Study scoop: She helps Hoos leave

Spring semester for some UVA students means sunny afternoons on the slopes of Beaver Creek or mixing cocktails at Foxfield. But third-year student Liza Bance has a different activity on her list– establishing the University's first Study Abroad Club.

Bance, 21, spent the fall living in the 16th Arrondisement in Paris, a world away from her Rugby Road sorority house.

"The Parisian attitude is more open," says Bance. "Here at UVA, so many students want to fit the mold."

Unlike some colleges which mandate a junior year away from campus, UVA in 2002-2003 sent only eight percent of its undergraduates abroad. Bance's wants that percentage to climb.

"Because UVA is such a fun, party school, no one wants to miss out on a semester here," she says. "But students should consider what they could gain going abroad, and should be encouraged to take the risk."

Under the guidance of faculty representative Murielle Kervizic, Bance has teamed up with club co-founder Brandon Possin to restructure the system. They're gathering students who've gone abroad, setting up an informative website, and planning a presentation to first years at Orientation.

One person who could have benefited from Bance's ideas about networking is fourth-year Kate Berry. "I did the NYU program in Paris," says Berry. "I wish I'd had someone to talk to about which program would be most academically and socially beneficial."

Establishing the Study Abroad Club has served as an antidote for the reverse culture shock Bance experienced upon her return from Europe in January. "One morning I was in Paris and the next I woke up in a sorority house," she says, still amazed at the change.

But she's determined to preserve the joie de vivre her Paris days inspired. "My experience abroad has changed my life in Charlottesville," she says. "My last two months here have been completely different from the last two years."

She breaks away from her UVA routine for all sorts of activities that never crossed her mind before she left– "sweaty yoga" and Tibetan Buddhism meditation classes are two of her favorites. "I walk out of there a different person," she laughs.

This summer, Bance says, she hopes to study in Spain or Australia. "Because there are so few students I know of to talk to," she says she wishes her club were already functioning.

"Traveling puts your life in perspective, and taking a semester abroad is the best way to start," Bance says. "I learned more than I could ever dream of, and I can't imagine what I would be like now, had I not spent last fall in Paris."

Liza Bance

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