Beyond study: Former Rams share realities of moving abroad


Photo Courtesy by Kevin Curreri

Ivy Secrest, Life and Culture Director

A semester abroad is a dream come true for many college students. It exposes people to new cultures and, for some, sparks a permanent move abroad.

Making the move can be daunting. There’s a change in culture, laws, rental processes and citizenship, which makes being adaptable an essential quality.


Photo courtesy of Kevin Curreri

Kevin Curreri, a former Colorado State University student and current director of the Crisis Response Department at Control Risks in London, moved to Australia in 2001 after spending the previous year there studying abroad. Curreri has now lived in five countries and is no stranger to change.

“When you move to another country, it’s quite exciting, and even if you are the odd one out, you get a lot of attention,” Curreri said. “As long as it’s positive attention, which for the most part it was, people are curious and want to ask a lot of questions.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean an absence of culture shock but rather expecting to not fit in, even in the places a person once blended in well.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Curreri

“When you’re young is the time to take a chance, when you don’t have a career that you’re trying to build or something else holding you back. It’s really a good time to just say, ‘Yeah, why not? I’ll try something.'” –Mike Ball, CSU alumnus and freelance media producer

“I think what shocked me more and still does to this day is going back to the States,” Curreri said. “It’s where I’m from. That’s what I identify as being — American — and then when I go there, I expect it to be comfortable and familiar. I find it’s probably the oddest place for me in the world.”

Photo courtesy of Kevin Curreri

Culture shock is common, even if someone is just going from one English-speaking culture to another. Bec Whetham, a former study abroad student at CSU from Australia and current feature reporter for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, found that the United States was full of surprises. Cannabis, guns and the considerable size of trucks were just a few of those surprises.

“I really immersed myself in Colorado,” Whetham said. “I made more friends in six months there, from CSU, than I did in my whole degree in Australia.”

Photo courtesy of Bec Whetham

Whetham moved back to Australia to be close to family and her long-term partner who later became her husband, but she really loved the opportunities and experiences she gained in the U.S.

Relationships are a common reason to move abroad, especially if a partner feels strongly about remaining in their home country. For former CSU student and current freelance media producer, Mike Ball, it was also love that pulled him into his new life abroad.

Ball participated in a study abroad program in the United Kingdom in 2014 where he met his wife, Deborah Wautier. After that, they began a long-distance relationship that eventually led to Ball moving to Belgium.


“When you’re young is the time to take a chance, when you don’t have a career that you’re trying to build or something else holding you back,” Ball said. “It’s really a good time to just say, ‘Yeah, why not? I’ll try something.'”

Ball was able to live with Wautier through a cohabitation visa, which can be obtained in Belgium if a person has someone they’ve known long enough to sponsor the visa. This connection also helped him obtain an internship, garner support from Wautier and her family and build a career abroad.

“If you’re at all interested, you know, go for it when you’re younger because it’s easier,” Ball said.

Both Ball and Curreri advise moving when young. Whether or not a person has a partner to meet them there, the opportunity to go abroad through a work or student visa decreases as people age. So why not move while already in a transitional period?

Photo courtesy of Bec Whetham

“When you graduate from CSU, if you decide to move to New York or something, it’s still going to be the huge change; there’s going to be risk involved,” Curreri said. “It’s just to a larger degree that you’re going to be different, and you’re going to have to figure things out and navigate an environment that you’re not familiar with.”

Both Ball and Curreri said they were offered unique opportunities they could never replicate for someone else, and they said being open to opportunities and building a network of people while abroad are how they got to where they are today.

Making a permanent move abroad means leaving a current support system and facing a new set of challenges that will likely be unexpected. There are immense rewards and immense challenges that must be weighed against each other.

“It’s not a utopian existence,” Curreri said. “It’s a struggle as well, just as it is if you stayed in the States. Life is messy, and life has its challenges no matter where you are.”

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