Studying abroad is a life-changing experience for students at the University of Northern Iowa. It can also be an expensive experience.
Fortunately for UNI students, they can receive support like the Van Sickel Student Support Fund. The fund, created by alum David Van Sickel ’74, aims to lessen the cost of studying abroad by providing resources for expenses related to studying abroad or other international travel expenses.
David Van Sickel (middle) with recipients of the Van Sickel Student Support Fund.
“My goal is to help students expand their horizons, learn about and from other cultures, and, ultimately, learn that despite different cultures people all over the world are very similar,” said Van Sickel.
Since 2013, the Van Sickel Student Support Fund has given students the opportunity to immerse themselves in different cultures.
Araceli Castaneda ‘15, who studied in Arica, Chile, said, “The learning experience that stood out the most for me was the fact that there are millions of different cultures in the world that most of us are not aware of. Having the opportunity to live with a Chilean family for two months, I was able to have firsthand experience with the Chilean culture.”
Emily Bruns ‘15, who studied in England and France, added, “The biggest thing I learned from studying abroad is even though other cultures may be different than my own, they are still valuable and important. Studying abroad opened my eyes to the merits of other cultures. In addition, as someone who had very limited travel experience, studying abroad allowed me to gain a lot of confidence.”
Besides learning about different cultures, students also gain skills that will benefit them in future professional careers.
“Studying abroad helps you stand out to future employers,” said Nick Caldwell ‘14. “The study abroad program I was in helped me get into the classroom as a teacher, as it was an English teaching program. It helped me ease into my future role.”
Castaneda added, “I wanted to study abroad not only because of my love of traveling, but also to show my future employer that I am not afraid to expose myself to a different culture and environment. I feel that studying abroad has taught me a lot about traveling internationally. If I can go to a different country with a new environment, I am able to move anywhere without the fear of a new environment.”
All these experiences wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Van Sickel Student Support Fund.
“It assures that students have the ability to gain world experiences, regardless of their financial status,” said Bruns. “Without the help of David, I would have been unable to have this amazing experience.”
Castaneda concurred, “I wouldn’t have had this awesome opportunity to travel aboard without this help. I encourage people to keep making such a difference in students’ college experience and molding the future generation.”