Taking the leap abroad

alum_feat_irelandTraveling abroad has changed everything about Kelsey McDaniels’ life.

Traveling shaped her undergraduate journey at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, her career choice and her relationship with her sister.

Kelsey first studied abroad as part of a European Odyssey trip her junior year of college. It was a trip that took her to England, France, Germany, Italy and Scotland—a new location every other week.

At UW Oshkosh, Kelsey studied French, even though she wasn’t sure how that would shape her future. Upon graduation, she did a short stint in a call center where she got the opportunity to speak French every day.

alum_feat_munichEventually Kelsey found herself back at  UW Oshkosh—this time in a professional role in the Office of International Education. By day, Kelsey helps undergraduate students understand—and hopefully choose—UW Oshkosh study-abroad and away opportunities. Annually, more than 400 UW Oshkosh students embrace these options to explore the world.

“You see these experiences change people’s lives—that’s what it’s all about,” said Kelsey, who at just 28 years old has visited 14 countries. She’s been in her position at UW Oshkosh since 2014—a role she’s undoubtedly proud of as she helps students decide to travel every day.

But the truth is, Kelsey helped someone choose a study-abroad opportunity long before it was part of her job duties. Kelsey’s younger sister, Kassidy McDaniels ’14, also studied abroad during her undergraduate years at  UW Oshkosh. “Kelsey pretty much  made me,” she said.

“Kelsey studied abroad and had the  best experience ever,” said Kassidy,  who majored in special education at  UW Oshkosh. “I had always been more  of a homebody and I knew that I needed to do something to put myself outside of  my comfort zone.”

With her sister as her cheerleader, a second McDaniels headed overseas in 2013—Kassidy traveled to France, Greece, London and Turkey during her junior year at UW Oshkosh.

“I had a professor once say to me, ‘no one ever says they regret studying abroad,’” Kelsey said. “’People regret not studying abroad.’ You can’t not have a good experience if you decide to do it.”

alum_feat_athensOn a trip in July, the McDaniels sisters flew to Europe for their first time together. Along with friends, they traveled to Barcelona, Dublin, Munich, Nice and Venice. It was the trip of a lifetime for the duo.

“I’m scared of everything and anything. I don’t want to regret not doing something like this. It makes it easier that I’m doing this with Kelsey,” Kassidy said prior to leaving for the trip. “I feel like it’s now or never. We’re that age…buying houses, starting families. So we have to do it now.”

Kassidy’s foreshadowing could not have been more “spot on.” The trip opened the next door in the oldest of the McDaniels sisters’ lives. On day seven of the trip, Kelsey accepted her long-time boyfriend’s marriage proposal.

“It was such a great experience to get to travel together—to experience different cultures together and to celebrate together,” Kelsey said. “When I hear Kass tell other people how amazing the trip was, that is really special for me.”

Learn more about studying abroad at UW Oshkosh.

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