Cardinal graduate builds life-changing connections through study abroad
By CAITLIN BROOKS
When Brianna Berry first came to UofL, she didn’t know much about studying abroad. But she had always loved traveling, so she decided to attend the study abroad fair during her first semester to learn more about the international opportunities UofL offers.
That decision sparked an even bigger passion for travel that would take Berry beyond UofL’s campus and shape her academic career. It led her to study abroad twice (first in San Sebastián, Spain and again in Puntarenas, Costa Rica), and graduate in 2018 with two bachelor’s degrees and a minor – all during her undergraduate career.
Now, Berry has earned a master of arts in political science and plans to continue her journey as a Cardinal this fall at the Brandeis School of Law on an almost full–tuition scholarship.
All of her travel opportunities and academic experiences stemmed from a decision to attend the School of Music.
“I knew in high school that I wanted part of my college education to involve music, and UofL’s School of Music is the best in the state,” Berry said. “I attended the Governor’s School for the Arts in high school, so UofL offered me the Trustee’s Scholarship. And when I toured UofL, I fell in love with the close-knit feeling of campus and I could see myself growing as a student and community member here.”
Berry did indeed grow as a student at UofL and earned a bachelor of arts in music, a bachelor of arts in psychology and a minor in Spanish, in addition to her participation in two study abroad programs. She decided to first study abroad in San Sebastián, Spain during her sophomore year in 2016 to immerse herself in a Spanish-speaking country and help her earn her degree’s language requirement.
“Because that specific program in Spain offered an intensive Spanish language track that allowed me to take 14 credit hours of Spanish in one semester, I thought that would be the best way for me to effectively learn the language and finish my language requirement for my BA in psychology all at once,” Berry said.
While in Spain, Berry also took a Psychology of Religion and Spirituality class and taught English in two local schools. Her experience in Spain helped her fall in love with the Spanish language and encouraged her to continue honing her Spanish skills when she returned home, eventually leading to her second study abroad adventure, this time as a senior in 2018.
“I studied abroad in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, because I wanted to continue my Spanish language education, but I wanted a different cultural experience from what I had in Spain,” Berry said. “This program had a really interesting Central American Literature class that was taught entirely in Spanish. I wanted a Spanish class that would challenge my language abilities and wasn’t just focused on grammar.”
When she returned to UofL from her first study abroad in Spain, Berry decided she wanted to work as a peer ambassador within the Office of Study Abroad and International Travel to help others achieve their study abroad goals and continued her work with the office as a graduate assistant while earning her master’s degree.
“Working for the study abroad office as a peer ambassador and graduate assistant gave me the chance to share my story and helped to grow my leadership, presentation and communication skills,” Berry said. “The staff at the office became more like mentors to me, and I’ll always be grateful for my time there.”
Berry credits early planning and the help of the study abroad office and her advisors for helping her achieve her academic goals.
“It definitely was difficult to fit everything in, but studying abroad as a sophomore allowed me to have the time to study abroad one more time,” Berry said. “I expressed interest in studying abroad to all of my academic advisors and kept them in the loop with all my plans. It takes effort and careful planning, but UofL has tons of resources to make it easier for you.”
While fitting in two degrees and a minor, along with two study abroad semesters, earning a master’s degree and gaining entrance into law school are all great feats to accomplish, Berry is proudest of the connections she made across the globe and the resiliency she learned through her travels.
“I am so proud of the relationships I have built and grown throughout everything I have experienced,” Berry said. “My family has been nothing but supportive, and I now have people from all over the country and the world that I can call my friends.
“Studying abroad changes your life in so many ways. It helps you learn how to navigate difficult situations where you might not know what to do and improves your resilience. You learn about cultures unlike your own and you honestly just learn that this world is a much smaller place than we think it is.”