Former University president urges students to study abroad, learn second language

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From the Bahrain Island to Kashmir, former University president William Powers, currently a UT law professor, has been all over the world. 

Despite his experiences abroad, Powers said his one regret looking back on his career is that he never fully absorbed a second language. He now urges students to study abroad and accomplish what he never could. 

“I think when students are in school, their schoolwork and making progress within the University is probably the most significant priority, but it’s not the only thing you do in college,” Powers said.

Powers was a guest speaker at this year’s University Lecture Series “Turning Points” three weeks ago. Powers spoke to students about meeting short-term goals while making big strides for the future, one of them being to learn a second language. 

“It’s not clear whether a certain course may or may not be outdated, but speaking another language is likely to be useful,” Power said. “That was my point.”

Powers’ advice for students wanting to study abroad and still graduate on time is that it can be done — if planned ahead.

Powers said his main objective while president was to remove obstacles in advising and class availability to give students options during their college experience. 

“I think it just takes a little planning,” Powers said. “Do a little homework.”

Senior academic advisor Sarah Singer said students can make studying abroad easier by checking whether they can obtain credit for courses abroad beforehand, researching scholarships and preparing themselves for the climate of a non-English-speaking country.

“When students go abroad, they truly are immersed in the language,” Singer said. “They leave the classroom and they’re still using the target language they are trying to study. That experience is invaluable.”

Civil engineering junior Rachel Kessler initially passed on an internship for next semester to study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, but made both experiences fit into her time at UT.

“I plan to shadow the company for two or three days before I leave to become more familiar with their projects, and when I get back, I can start working for them,” Kessler said.

Kessler’s eagerness to budget in a study abroad trip mirrors Powers’ advice.

“I would worry about getting high quality experiences more than worry about something that goes on a resume,” Powers said.