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Alumni Spotlight

Ryan Riffenburgh
New Zealand Spring 2012
Cognitive Psychology major

"Living in a foreign country enhances your understanding of the world and life outside of the US. Even though I was in an English speaking country, I was able to notice cultural differences and learn and grow from exposure to these differences."

"...I was able to take classes not offered at UCI such as New Zealand History and Maori Studies. These were fantastic because I was able to get new perspectives on the country's history and origins. It was fascinating to be learning about a famous event in their history and then be able to visit these sites in person."

"After graduation, I moved to Santa Barbara and I now work in the UCSB study office as an EAP program advisor. I advise for Australia and New Zealand (among others), which is a dream come true!"

Why did you choose your particular study abroad program/location?
I had lived in Australia for a few months when I was younger and had always been attracted to that region of the world. I was originally looking at the Australian program but the universities there were pretty large. I had decided that I wanted something a little bit smaller and more intimate. I ended up attending University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand and it was exactly what I was hoping for! My largest class was 35 and I got to really know the city and the country. 
 
What types of activities were you involved in while abroad that were meaningful for your learning?
In addition to a sports psych class for my major, I was able to take classes not offered at UCI such as New Zealand History and Maori Studies. These were fantastic because I was able to get new perspectives on the country's history and origins. It was fascinating to be learning about a famous event in their history and then be able to visit these sites in person. I also had the opportunity to live with two Kiwi roommates. This was great because I got to learn all about New Zealand culture and got to tell them what it was really like to live in California (They thought we were such rock stars because we were from California). One of the best things about EAP is that everything happens outside of the classroom. Learning from locals and taking advantage of their knowledge enhanced my time abroad immensely and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  
 
How have you changed or what have you learned due to studying abroad?
Going abroad definitely helped me become a lot more independent. I was able to find my own housing in a foreign country, make my own travel arrangements, and adapt to new surroundings. Since I've been back, I think I'm a lot better at adapting to new situations. The phrase "No Worries" is popular in New Zealand and it's definitely something that has stuck with me. I find myself a lot less worried about the little things and more focused on the amazing opportunities I've had both here and abroad. Living in a foreign country also enhances your understanding of the world and life outside of the US. Even though I was in an English speaking country, I was able to notice cultural differences and learn and grow from exposure to these differences. EAP is great because it allows you to expand your horizons.  
 
What are you doing now as a result of studying abroad?
EAP has changed my life! I can say that without hesitation. After my time in New Zealand, I was able work at the UCI office as a peer advisor. My time there exposed me to the field of international education. After graduation, I moved to Santa Barbara and I now work in the UCSB study office as an EAP program advisor. I advise for Australia and New Zealand (among others), which is a dream come true! I'm able to send students abroad so they can experience the same amazing opportunities I was able to. My journey with EAP has come full circle and I'm so thankful for the opportunity. 
 
What advice would you give to a student considering studying abroad?
Do it! Whatever doubts you may have, I promise you your time abroad will be one of the highlights of your undergrad career. Through my time as an advisor, I've run into plenty of students who are maybe on the fence about going. However, when they get back they're like me in the sense that they wouldn't trade the experience for anything. The process can be intimidating or overwhelming at times but there are a wide array of people and resources available to help you and make sure you have a once in a lifetime opportunity. Don't hesitate to come into the office and start your journey!  

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