Jumping into the Unknown

3 months, 90 days, 2160 hours, I got the wonderful opportunity to spend in the land of the Kiwis. The beautiful country southeast of Australia should not be overshadowed. New Zealand, the land of rugby, Lord of the Rings, beautiful beaches, bungy jumping, left-side-of-the-road driving, strong coffee, Maori Culture, etc., was my home for the summer.

The Kiwis (local people) welcome new travelers with open arms and open hearts. I interned for a non-profit organization, Recreate New Zealand, working with people with intellectual disabilities. Everyone I worked with, both participants and staff members, were the nicest people I have ever met. I become close friends with other staff members and interns. I even got to play on a soccer team for two games with a staff member (something I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do).  One staff member’s family was kind enough to host a traditional “kiwi feast”.

My Global Theme and Challenge for my time abroad focused on engaging children in physical activity to give them a healthy start to life. While the population I worked with in New Zealand would not be considered children, but rather young adults, they are just as important of a population to be teaching healthy habits. Health and nutrition were not the main focuses of most of the programs (a few programs were focused on health habits), but all the programs did incorporate it one way or another. On weekend getaways, we would plan healthy meals. We would always try to get out for some physical activity during the day as well. Everyone enjoyed walking along the beach or in the bush (forest). I have learned that health encompasses more than just physical activity, but social interaction as well. Recreate NZ focuses on creating the environment where participants can receive and participate in a fun, social environment. Many of the participants have met their best friends through Recreate NZ.

New Zealand is a well-developed country like The United States and thus extremely similar. I easily made friends with my co-workers at Recreate NZ and always went to them with questions if something about the culture confused me. Interacting with the participants really strengthened my role as a leader. Everything I did was being watched and possibly copied by the participants. I was a role model they looked up to.

As a going away present and a thank you, Recreate NZ took me and another American Intern to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. They pushed us off the bridge!! Just kidding, we jumped and were connected to harnesses. Bungee Jumping is a great representation of my experience going abroad. I was nervous all up until the final step off the edge. But, looking over over the edge, feeling all the safety equipment, and knowing everything was going to be okay, I made the jump. I’d never been abroad, let alone on the other side of the hemisphere. The whole experience was a leap of faith and brought me out of my comfort zone, but I knew everything was going to be okay. And it was more than okay. It was amazing. Just like the bungee, I would love to do it again.

I had a wonderful experience abroad and I would give anything to go back to New Zealand to work with Recreate NZ again or to just see all the wonderful friends I made. I loved learning first-hand about New Zealand and being immersed within the culture. I am forever grateful for the Franke Global Leadership Initiative for giving me the opportunity to have the most amazing experience of my life.

Surviving Yanapaccha

I went to Peru to experience other mountains. I need mountains, having left Seattle to live in Missoula. I wanted to meet someone else’s mountains, so I trekked over a couple in the Andes and Cordillera Blanca. My guides shared their culture and reverence for nature in a mixture of English, Spanish, and Quechua. But walking was familiar. Arriving at the end of my trip, I realized, terrified, I am going to climb a mountain.

When we begin, the sky is dark. Dark enough to see the swath of pinpricks composing the Milky Way – without my contacts in! The ground is dark too, save for the round white beams emanating from our headlamps. Yana, Quechua for “black,” I learn. For twenty minutes we clamber over rocks in our moonboots, following the trail marked only by occasional rock cairns and the dirt of rocks crushed by those who’ve passed before. Today, I lead.

Reaching the glacier, we clamp on our cramp-ons and unhitch our pickaxes. Our guide scrambles up the ice face to set an anchor. “On belay!”

Hours of slow steps across thick, frozen snow follow. The altitude gives some of us stomachaches, others headaches, and makes our breathing heavy.

A bright light shines over the edge of a nearby mountain. Sunrise? But it is only 3 am. The moon reveals itself fully, outlining the enormity of the mountain.

My feet barely pass each other with each step. One of my partners does not feel well either though, so my pace suffices. We keep our heads down, sights set on following the pre-existing footprints that keep us on trail. By halfway, sunrise imbues the snow with a soft glow.

