Among the many different study abroad scholarships is a unique opportunity for members of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity (DU) at Kansas State University. KSU and Delta Upsilon alumnus, Paul Edgerley (Accounting, ’78), created the DU Edgerley Global Study Abroad Scholarship to provide funding assistance for chapter members participating in a semester long study abroad program located in a non-English speaking country with an emerging economy. Paul Edgerley, is now a Management Director for Bain Capital.
This article includes an interview with two students, Ryan Knight and Nathan Mckinney, who were graciously awarded the DU Edgerley Global Study Abroad Scholarship. Below they give some information about their unique experiences abroad and how this assistance was so integral to their opportunities.
Could you talk a little about your study abroad experience? How did you choose your program, and what were you looking for in an experience abroad?
RK: I chose my study abroad program, USAC, through the K-State study abroad office. I saw Brazil was a strong emerging economy, and I felt it would be a place I could adapt to. I wanted to go to a place where I could learn a new language, not know anyone, and get far out of my comfort zone. I got all this and more; I arrived in Florianopolis, Brazil, not speaking a word of Portuguese, not knowing a single person, and moving into a host family where the mom did not know a word of English and the dad was taking English classes. I went in trying to not have any expectations what so ever, and anything I could have imagined I would get out of it was topped from the experiences I had, people I met, and the culture I embraced.
NM: For me it really involved seeing what other peers were doing to go abroad. I saw the preparations they made and built that in to my personal plans to go to India. I was initially supposed to study abroad in Mumbai for International Business purposes, but had my program canceled two months before I was supposed to fly out. My program provider helped me make the transition to another management program in Hyderabad, which meant that I had to change my plans a little bit. I went to India because I really desired to go to a location that was both challenging and economically important. India is one of the most difficult countries in the world for expats to reside in, yet is largely considered to be one of the largest emerging business markets in the world behind China.
What is the DU Edgerley Global Study Abroad Scholarship and how did it play a role in your study abroad experience?
RK: Paul Edgerley is an incredibly generous and successful alumni of Kansas State and Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He donates millions dollars annually to the University, and said a couple years ago that more college students need to have an international experience during their college career to better prepare them for the workforce. For this reasoning, in the Spring of 2012 he created an all-expenses paid semester abroad open for any member of the Kansas State chapter of Delta Upsilon to apply for. The main things the scholarship committee was looking for was: Going to a non-English speaking country, going to a country with an emerging economy (primarily BRIC), someone who would be able to relay their experience back to the chapter to open up their minds and encourage them to gain a similar experience, and someone who would be open enough to trying everything an international experience has to offer. The DU Edgerley Global Study Abroad Scholarship made it possible for me to study abroad, and encouraged me to keep a consistent blog that looking back on was extremely beneficial for me and everyone who was interested in what I was doing on a day-to-day basis. I will forever be grateful to Brother Edgereley for his generosity.
NM: The DU Edgerley Global Study Abroad Scholarship is a $10,000+ scholarship that is available exclusively to Kansas State DU’s. Every year, one or more DU’s are enabled the opportunity to study and/or intern abroad in rising economic countries, chief among them being the BRIC countries. It’s a tremendous privilege that allows men to have both a transformative study abroad experience and a means to give back to their chapter at KSU. For me, it gave me the financial backing I needed to study abroad in a location with few exchanges to K-State. Also, Paul’s generosity was inescapably present through it all, and it really drove me to make the most of my experience, as the value he had placed on me going over there spoke to the overall vision he had for K-Stater’s when it came to interactions at a global level.
What was one of the highlights from your time overseas?
RK: The most specific highlight was my time helping my host mom with a philanthropic endeavor she began. Every Sunday, she would spend her entire day making “feijoada” – a Brazilian soup filled with meat, veggies, rice, beans, and anything else in the pantry. She would make buckets of it, and drive around in her van to areas where she knew that homeless people were. She would stop her van, honk, and yell “SOPA” out the window, and out of nowhere there would be near a dozen homeless men and women coming out that we could serve. We would drive around for a few hours doing this until all the soup and bread we had was gone. The first time she asked me to go, I had no clue where I was going or what I was doing. I understood the word “sopa” and followed her to the van. Throughout my learning of Portuguese I was able to ask her more questions as we drove around, and learned how incredible of a woman she was to start this kind of thing. I will always remember that experience, and how it sparked a new passion of service for me.
NM: One highlight I had was getting to go see Dubai, which is considered to be the most modern city in the world. Of late, it is becoming known as the business epicenter of the Middle East. It was cool to see the present culture and global atmosphere in a country where 88% of the national population is from other nations around the world.
What do you think you learned from your time abroad?
RK: When I came back from Brazil, I felt a lot more “able”. I feel like I took every skill/quality that I had and boosted it. I came back to the states so much more confident, and was able to accomplish a lot of things and get involved in more leadership roles than I think I would have before. I was in a place where I was so far outside of my comfort zone, but I grew to adapt to it and end up not just getting by in Brazil, but thriving by the end. I felt – if I was able to do that in a place where I didn’t know the language, the people, the culture; what could I accomplish in a place that I did know all of those things?
NM: Upon my entrance to India, my understanding about the way things worked completely turned upside down. Living within what was still considered a developing country, I had to learn how to embrace the chaos and disruptions, as that was the only way I could begin to understand the underlying structure of the daily life amidst 7 million people. That took a lot of patience, but after a while I learned to enjoy it in the same way I had previously enjoyed the calm lifestyle I’d grown up around in Western Kansas.
What do you think you’ll remember most when you think about this experience 10 years from now?
RK: That you can really accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. I never would’ve imagined I would meet so many incredible people that I continue to stay friends with to this day or that I would leave speaking a language I did not know before. It taught me that I can adapt to anything, and I will always remember the feeling of nervousness going into the experience, and the sadness as I was leaving. The people I met and formed relationships with will stay in my heart 10 years and beyond. The warmness of everyone I met amazed me, and I will always be itching to make my way back to Brazil and reconnect with my Brazilian friends and family.
NM: I’ll remember the friendships and memories I built with those I met through my study abroad program. Touring and studying in a foreign culture with other students from around the US was a lot of fun. In some ways it was kind of like coming in as a freshman at K-State, as the newness of it all heightened the experience I gained from it!
Do you have any advice for students thinking about studying abroad?
RK: If you have any inclination to study abroad in anyway, explore it. So many people think about it, and come up with a million excuses of why they can’t or they shouldn’t. If you have thought about it, go and talk to someone in the Study Abroad office about how you can make it happen. Once you think about it, do it as early as possible. I studied abroad during the spring of my sophomore year, and it was incredibly beneficial. The Study Abroad experience outweighed any organization or leadership position I could have had at the time at K-State, and I was able to come back and accomplish far more than I could have without the experience. Studying abroad helps you figure out who you really are and what you are passionate about when you are forced to be out of your comfort zone and constantly meeting new people and experiencing new things. Finally, if you are thinking about it, try to go for a semester instead of a summer or winter break. You will benefit either way from going at all, but for me, if I was only there for a month or two I would not have had the experience I did because of the language barrier. It took me a good couple of months to learn the language, but after I did the experiences I was able to have were incredible.
NM: I really only have one major point of thought and that overlays the idea of International Internships. If you are a student who has an internship requirement for your degree, or just a personal preference to go abroad in the summer months, you should look into 10-12 week summer internships. Though unpaid, these internships are becoming more and more commonplace, and allow for professional growth as well as travel and location-specific coursework. Credible sponsors and program providers are making it a readily available substitute for semester long study abroad programs.