Living and studying abroad four times has completely changed who Amy Curlee is.
"I was able to see my life as an American in a different way, from the point of view of others, and it made me more aware of what made me who I am," said the University of the Pacific graduate.
"When you begin to understand your own identity in an international context, you are able to understand the way other people think and feel. It makes you a much deeper, more conscientious person," she said.
Curlee's experiences helped place Pacific among the best institutions in the United States for students interested in studying overseas.
The ranking appeared in the annual report "Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange," released Nov. 15 by the Institute of International Education.
It was based on results submitted by about 1,000 U.S. colleges. The study measured the number of undergraduates each institution sent overseas to study along with the number of international students who enroll at those institutions.
At Pacific, where Curlee said students are eager to study abroad, the university pays tuition at the overseas school a student attends.
"The cost to you is no different that a normal semester in Stockton," she said. "Your financial aid, scholarships, all funding stays in place. I heard horror stories of students at other universities having to withdraw for a semester, pay their own way, and in many cases not have their classes count towards their degree upon return to their home university."
At Pacific, there is a pre-approval process for coursework so a student knows in advance that the classes he or she will be taking will count.
The report listed the Stockton university as the 14th best doctorate-granting institution in the United States for students interested in studying abroad, having sent 98 students overseas in the 2008-09 academic year. As the report noted, that was seven more students than University of California, Berkeley sent during the same year. U.C. Berkely has nearly seven times as many students as Pacific.
Overall, the study reported the 260,327 students nationally studied abroad for credit during the 2008-09 school year, a slight dip from the previous year. However, the report found that there were notable increases in the number of U.S. students going to study in less traditional destinations.
Fifteen of the top 25 destinations were outside of Western Europe, and 19 were countries where English is not a primary language. The country that saw the greatest increase in U.S. students studying there was China, with a 19 percent increase from the previous academic year.
While enrolled at Pacific, Curlee pursued a double major in international relations and German literature and chose to study abroad in German-speaking countries, specifically Austria and Germany.
In the spring of 2004, she studied at the University of Vienna through a program offered by International Education of Students, and the following semester attended an Institute on European Union Studies in Freiburg, Germany.
But before that, the 2001 Lodi High School graduate was no stranger to studying abroad.
She was one of 60 students chosen from across the United States for a special scholarship funded by the American and German governments, which paid for nearly all expenses except spending money.
The exchange was organized through the ASSE International Student Exchange Program, one of the world's largest student exchange programs, and afforded Curlee a nearly year-long trip to Oberhausen, Germany that ended in 2002.
At the time, Curlee said she enjoyed the trip to the country, becoming fluent in the language and experiencing life outside America.
She also learned to appreciate the differences in other cultures, including things such as opening umbrellas indoors and not wishing someone "Happy Birthday" in advance because it's bad luck, according to a previous interview.
Curlee, a fourth-generation Lodi native whose family owns and operates a winegrape, cherry and flower farm, now works in the Bay Area after completing graduate school at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, with a degree in international trade policy.
She said she was hired at Merrill Lynch in the global wealth and investment management division because of her Germanand Spanishspeaking abilities.
"Study abroad certainly helped me to get where I am now," she said.
Since Pacific, she has lived abroad two more times; once in Antigua, Guatemala and once in Geneva, Switzerland.
The IIE study also reported an increase of 37 percent in the number of college students participating in practical work experiences as part of their study abroad, with 18,715 students now receiving academic credit at U.S. colleges and universities for internships or work abroad.
The increased interest among Pacific students in studying overseas during and beyond their undergraduate years has also increased the number of applications for highly competitive national scholarships, according to Susan Weiner, Pacific's fellowship adviser.
This year, seven students applied for the prestigious Fulbright scholarship, which funds a post-baccalaureate year of original research or teaching English in other countries.
Last year, the Benjamin Alldritt School of Engineering was awarded a Fulbright to conduct research in Finland. Last year as well, six Pacific students applied for a U.S. State Department Boren Scholarship for intensive study of "critical need" languages such as Chinese and Arabic. Two of the six were granted the award, both to study in Beijing.
Pacific's success rate is better than the national average, according to Boren Assistant Director Susan Sharp.
The "Open Doors" report is published by the Institute of International Education, the leading nonprofit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States.
Its census is based on a survey of approximately 3,000 accredited U.S. institutions. "Open Doors" also reports on surveys on international scholars at U.S. universities; international students enrolled in pre-academic Intensive English Programs; and on U.S. students studying abroad since 1985.
To see this year's rankings or to learn more about the Institute of International Education, visit www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data/US-Study-Abroad/Leading-Institutions-Duration-Institutional-Type/2008-09.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.