Here we rest. I cannot stomach food so I down a juice box. I try to keep my eyes open. My friend does not feel well at all. The summit may be a lofty goal for us. Our guide points to some hills, two-thirds of the way.

“If you cannot go any more, just say so and we can turn around,” He says.
“Let’s go there and then chat,” we decide.

We never had that chat.

Slope after slope rises in front of us. The severity of the steepness overwhelms me – how can I climb this? “Zero!” I call, as my heart climbs into my throat and my eyes well with tears. If I can just compose myself… I close my eyes for a moment. I am afraid. Yes. But, I have made it all the way here. “Clear!”

By the last ice wall, immense, we are too close to give up. Despite dwindling strength, we pull ourselves up twenty meters. We each collapse at the top of the wall, only to be roused to our feet. We are not there yet. With the guide tugging on the rope, I struggle to crawl up the last bit. I gave up hours ago on reaching the summit. I only agreed with myself to take the next step, the next hill, the next traverse. Now I’m here.

“You made it!” a friend at the top exclaims. “I didn’t think we would,” I mutter. I wanted to let the mountain beat me, but my team’s encouragement refused. They gave me the courage to lead, to bite down my fear, to remember the skills at my disposal to evade all the danger and thoughts the mountain threw at me. Laying on my pack, I cry at my exhaustion, my upset stomach, my aching limbs. I cry because I did not have faith in myself and yet I still succeeded. Pagcha, or paccha, Quechua for “waterfall,” I remember, making my own. I feel intense respect for Pacha Mama, Mother Earth, and what she can do for or to us.

The peak is beautiful.

Where Theories became Force: A summer in East Germany

From May 31st to July 14, 2017 I studied the history of European Integration and violence in Europe at European University Viadrina in Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany. I was surprised from the moment of arrival, essentially – as I saw a side of Germany that I did not think about – the difficulty of recovery from being divided. When I arrived in Berlin, I was surprised to find that two years of German and learning about the culture and language still could not fully prepare me for culture shock. When I arrived in Frankfurt an der Oder, taking a train from Berlin eastward, I was even more surprised to find something that had yet to cross my mind learning about Germany. Frankfurt an der Oder, a smaller, different town than Frankfurt am Main (the big one) used to be an industrial hub under the Soviet Union, and when Germany was reunited, all the heavy industry was shut down and the town suffered unemployment and a population drain. When I think about Germany, I think about how it is the economic hub of Europe, how its infrastructure is nearly unparalleled, and how its political system functions quite well. I did not think of abandoned buildings that the local government has no money to repair, or how Germans in the east blame the EU for many of their troubles. Not only did my studies relate to Social Inequality and Human Rights – my whole experience showed me an experiment in trying to fight inequality. I did not think how the culture of former east Germany has yet to fully assimilate to the west. Nor did I think of how the west has failed to adjust and help merge the former two Germanys in many ways. The cultural problem remains difficult to solve in many ways, as there is still almost an anti-western sentiment in eastern Germany, and vice versa in west Germany. The way the country has attacked the economic problem, and even started to attack the cultural divide, has been interesting though. With the dawn of European integration and the revival of the German economy, the infrastructure – the public institutions, transport, and other structures in east Germany – has undergone serious revitalization.


(Pictured: The Abandoned Communist Youth Theater, Frankfurt an der Oder)


(European University Viadrina, Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany)


(Façade of the Reichstag, Berlin, Germany)

The university I studied at was closed by the Soviets, but has been built back up by the country to become a well-known international educational institution. In many ways, though many buildings are abandoned and still destroyed – the infrastructure in East Germany is better than the west, as its become more focused on making its students cosmopolitan. Therein lay the biggest cultural difference I saw in Germany – the way children are brought up to know their own history more thoroughly than anything before they broaden their knowledge to the world. The Holocaust is a giant scar on German history, and the Nazi period is a taboo subject for many in the United States. However, in Germany, people fully recognize the past’s mistakes, as the old slogan “never again” truly means something to them. In discussing their history, Germans were very blunt and thought the only productive way to move forward was to recognize the past so as to understand the problems of today and solve them. Though most Americans know their country’s history, the attitude toward it, and attitude toward education here is far different than the German one, and I honestly wonder now what changes developing these attitudes and approach toward a more efficient infrastructure at a local level, particularly here in Montana, with the presence of historical trauma on reservations and a lack of proper education structures for many, could make.

