This story is featured in the Winter 2016 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s growing study abroad program continues to create life-changing, impactful and relevant experiences for students.
One candle. A German flag. Armed guards lining the streets. A silent protest under the night sky.
That’s what Heidi Fischer remembers from 1989. She was 11 years old, and she was marching for the reunification of a then-divided Germany. She protected the candle’s flame as she and her parents, along with a few dozen other neighbors, marched down the streets of Stadtroda, her German hometown of 5,000 people. And they shouted: “Wir sind ein Volk!” (We are one people!)
A few months later, the Berlin Wall came down. And when it did, it opened up a world of opportunities for Fischer. It introduced her to books, to travel, to the English language, to the rest of the world. And to High Point University.
“It is thanks to these life-changing events that I was able to study abroad in the United States,” says Fischer, now the director of study abroad at HPU. “That has impacted me greatly. Today, I help countless students at High Point University fulfill their dream of living and studying in another country. And when they do, I hope it will change their life as it has mine.”
A Walk in Their Shoes
As a young girl, Fischer’s dream job was to work for the United Nations as an interpreter. She loved the idea of countries coming together for a common goal.
As study abroad director at HPU, Fischer guides the university’s growing international footprint. She advises some 500 students who pursue international experiences each year, and helps welcome to campus all the new faces who come from all over the world to study at HPU.
In the past year, Fischer and her team have added a dozen new exchange programs in Chile, Denmark, Hong Kong, Belgium, South Korea and more. A new faculty-in-residence program in Paris, France, allows students to take semester-long classes abroad with an HPU professor.
At 18 years old, Fischer participated in a year-long exchange program at a high school less than an hour away from High Point. After returning home to Germany, she came back to study international business at HPU.
She knows first-hand the doubts and fears students face before they get on that plane and travel halfway across the globe. She knows how difficult reverse culture shock can be.
She’s been in their shoes. And she uses that every day to counsel and encourage students like Meka Timlic.
A Holistic Education
For Timlic, spending a semester studying in Florence, Italy, gave her the intercultural communication and business skills she needed to land a job with AT&T’s headquarters in Atlanta.
“Studying abroad in Italy gave me a new outlook on public relations and marketing,” says Timlic, a 2015 business administration graduate. “Being immersed in a new culture forced me to adapt to a new way of interpreting and presenting a product.
“Each day I would walk by various advertisements in the city as well as different sales tactics of each store. This led me to be able to not only know and understand the difference between European and American marketing tactics, but to be able to immerse them into my culture as well.”
“I grew most as a person during my semester abroad,” says Cromwell, who studied at the University of Newcastle in Australia. “I traveled the world with people I will call my friends until the end of my life. I learned a lot about myself, the kind of person I want to be in life, and how I want to impact the world.”
“Studying abroad was absolutely worthwhile,” says Scully, who spent a semester at The American University of Rome. “I matured significantly and discovered what I was passionate about. I am a much happier, independent, confident person because of this experience.”
A World of Opportunity
Home to students from more than 30 different countries, the HPU campus is an international reflection of a global economy. And as more and more students see the value in studying at HPU, the campus population diversifies.
So Fischer finds herself here today, leading HPU’s Office of Study Abroad in Cottrell Hall. She loves the grassroots approach to international diplomacy — of sending HPU students abroad to learn about different cultures so that we can all better understand each other.
“We’re here at HPU to make a difference in your student’s life,” Fischer says. “That’s why I originally chose to study at HPU — I knew I was going to get personal attention here, and that people were going to help me succeed. Fifteen years later, that still holds true today. Campus has expanded, our building count has exploded and our student population has grown so much — but that individual attention is still there.”
She’s doing what her younger self dreamed of, just in a different way.
“We’re getting our students out there to get to know other cultures. I’m still doing U.N. work, just not at the U.N. But the goal is the same: intercultural connection.”
View this story and more in the Winter 2016 edition of the HPU Magazine: