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Study Abroad Runs in the Family

For NC State student Katie Gray Altmann, study abroad is a tradition that has been passed down and supported for generations. Altmann spent the summer at the Prague Institute taking classes towards her degree in Industrial Design. Altmann’s mother, Clare Jordan, spent the summer of 1990 in London on a study abroad program through NC State. Just as Jordan’s mother did when she was in London, she traveled to Prague this summer to spend time with her daughter before classes started.

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At the University of London in 1990, Jordan studied photography and architecture while exploring the city on her own and with new friends. She remembers calling her parents from a pay phone and writing letters as the main forms of communication, while her daughter texts, uses FaceTime, and posts to a blog and Facebook from Prague on a regular basis.

While advances in technology have changed vastly between these two generations, the benefits of a study abroad experience have not. “Aside from starting the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity when I was a student, my study abroad experience was the best thing I did for my understanding of the world, my ability to learn and adapt quickly, my independence, and my future,” explains Jordan.

Jordan’s parents (Altmann’s grandparents), set the tone in their family on the importance of international travel and study abroad as a character-building opportunity. “My father used to tell us that going to college was about much more than what you learn in the classroom; it’s about the experiences you gain as a person, and to me nothing captures this sentiment better than study abroad,” says Jordan.

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The experiences she had as a 20-year-old in London, and the tremendous support of her own parents, set the tone for Jordan’s daughter to pursue study abroad at NC State. In fact, the College of Design’s requirement that all students have a global experience was the deciding factor in determining where Altmann would go to college. The mother-daughter pair traveled to Vienna a week before the Prague Institute’s classes began and spent several days in Prague getting acquainted to the city before Altmann started classes. Jordan says she has complete confidence in her daughter’s ability to travel anywhere in the world and knows that she has the tools to address and solve any problems she may encounter along the way. “That’s the kind of experience I think my father had in mind as the best benefit of college,” says Jordan.

Jordan is deeply connected with NC State as a member of the Advisory Board for the Institute of Nonprofits and a member of the Pullen Society. As the Director of Marketing & Philanthropic Engagement with Capital Development Services, she believes that study abroad has helped shape her 25-year-long career in the nonprofit sector. “I am fortunate to get to work with a lot of nonprofits, helping them do what they do better, and in turn, as I see it, making our world better,” she says.

Jordan “firmly believes that international travel gives us a better understanding and empathy for all people and our differences. Study abroad planted the seed for a desire to travel and see more of the world, and I still find that each trip lends a deeper appreciation for other cultures and people, as well as a deep gratitude for home.”

The NC State Prague Institute is open to students from all majors and programs are available year-round. To learn more about study abroad programs at NC State, visit