Meandering through Morocco

My name is Julia Maxon, and over the summer I had the unique opportunity to intern abroad for a women’s empowerment organization in Rabat, Morocco.

When I first arrived in Rabat, I remember peeking through the faded curtains in my hotel room watching as the city moved fast below me. Blue petit taxis zoomed by trying to pick up their next rider, restless people were trying to squeeze onto the crumbling sidewalks just to shuffle past one another, and older men lined the crowded buildings below trying to take it all in just like me. It seemed as though this city stopped for no one, and I felt afraid to throw myself into the mix. As I peered out and looked at my surroundings, it all just felt overwhelmingly unreal. How could I be in Montana one day and Morocco the next? How could I be 5,250 miles from home? 5,250 miles from the ones I loved?


(Pictured: My first view of Morocco)

As weeks passed, I grew accustomed to the medina where I resided, which is the oldest portion of the city before the French colonized the region. The initial maze that was laid out before me felt increasingly more manageable each day. My loving host family was one of the main attributes that made me feel the most welcome throughout my entire experience. My host mom, Saana, especially always made sure I had enough food to fill my belly until I couldn’t eat anymore, and had a pot of mint tea always ready.

While in Morocco, I was also incredibly lucky to be able to experience Ramadan. Prior to my arrival, I had never fully experienced Ramadan or the traditions and culture associated with it. It was captivating to see how Ramadan took form in a predominantly Islamic nation. It was beautiful to see families like my host family preparing iftor, or the evening meal that breaks the daily fast, each night for people in the medina who didn’t have as much. It was moving to hear the evening prayer call echo throughout the streets of the medina, and to see so many people come together in an act of peace.


(Pictured: My host mom, Saana, leading the way home through the medina)

Morocco is a beautiful country filled with so much life and so much love, but like many other nations, it has its faults as well. As a GLI student, I was interested in looking at social inequality and human rights, or more specifically how the individual, community, organizations, and public policy come together to contribute to the inequalities women face in Morocco. The organization I interned with was a nonprofit specifically interested in the socio-economical development and empowerment of women in the Saharan region of Morocco. During my internship, I facilitated the NGO’s social media and social marketing department on various projects aimed at promoting and furthering the efforts of multiple couscous cooperatives throughout the Saharan region to improve its members’ quality of life.

By being able to have this experience, I was able to learn more about women’s rights in the Middle East, and create a proposed intervention plan based off of the needs that women in rural Morocco vocalized. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, as it helped give me a broader perspective on women’s rights and human rights in a global context.

A few days before I was to depart from Morocco, I returned to that little hotel on the corner where I watched the world move before me. However, this time, I sat below with my back against the cement wall, studying the street move idly by.

This experience gave me a sense of renewed confidence that I could take on whatever life throws at me. Whether that be venturing out into a world where I may not necessarily know anyone nor speak the common language, or hopping onto multiple trains traveling solo to destinations unknown. By escaping my comfort zone and throwing myself in, I was able to experience endless possibilities and pursue unexpected adventures that I will never forget. ~


(Pictured: Me ready for my next adventure!)




