By Jayna Morris | Photography provided by Hannah Boutin | Published Dec. 10, 2018
Omro, Wisconsin
Hannah Boutin standing on the beach

Where are you studying abroad?

During my semester abroad, I am attending the American University in Dubai. AUD is a private university with about 3,000 students.

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I had been looking for a program that would allow me to study abroad in the Middle East. However, many of the programs focus primarily on language acquisition, while I was interested in the religion and history of the region. From an academic perspective, AUD offered me the opportunity to spend this semester heavily immersed in my areas of interest. From a personal perspective, it would have been very difficult to decline a funded study abroad. I really love experiencing a new way of life abroad and was excited to see what life is like in Dubai.

How long will you be abroad? Is this your first time out of the country?

I will be abroad for four months total (late August-late December). My semester in Dubai is actually my fifth study abroad experience. In high school, I spent a year as a high school exchange student to Chile and upon graduation I participated in a vocational gap-year to Germany. While at NKU, I’ve completed summer study abroad programs to Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. I also love to travel independently to explore new countries on my own as well.

What has been your favorite memory from your time abroad?

One of my favorite memories was my visit to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Our group listened to a lecture by one of the hosts, enjoyed a typical Emirati meal, and tried on the traditional Emirati clothing. One thing to understand about Dubai is that a very small percentage of the population is native Emirati (around 12 percent), with the remainder being expats and international migrants. Our host was discussing the revitalization movement within the country to bring Emirati culture back into the foreground and it really struck me when he talked about how he proud he was to keep Emirati culture alive. It was really touching to hear his connection to his culture and country and how he hoped to pass that connection on to the next generation.

Tell me about any scholarships that helped fund your trip.

I am incredibly fortunate to have the financial support of The William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship during my semester at AUD. The Clinton Scholarship selects up to ten undergraduate students per term to experience Middle Eastern and Islamic culture while studying at the American University in Dubai. I would highly encourage any student interested in the region and culture to consider applying. In addition to the full tuition and housing provided by the Clinton Scholarship, I was able to receive my NKU Distinguished Board Scholarship and my renewable scholarships from the Elks National Foundation, American Legion, and my local school board.

Hannah Boutin standing in Dubai

Tell me about life pre-NKU. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town in central Wisconsin with my parents, sister and brother. I believe growing up in a small town fueled my desire to travel and experience life beyond the familiar routine and way of life. I am very fortunate that my family has always been very supportive of my desire to travel.

What prompted you to attend NKU?

NKU was a great fit for many reasons. In my opinion, the size of the university is perfect in that it allows for small class sizes, personal interaction and a walkable campus while still providing an abundance of activities, clubs and resources. I was also impressed by the newer facilities and I have enjoyed seeing our campus develop even further. Lastly, I love that the campus is incredibly safe and quiet, yet the greater Cincinnati area is just a short ride away. I really can’t say enough positive things!

What is your favorite NKU memory?

As cliche as it might sound, my favorite NKU memory was my first time setting foot on campus. I applied to NKU during my year abroad in Germany, and never had the chance to tour the campus before I accepted my offer of admission. I also missed registration due to a flight cancellation. My first time on campus was actually the day before freshmen move-in. I knew that for financial reasons I didn’t want to transfer schools, so it was a bit intimidating to make a commitment to spend four years in a place that I had never even seen. However, when I arrived on campus, I knew I had made the right decision. As I went around campus finalizing things for the upcoming year, everyone that I encountered was so welcoming, friendly and helpful. Although I knew that the next four years would have its ups and downs, I felt confident in my decision to call NKU home.

What is the first word that comes to mind when you think about NKU?

Opportunity. When I reflect on my goals for my undergraduate years, NKU has given me the opportunity to pursue and achieve those goals.

What advice do would you give a first-year student at NKU?

My biggest piece of advice would be to know yourself and your goals. I think it is very easy for students, especially first-year students, to compare themselves to others and feel as though they are doing college “wrong”. However, each of us are unique and have a different way of approaching the undergraduate experience. I firmly believe that as long as an individual is working hard to achieve their goals in a healthy and respectful manner to themselves and others, there is no “wrong” way to experience college.

What kind of job would you like to have after you graduate?

I would like to work in an environment broadly related to religion, related or unrelated to my own religious tradition. Although my studies don’t have a specific career path like some majors do, I firmly believe the skills developed in the Integrative Studies major can be applied to a wide variety of positions.