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Accounting sophomore Kyrie Buckhalter

First-time traveler finds creative
way to make study abroad work

By Michael Klitzing

Accounting sophomore Kyrie Buckhalter recalls the rush of excitement when it arrived in the mail. He pulled it from the envelope, held it in his hands and flipped through the pages. It was a passport.

His passport.

“I thought, ‘Oh wow – I can go anywhere now,’” Buckhalter said.

Consider it the first in a year of notable firsts for the accounting sophomore. First passport. First time on a plane.  First time studying abroad. First time out of the country – period.

“It’s all just a little bit surreal,” Buckhalter said earlier this spring as the date for his summer program approached. “It’s my first time for everything, and it’s all going to happen at once. It’s going to be a little bit overwhelming, but I’m pretty excited for it … just to be able to say that I did it.”

He can definitely say that now – thanks to a little guidance and a successful crowdfunding experience that made it all possible.

Taking a chance

Buckhalter is currently abroad with “Global Leadership and Diversity Identities in Santo Domingo”, a faculty-led program to the Dominican Republic that runs from June 1-17. The program features interaction with Dominican students in an English immersion program, community engagement opportunities and – most exciting to Buckhalter – a visit to the U.S. embassy.

It’s a thrilling time for a student who, a little more than a year ago, wasn’t sure studying abroad was for him. For one thing, Buckhalter doubted he could make the finances work. For another, the San Bernardino native had also only left California once in his life (a college visit to New Mexico) so the idea of foreign travel was, well, foreign.

That’s when a conversation during office hours with Dr. Aaron Bruce – SDSU’s Chief Diversity Officer and the faculty leader for the program to the Dominican Republic – changed his outlook.

“Dr. Bruce talked to me about what it’s like in other countries, and all the things you bring back,” Buckhalter said. “He said it really changes how you see little things, and that I should give it a chance.”

Crowdfunding success

Of course, that meant coming up with a way to pay for it. Buckhalter was able to use money from a paid internship to cover part of it, but that left him well short of his goal. Bruce pointed him in the direction of crowdfunding – a method used by many SDSU students looking to go abroad.

“Social fundraising outlets allow students who are financially challenged a chance to access additional sources of income beyond scholarships,” Bruce said. “People you may not even know value the experience and growth associated with global learning. They are sometimes willing to contribute the journey of someone else.”

Buckhalter started a account, and shared his story on social media. He managed to raise $1,220 from five donors – enough to cover the remainder of his program costs. He ultimately only needed to pay for the airfare and course tuition out-of-pocket.

The experience also provided a boost to Buckhalter’s confidence. When he put his story online, he found himself deluged with well wishes from friends and family from back home.

“Studying abroad is something that a lot of people where I’m from never think about doing, but my friends are like, ‘You’ve got this – it’s going to be a great experience,’” Buckhalter said. “It’s like they’re more excited for me than I am for myself.”

“I’m going to be taking so many pictures, people are going to get tired of ‘em,” he added with a laugh.

Questions about affordability?

Students looking for options to fund their study abroad experience are encouraged to speak to an advisor at the International Student Center Study Abroad Office or view these resources on the College of Extended Studies faculty-led study abroad page.

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