A Year in Spain

During my third year at the University of Montana, I studied abroad in Málaga, Spain, a smaller city on the southern coast in a province called Andalucía. My experience was filled with ups and downs, challenges, and growth as well as unadulterated fun. My global theme and challenge is Culture and Politics. Living in Spain and traveling throughout Europe, I was lucky enough to meet friends from Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Morocco, China, South Korea, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, and even other Americans. By interacting with cultures from across the globe, many of them completely different from that of the United States, I was exposed to cultural differences that opened my mind and challenged my perspective on life. I also noted similarities between myself and everyone with whom I interacted, and felt connected globally to other human beings, without regards to nationality or upbringing. Learning Spanish was also an incredibly humbling and eye opening experience. I immersed myself in the Spanish language and was able to gain so much understanding about the culture through speaking and listening to the language itself. This highlighted, again, both differences and similarities between Spanish and American culture. I also learned to be humble and listen more than I speak – at first because I couldn’t say much but by the end because I found value in listening to others before seeking for my own voice to be heard. I was exposed to countless different cultures and I was able to find a connection with nearly everyone I met, whether it be over something superficial or a deep, lifelong connection. As a leader, I believe it is important to listen to others and find common ground, while having an open mind and an understanding heart. Through living in a completely unfamiliar world I was able to hone in on these skills and develop them each day through different social interactions with new people. My experience abroad was never completely perfect – my computer, passport, and many other things were stolen, I struggled to find close connections at first, I was homesick and frustrated with Spanish culture at points, but the struggle is what makes the incredible moments stand out, and the experience so life-changing. My thirst to travel and experience new cultures, eat different foods, and meet new people has only grown stronger over the course of the last year, and I can’t wait to see how my cultural connections grow and change and to foster new ones as I use the skills I learned in Spain to explore every corner of the world and capitalize on new opportunities to see where life takes me.

Ciao From Buenos Aires!

I chose Buenos Aires, Argentina, for my beyond-the-classroom experience, and it has been a magnificent time so far. I have only been here for a few weeks, but I already feel myself adapting to the live-fast-and-slow kind of mentality Porteños (members of Buenos Aires) carry.
I have not been able to do too many things regarding my global challenge and theme yet, besides giving a few English lessons to a couple Buenos Aires natives. I have found that here, not many people speak fluent English, it’s more certain phrases (“that’s cool bro”) or the lyrics to popular songs (Hotline Bling). I love this, as it is different from Spain, where mostly everyone speaks English and will automatically switch to English if they hear your American accent. It has been easy to find people that want to learn English from a native English speaker here, which I will be able to use to further develop my global challenge, discovering how best to carry out and teach English abroad.
It has been extremely helpful to live among a Spanish-speaking community, as it is helping me to improve my Spanish, and I am forced to speak it since most folks cannot communicate with me otherwise. I am going to continue giving English lessons when I can and asking the locals where and how they have learned English in the past (so far, many people have said they’ve learned from the T.V show Friends), and what the best way they think is to learn.
I am excited for my next few months in B.A and expect to leave with a significantly broadened perspective!

Nasdaq Summer Internship

This summer I interned with the Nasdaq Futures Exchange in Chicago, Illinois. My theme is Technology and Society and my Global Challenge is: how can organizations harness technology and data.

The past few years the growth of technology in our world has been apparent and fast moving. Almost everything can be connected with technology.  To remain competitive in the marketplace, and keep up with competitors, organizations must figure out a way to harness the power of technology. Interning at Nasdaq this summer helped me learn a lot more about my global challenge because Nasdaq is a company that has already begun to harness the power of technology. Nasdaq has created technology that powers the world’s market operators, clearinghouses and regulators, the building blocks of the global financial marketplace. In all of my experiences this summer, I learned about the diverse factors that come into play when harnessing technology.

For my specific job, using technology to automate daily reports was tremendously beneficial for running an efficient exchange. I took on this project and went above and beyond what was asked of me to create a keyboard shortcut to cut down on time and to automate my daily report. By far my most memorable experience was being successful with this automation project and being able to leave a lasting impression with Nasdaq. I took this experience to learn as much as I could about the futures industry and all that I could about using technology as a tool so I could play a beneficial role in our product development team.

Working in a corporate office is a much different environment than any I have experienced before. This experience made me more independent and confident as a person, as I was thrown into challenging situations and made to problem solve and think on my feet. I feel as though my leadership skills have grown because of this experience, because I had to be accountable for my own work and manage my responsibilities while working cohesively in my team. I am pleased I was able to learn about the corporate environment while gathering useful information to take back to my GLI team in the fall!

Having this experience not only prepared me for a job after college but it also gave me great insight on a global company’s daily operations and how they use and continue to unite technology and data. I am so grateful for this experience as I was offered a full time position post-graduation! I am appreciative to everyone that made my summer internship possible and for those I met throughout my involvement with Nasdaq. My GLI out of classroom experience truly was life changing and has launched my future career!

