study abroad to gain perspective on what it means to be a physician internationally and what a socialized medical system’s pros and cons might be in relation to a standard of care for patients,” Kruger said. “Additionally I wished to be involved in physical chemistry research to extend my current knowledge base for the development of my Honors Thesis.” Kruger is studying through both Marburg’s International Undergraduate Study Program and the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP).

During his time at Phillipps-Universität, Kruger has also been working toward a German minor and shadowing orthopedic surgeons. “I was given the opportunity to watch surgeries inside of the operating room, as well as observe head physicians give lectures and see patients,” Kruger said. “I’ve gotten to see knee, hip, and shoulder replacements, which has given me incredible perspective into surgery, physiology, and the German health care process as a whole.”

Hannah McLain is an LSU Honors College junior who is currently studying abroad at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. As part of her LSU Alumni Association Global Leaders Award, McLain receives a $2,000 study abroad stipend, and she is also utilizing a scholarship from the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication to help cover the cost of her travel and tuition. “I knew as a freshman entering LSU that I had this study abroad stipend, so I always knew that I could and should study abroad at some point in my college career,” McLain recalled. “But at that time, I also felt very incapable of being away from home in another country for months on end.” That all changed the summer after her freshman year, when Hannah had the opportunity to spend two months in China with a Christian student group. “That completely changed my understanding of living abroad, and my thoughts about being away from home,” McLain said. “I knew that I could handle an entire semester abroad.”

In her search for the right abroad program, McLain began by looking at programs’ course offerings and how they would apply to her major or minors. She used the advanced program search on the LSU Academic Programs Abroad website to help find the study abroad experience that would best fit her academic schedule. “I chose the country and location after I accounted for a lot of other factors,” McLain explained.

McLain has clearly enjoyed her semester in England to the fullest. She’s taken art history classes, joined student groups, traveled regularly to London, and made “some close friends—a number of incredibly welcoming and friendly English students who have been quick to include me into their community.”

“Even with a month to go, I can sincerely say that studying abroad has been my best decision in college thus far,” McLain said. “I’m learning what it’s like to live long-term in another country, and adapt to their culture and daily life. My opinions on a lot of different topics and issues have been stretched and challenged. I am having a fantastic time, and I know that this experience will equip me academically, professionally, and personally in my future—and when I return to LSU.”


Article by Liz Billet, Communications Coordinator, LSU Honors College, 225-578-0083