Lasting international friendships, an appreciation for foreign culture, and a lifelong zest for the opportunity to travel are just a few benefits Orediggers received through Montana Tech’s 2023 Summer Study-abroad Program in Austria.
The Dean of the School of Mines and Engineering, Dr. Kenneth Lee, along with Assistant Professor Dr. Jessica Daignault, took fifteen Tech students to the Graz University of Technology for the two-week trip. Students lived in the dormitory at our host university along with Austrian and international students.
“I decided to do study abroad because I’ve always wanted to travel and I never really had the opportunity,” Civil Engineering Senior Avery Londo said. “It was super affordable and really easy to save for as a college student.”
It was also nice to travel overseas for the first time without having to plan it all herself.
“The whole trip was planned for us,” Londo said. “I kind of got to go along for the ride and I didn’t have to stress too much or anything. It’s kind of hard to start traveling on your own and take that first step, but now that I’ve taken that first step, I know what to think about, what questions to ask, and what to plan for the next time I travel. I’ve kind of fallen in love with Europe. I definitely want to go back and explore more.”
The trip took students to three countries, with day trips to Venice, Italy and to Bratislava, Slovakia. It included lessons in conversational German and project management.
“We had lots of freedom,” Londo said. “After classes we could go explore and do whatever we wanted to do.”
Exploration included visiting a medieval castle with a vineyard next door, where great food and beverages were available for slow devouring, the type of dinner where one savors every bite of deliciousness and every moment of pleasant company.
“Everything was laid back,” Londo said. “Nobody is in a hurry; everybody will sit and have dinner, and it will last three hours. They really enjoy every moment that they have. It was great to see that and embrace it.”
At the end of the trip, the final assignment for the German class was to go to the farmers market and order food for a picnic in German. Each student took their order to the top of a nearby mountain and had a picnic.
“We made so many friends,” Londo said.
Engineering graduate student Layton Bahnmiller said he also made friendships that he believes will last.
“I think my favorite part about Austria is that we happened to meet three Irish lads on the street one night, and we became good friends and we’re planning to meet up with them in Ireland next year,” Bahnmiller said.
Bahnmiller enjoyed learning how the German language was structured and how people from other cultures approach problems and ideas.
“Being mindful of other cultures is an important part of being a professional individual,” Bahnmiller said. “As an engineer you work with a lot of different people, and being able to understand that different mindset and how they value that process is helpful.”
Bahnmiller said it was also good to be an ambassador for Montana Tech and the United States.
“I think it can help improve the perception of America,” Bahnmiller said. “I had a lot of foreigners ask me questions about American traditions. It’s natural for a people group to stereotype another people group, so getting out there and building those connections helps everyone in a positive way.”
Bahnmiller grew up in the tiny town of Big Sandy, Montana, a farming community on the Montana Hi-Line. He’s made travel a priority every year since he started his bachelor’s degree at Montana Tech 2017. This was his first trip abroad, but it likely won’t be his last.
“I’m not as intimidated to go abroad now,” Bahnmiller said. “It was a great experience.”
“A study-abroad trip is the best way to broaden one’s perspective and enhance the understanding of other cultures. We designed this affordable program for our students to gain the maximum global experience in a short amount of time. We are also developing short-term programs in other parts of the world to increase international opportunities for our students. I encourage all students to do a study-abroad trip,” Dean Lee said.
Bahnmiller interned with NASA after he returned. Londo completed her second internship for Nucor Corporation in Texas. The study abroad program was designed to be an affordable experience where students can still take advantage of internship opportunities in the summer, School of Mines and Engineering Dean Kenneth Lee said.
Dean Lee will soon hold an information session on the next study-abroad trip to Taiwan on Thursday, October 5, at 5 PM (MUS computer lab). Students are encouraged to contact Dean Lee at email@example.com for more information.
The session for Austria 2024 will be announced later in the semester.