Lost in Japan


  I had a lot of expectations and plans for my time in Japan, but I never imagined  that I’d find myself in a tiny house in an abandoned village in Fukushima, singing karaoke with an elderly man that I had just met. He didn’t speak English. I didn’t speak Japanese. But when we finished singing “Hey Jude” by the Beatles, he gave me a huge smile and a thumbs-up and said “Good”. I said “sugoi”, which I think means “great!” or “amazing!”. It was one of the few Japanese words I could remember.

  I had been planning and dreaming about this trip for almost a year. I had a meticulous schedule and budget for every day that I would be there. I studied flashcards of Japanese survival phrases. I even made a map of all the places I would go. The trip was part of an international journalism class that I had with 15 other journalism students and two professors. Our plan was to write and report stories about people that were affected by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. Each of us were assigned a story to focus on. Mine would be about how fishermen, the ocean, and Fukushima’s fishing economy were affected. I spent most of my time reporting in a fishing village in Fukushima and had the chance to interview several fishermen about their experience.

  It was was one of the most educational experiences of my life. I learned more in one month than I could have learned in a semester-long lecture class. I learned the most, though, when things went wrong and I had to veer off of the original plan. My maps and flashcards frequently failed me. Whenever I got lost in Japan, without the group or a translator, something magic would always happen. I would find myself laughing with strangers as we tried to use wild hand gestures and facial expressions to communicate with each other. I once got lost and ended up being physically pulled into a temple by a woman who wanted to show me how to perform a Buddhist prayer. Another time, I was dragged into a group of drunken Japanese college students who wanted to light fireworks with me to celebrate the beginning of summer.

  That night was one of the strangest and most memorable nights of my life. At the last minute I volunteered to write a story about a man who leads “darkness tours” of a small village in rural Fukushima that was abandoned after the nuclear disaster. I went to the village with two other students. Before we even talked to the man, I had the story all mapped out in my head. It would be about this village, frozen in time after people fled after nuclear disaster and about how this man found a way to profit on that by offering scary tours.

  When we got there, though, the experience was much different. For the tour, he just took us to his friends’ houses. Over the years since the disaster, he became close with the few remaining people in the village. When I asked him why he was taking us to see his friends as part of a “darkness tour”, he confessed that he just loves his village. He hoped that by offering tours, he could convince outsiders that Fukushima was not a nuclear wasteland. He wanted us to see that it was actually a beautiful forest and some friendly people still lived there. I didn’t have a plan for this kind of story.

  He drove us to a tiny house on top of a hill, where his friend greeted us at the door. He explained to us that his friend’s name was Hiroshi and he was a great singer. Hiroshi had a karaoke stage and microphone set up in his living room. He sang us a beautiful song in Japanese and and then asked us (via a Google Translate)  if we wanted to sing with him. We shrugged and agreed.

  While we were in the middle of singing the chorus in this man’s tiny living room, I asked myself “What am I doing here? This wasn’t part of the plan. How am I going to explain this to my professor? How am I going to write a story about this?”. I started to laugh and sing even louder because the situation was so bizarre. I forced myself to accept that the story I had planned to write wasn’t going to work out. After the song was over, we made a traditional Japanese dinner with the men we met in the village. We asked each other questions all night via Google translate. We laughed and ate a lot. It was wonderful. I learned last night that it is okay to let yourself stray from your plans and expectations.

A Summer with Missoula Beekeepers

This summer I interned with Environment Montana in Missoula, which is a branch of Environment America. This has been an enlightening experience about the environmental issues facing both our state and country. For my experience, I was assigned to work on the organization’s Bee Friendly Food Alliance campaign, which brings together chefs, restaurants and others in the food industry to come together to help save the bees. Bees pollinate 71 of 100 crops that supply 90% of the world’s food and in the past decade, beekeepers have been reporting an average loss of 30% of all honeybee colonies each winter. Montana is not an exception to these statistics and bees are essential for the pollination of Montana crops like strawberries, pumpkins, onions and tomatoes. One major reason for bees dying off is the use of a category of insecticides called Neonicotinoids, also known as neonics. Missoula beekeepers have noticed the impact of insecticide-treated plants on their bees and know that the only way to protect bees is by changing agricultural practices and supporting wild plant life.

