Study Abroad Student Testimonials

Sociology majors have studied abroad to six out of the seven continents and so we have many stories about where students have gone!  Below are just a few.  Interested in sharing your story?  We love to feature new content so talk with Bobby Bryant about having your story featured here or in our Soc Scene newsletter!

Posing for a picture outside during the study abroad trip

Marissa Paananen (BA sociology of law, criminology, and deviance—Graduate from the spring 2018 class)

In 2015, I studied abroad in Venezuela during my sophomore year at the University of Minnesota. I chose Argentina because I wanted to live somewhere by the Caribbean Sea and learn Spanish, while also taking classes that were interesting to me as a sociology student.  The country far exceeded my environmental expectations with the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen, including tropical islands, cast sand dunes, flourishing wetlands, and breathtaking mountains.  In addition, my ability to  speak Spanish skyrocketed as I was fully immersed in their exhilarating Latino culture.  Lastly, my classes were fascinating as I learned about ancient folklore and Latin American politics and civilization, not to mention receiving sociology elective credits.

Before arriving, I knew nothing about the political situation in Venezuela other than the US dollar was more valuable there, which seemed like a benefit.  However, this experience dramatically opened my eyes to the need for more economic and social development on a global scale.  This inspired my future studies and travels.  In fact, I decided to do my senior research thesis on the current human rights of Venezuela, which, I was able to present at the Sociological Research Institute in 2017. Furthermore, since this trip, I have traveled to Jamaica, Spain, Morocco, Thailand, Laos, Peru, and Uruguay.  I am currently living in Argentina as a Cambridge certified English teacher.  My career goal is to help others overcome cultural and language barriers either as a social advocate or a lawyer. These aspirations all stem back to my study abroad experience in Venezuela. 

I would 100 percent recommend study abroad. It provides opportunities to explore new places, expose yourself to different cultures, and to take risks.  How else would you ever break down these ridiculous invisible walls society has built between race, class, gender, religion, sex, etc.?  In my opinion, traveling invokes enlightenment and acceptance of yourself as well as others.


Argentina study abroad

Abbey Guyette (BA sociology law, criminology, and deviance—anticipated graduation of spring 2017) 

I studied abroad in the summer of 2015 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Along with my sociology of law, criminology, and deviance major, I am also a Spanish studies major. One of my favorite parts of study abroad was one of the classes I took, called Argentina: Stereotypes and Identities. For me, it was the perfect intersection of my two majors; essentially it was a sociological view of the cultures in Argentina and South America. Although my original intent was to focus on improving my Spanish skills, I found myself often applying what I’ve learned in my sociology classes at the University of Minnesota to help me understand the new cultures around me.

I would definitely recommend a study abroad experience during undergrad. My study abroad experience in Buenos Aires not only expanded my worldview but sparked new interests in other topics of sociology.


Group of students posing together in a park during the study abroad trip

Samantha Gallager (BS sociology law, crimonology, and deviance—anticipated graduation of spring 2018) 

I studied at the University of Oslo in Norway for five months during spring semester of 2017, where I lived in an apartment with other international students. I learned about the Norwegian welfare model, which provides health care, university level education, and maternity/paternity leave rights to all of its citizens. I also studied Nordic politics and EU law, which was my first time starting a class and knowing nothing about the subject. Taking these courses expanded my viewpoints on public policy and law making to understand those that work differently from the US model I’ve studied in the past. These courses also sparked new interests for courses I want to take at the U this fall. Stepping outside of my comfort zone and going abroad enhanced everything I had learned about sociology from inside the University of Minnesota as the norms of Norwegian society forced me to compare its ideals to the US, studying from a world view.

Traveling around Europe was another of my adventures. My abroad experience encouraged me to plan trips to Scandinavian countries, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe, all around my lecture schedule. I was also able to join student groups where I not only connected with other international/Norwegian students, but these groups planned a free trip to Denmark and ski/sledding events during the long Norwegian winter. Studying abroad was so much more than just leaving one school and attending another. In Oslo, I was exposed to a new way of thinking, new people, new food, new social norms, new courses, and new topics I had never heard or studied before. Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far in my college career and I now feel more comfortable (even excited) in new environments with new people.