Students Abroad Blog To Educate Peers and Highlight Wisconsin Experience [Madison Commons]

By Valerie Figlmiller, for Madison Commons

Students have recently begun to blog about their time while studying abroad to give others perspective and to emphasize the “Wisconsin Experience.”

UW-Madison’s Division of International Studies publicly launched Badgers Abroad Blog recently to commemorate International Education Week, Nov. 17 – 21. The blog gives students planning to study abroad a chance to learn about their destination, and it helps expand the university’s global presence, according to University Relations Specialist Masarah Van Eyck.

“Students can learn about their program straight from other students who have gone on that program and to that country previously,” Van Eyck said. “It’s a useful venue for those students to really communicate with a larger community.”

The blog not only gives people a chance to talk about their personal experiences in other countries, according to UW student Ben Hesprich, but it also inspires those on campus to travel and study abroad in the future.

“It’s a way for students to ‘show and tell’ their international experiences, and it’s a resource for others possibly interested in going abroad themselves,” Hesprich said. “The brochures and the Internet can only tell you so much information. These blogs give insight into life abroad from the students who actually lived it.”

Badgers Abroad Blog was also initiated to emphasize the university’s notion of “creating and applying learning inside and outside the classroom to make the world a better place” – the very essence of the Wisconsin Experience, according to Van Eyck.

“The blog is a good place for us to highlight the international reach of the university in different venues,” Van Eyck said. “In the past we’ve thought about education as a very localized experience that only happens on campus and in Wisconsin. Now I think the Wisconsin Experience really expands to all the places around the globe where the University of Wisconsin is making a difference.”

The Wisconsin Experience “is characterized by close integration of in-class and out-of-class learning experiences, by active, creative and entrepreneurial engagement in real world problems, and by offering students leadership in their learning,” according to the Office of the Provost’s document.

“The blog connects the campus to the rest of the world, so it stresses the Wisconsin Experience because it’s saying that we don’t just learn for the sake of learning,” Hesprich said. “We have a purpose, and we go and make things happen, whether that be in Madison, Wisconsin or Jakarta, Indonesia, or anywhere else; but, the point is that we make things happen.”

Van Eyck also said the blog is important to the Wisconsin Experience right now because as our global community is getting smaller, we need better ways to communicate with one another. The blog can help to foster that communication and understanding she said.

Besides educating future study abroad participants and highlighting the Wisconsin Experience, the blog can be a means to simply motivate both students and faculty to travel at some point in their life, according to Hesprich.

“I think the best thing about this blog is that it’s a catalyst. It can be the ticket that gets people to take the extra step and just go traveling,” Hesprich said. “Whatever you do in life, you should travel, at least once.”

Valerie Figlmiller is a journalism student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Wisconsin-Madison.