I had the opportunity to interview Missoula beekeepers about these issues and create an informational video about these people and issues. It was a really great experience and I had a lot of fun making the video. Each beekeeper I spoke to was a wealth of information and taught me a lot about the importance of bees, what’s causing them to die off and how to protect them. I’m grateful that I was able to combine my journalistic skills and passion for the environment to form a really meaningful internship experience with Environment Montana and a video to share to communities around the country. I am much more aware of what issues are facing both bees and Missoula beekeepers after working on this project. Now, instead of swatting bees away, I’m thankful for their presence and am more aware of how my actions affect these tiny creatures and their ability to make much of the world’s food possible. Not only that, but I also got to experience beekeeping first-hand, suit and all. 

Tiffany Folkes


A Semester in Ireland

kurtThis spring I studied abroad in Cork, Ireland. I lived in the city and attended UCC Cork. My experience was, in a world, incredible. Having been born and raised in Montana, I was completely unprepared for living in an urban city halfway across the world. Still, studying abroad was the one thing that I absolutely wanted to do in college, and I am extremely grateful that it was possible. As part of the GLI program, I have a unique theme and challenge that I wanted to research. My goal was to examine how international policy programs can effectively fuel environmental protection efforts.

Cork is fortunate enough to be one of the multicultural towns in Ireland. I was able to meet and become friends with several French, Italian, Spanish, and (of course) Irish students over the course of the semester. I was also been fortunate enough to travel across Europe at various points throughout the semester, which has helped me discover just how diverse and complex the world is. I’ve had conversations with my Portuguese roommate about the refugee crisis, witnessed a march against Brexit in London, and was part of a rally for science outside the Pantheon in Italy. More than anything, during my time abroad I’ve been made aware of how little I really know about the world. I’m forced to wonder how to best spur international cooperation on the issue of climate change. The problem doesn’t have an easy answer. However, I don’t believe it is impossible to solve the problem. There are a variety of small steps many countries have taken to work towards lessening carbon emissions. One of the major bus companies in Germany, for example, gives customers the option to pay a small amount more to purchase a carbon-offset for their bus trip. The extra money will go towards funding programs in Germany or developing countries that promote more sustainable business practices.

I also took the time to do some independent research and observations on climate change and environmental efforts in Europe, as was a part of my goal when originally coming here. Ireland has several areas where policies and regulations produce excellent energy results. Recycling is more prominent in Ireland than America, for example. Regarding my challenge, I’ve realized how difficult it is to communicate the causes and effects of climate change. Raised in suburban Montana, I took it for granted that people were at least aware that greenhouse gas emissions are a long-term problem. Since travelling, I’ve realized that this is not always the case. We should take greater efforts to not only combat the problem, but also to improve general awareness of the issue. In the U.S. especially, recent discussions over current political actions and environmental leadership have convinced me that there is a need for action. We will need political support in order to make any meaningful progress in slowing human-caused climate change. The European Union has enacted programs such as the Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme in an effort to reduce overall emissions without damaging the European economy. Norway, as well, has contributed substantially to REDD, a program designed to reduce emissions from deforestation. I believe that we in the US can emulate these political actions. However, in the current political economy, it will take substantial pressure from grassroots organizations and corporations to progress towards meaningful change. I feel that as a result of having studied abroad and talking to so many different people I am more ready to take action in local and national efforts. We have many challenges to tackle, but taking action begins with efforts as simple as having conversations about the topic.

I feel that my time spent abroad helped to widen my view of the world. I remain amazed at the many achievements so many people I met abroad have met. I spoke to one man who was hitchhiking across Europe so that he could teach in Iran. I saw pictures of a mural one refugee painted after years spent seeking a new home in Scotland. And I hope that I can achieve a fraction of what these incredible individuals have done.
Thanks for reading.
Kurt Swimley