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Like Joseph Haas '24 and Gabby Smith '25, You Do Not Want to Miss Out on an Intercultural Experience

March 11, 2024

By Fatima Magana '22

ALLIANCE- “Travel as much as you can while you can,” is a phrase we all hear when we are young. The dream of leaving everything behind to become explorers is one that very few accomplish. In college, however, studying abroad is the steppingstone for students to build intercultural communication skills and broaden their perspectives. The University of Mount Union encourages its students to take a leap of faith and travel to countries like France, Germany, and Spain not only to build their skillset as globally knowledgeable professionals but to befriend people who are career-centered as well. 

Joseph Haas ‘24, human resource management and Spanish double major, traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay during the spring 2023 semester where he stayed with local Uruguayans. Acknowledging that his host parents spoke and understood very little English, Haas enhanced his Spanish speaking skills by interacting with them.      

“[Although I was excited to begin my journey, I was] nervous about the language barrier and for the first few months, I experienced culture shock,” said Haas. “I missed my car back home because transportation is different in Uruguay as I had to take the bus or sometimes walk to class; learning the bus's schedule frustrated me.”

While learning to navigate the transportation system abroad was difficult, Haas immersed himself in the Uruguayan culture by playing volleyball at the beach after class, taking cooking classes or visiting wineries, and attending local soccer games and carnivals. He is grateful for the help faculty like Dr. Gregg Courtad, professor of Spanish and Dr. Jennifer Hall, professor of French and director of the center for global education, gave him as well as Dawn Daugherty, director of internationalstudent services for helping him with travel logistics.

“My experience studying abroad in Uruguay made me more independent and gave me the confidence to travel anywhere alone, and by the end of the semester, I built a routine and knew what to expect from the culture,” explained Haas. “Studying abroad but traveling overall improves people’s communication skills as well as gives them an opportunity to gain different perspectives from the interactions they have.”


Falling in love with the French language in high school, Gabby Smith '25, sport business and French double major, decided to continue her language learning journey in college. Traveling to Lyon, France for the Fall 2023 semester, Smith enhanced her cultural knowledge interacting and learning from native French citizens.

"I was afraid that my French would not be good enough to befriend people," said Smith. "Although I was afraid, none of my fears occured because I easily made friends and became accustomed to the French culture."

Grateful for the experience she embarked on, Smith describes her study abroad journey as confident, adaptable, and ambitious. To travel to another country, one must trust themselves as well as be open-minded to the experiences they will take part in. Smith explains that to make one's goals come true one needs ambition and persistence to make their vision come to life.

"One of my favorite places to practice speaking was at a bakery called Le Lautrec," said Smith. "My friends and I quickly became regulars, and we enjoyed speaking with a worker named Noel who appreciated that we were learning French, so she would always spend extra time speaking to us."

Learn more about Joseph and Gabby's experience abroad when you register to visit the World Languages and Cultures department on Wednesday, March 20, 2024. Secure your seat at