UND students are taking on the world with unique study-abroad opportunities in their respective fields


Amy Halvorson

Document Type


Publication Date



UND students are taking on the world with unique study-abroad opportunities in their respective fields

Nepal probably isn’t what pops into many people’s minds as a “desirable” destination these days, as a result of the devastation from a recent earthquake.

This, however, doesn’t scare University of North Dakota Social Work student Marisa Gonzalez from going there for an internship — in fact it has actually encouraged her.

“After hearing about the earthquake, and being in direct contact with individuals there, who I will soon meet and work with, it has actually calmed my nerves,” Gonzalez said. “There are so many bigger things in the world to be scared of and nervous for, and the people of Nepal and surrounding areas are living through that right now. I am fortunate enough to be in a position to go there and help and to truly make a difference, and for that I am very grateful.”

Gonzalez, a native of Watertown, S.D. but who has called Fargo home for the past eight years, is among at least seven UND students from varying academic disciplines who will be studying abroad or completing prestigious international internships.

Gonzalez, a graduate student, will be traveling to Nepal in August and returning in late December. Most of her trip will be spent working with Hamro Chahana, a nonprofit, community based developing organization that is committed to working with rural women and children.

As a result of the earthquake, Gonzalez’s itinerary has changed, as the entire country’s focus has shifted to simply surviving and rebuilding.

“Many of the villages Hamro Chahana does outreach in were completely destroyed, and their focus, along with mine, will be in those areas,” she said. “It will include anything from clean up to collecting and distributing much needed donations to doing research to report and grant writing.”

Gonzalez is the first UND Social Work graduate student to fulfill an internship abroad.

“One of my professors at UND, Dheeshana Jayasundara, has been instrumental in helping this international internship come to life, and has contacts in Nepal who are a part of this organization (Hamro Chahana).” Gonzalez said. “It is a great link to be able to go to that county and have people there that she knows and trusts, and who are also willing to have an intern from the United States to teach and work with.”

Gonzalez also credits other members of the UND Social Work Department for making her internship possible, including Del Quest and Carenlee Barkdull.

Cultural immersion:

Staying in the western hemisphere, but on a different continent — South America — three other UND students currently are spending a few weeks in Brazil, accompanying Marcia Mikulak, UND anthropologist professor, at her research site among the Xukuru? (Shoo-koo-roo) nation.

“These students will have the opportunity to gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the Xukuru? people in northeastern Brazil by living and working alongside them throughout the two-week experience,” Mikulak said. “During this time, students experience firsthand how to respect and value human diversity. It is my long term research and collaboration with the Xukuru? that has made it possible to take students with me to share in my work as an anthropologist.”

The students who have embarked on this adventure are Benjamin Davis, majoring in international studies, philosophy and honors; Amy Rassier, a native of Sidney, Mont., majoring in political science and internationals studies and minoring in Spanish; and Joshua Everett, Grand Forks, majoring in anthropology and social work.

“I’ll be looking forward to seeing an anthropologist in the field and what it means to embody an anthropological perspective in the field, which is a rarely talked about phenomenon in our field,” Everett said.

For most of their trip, there will be no hotels, instead they’re staying at the home of Cacique (Chief) Marcos Xukuru? with his family. The group also has participated in a Xukuru? political march, as the indigenous people work to reclaim their lands.

“This seemed like the perfect opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture than my own,” Ressler said.

French connection:

Across the Atlantic on yet another continent, two UND students, Dana Atkins, a native of Sycamore, Ill., majoring in aviation management; and Mitchell Rufer, a native of DeForest, Wis., double majoring in airport management and air traffic control; will get the chance to spread their wings in Tarbes, France as they intern with DAHER, an equipment manufacturer that develops integrated industrial systems for aerospace and other advanced technologies.

Each year, DAHER chooses just two interns: one man and one woman to complete fulfill its internship opportunities.

“I was at a loss for words, which is unusual for me, I couldn’t believe I had been selected.” Rufer said, “Since Dana got the other position, we haven’t been able to stop talking about it.”

As interns, Atkins and Rufer will be spending five weeks at DAHER’s light-aircraft manufacturing factory, which was built just after World War I in southern France. Atkins will be working in one of the international departments — Relations, Policy or Outreach; while Rufer will be working with the company’s sales staff.

At the end of their internship, Atkins and Rufer will travel to Oshkosh, Wis. for the famous Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA,) “AirVenture” and represent DAHER there for a week.

“I am elated to apply what I have learned outside of the classroom, and sharing this adventure with one of my closest friends makes it that much more memorable,” Rufer said.

Atkins agreed with Rufer, adding, “We’re just excited to represent UND.”

German adventure:

On July 27, Seth Grundstad will be trekking halfway around the world to spend a year in the heart of Europe, in Germany, for an opportunity with the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) program.

Grundstad, a native of Williston, N.D., has yet to find out officially where he will be staying in Germany.

The exchange is meant to launch an intensive language-learning program to prepare Grundstad for the second half of the program, which will entail studying engineering at a German university. After that, Grundstad must secure a five-month internship at German engineering company, where Grundstad’s language skills will be put to the test, as everything will be in German, including the interview process.

This is the perfect study-abroad opportunity for Grundstad, as he is majoring in both mechanical engineering and German.

“I am really looking forward to taking my German language ability to the next level and to learn from the best engineers in the world,” Grundstad said.

Amy Halvorson University & Public Affairs writer

This document is currently not available here.