Allie Mormann's Been Around the World and Back

Thursday, July 14, 2022

As Viterbo University’s new study abroad coordinator, Allie Mormann ’22 brings more than a little recent international experience to the table. During her studies at Viterbo, Mormann had two educational adventures abroad, in countries on opposite sides of the globe.

From the start, Mormann’s Viterbo journey was just a bit different. A medical condition forced her to complete her high school education from home. She finished requirements for her diploma in December 2016 and jumped right into her college education, starting classes at Viterbo in January. When she took part in the Central High School graduation ceremony in May, she was halfway through her first semester of college.

She recalled that first semester being hard, mainly because she tried to pack too much in. Besides her studies at Viterbo, Mormann worked at a grocery store on weekends, coached figure skating at two venues, and did her own figure skating training regimen five days a week.

“Saying ‘no’ is a great skill,” said Mormann, who eventually had to let go of coaching skating. “I would recommend freshmen don’t overload themselves. It’s easy to get stressed and depressed.”

Interested in gallery work, Mormann started as an arts administration major before switching gears to business administration studies. A visit by the study abroad coordinator to her economics class got her thinking about getting some experience studying overseas.

While working a summer job in Viterbo’s IIT department (where her mother, Mary, has worked since 2009), Mormann checked in with the study abroad coordinator, setting things in motion for her first international adventure in Scotland.

Mormann had an affection for Scotland, in part from watching a lot of British television shows growing up, and she liked the idea of not having a major language barrier to overcome. “I wanted something where I could communicate with people, and I wanted something that would transfer well to Viterbo,” she said.

For six months, Mormann took classes at the University of Edinburgh Business School, including a print making class in which she created works of art on a press that dated to the 18th century using century-old type blocks.

Allie Mormann in South Korea

While English was, of course, the dominant language in Scotland, Mormann said she encountered a great diversity of people from all over the world who spoke multiple languages. One of her roommates, for example, came from Chile.

After returning from Scotland, Mormann switched her major one more time, this time to marketing. With a keen interest in Korean arts and culture and an inspiration from her Scotland experience to become multilingual, Mormann set her sights on doing a marketing internship in South Korea.

She dove into studying Korean and caught on relatively quickly to the written version. Spoken Korean was a different story, in part because she didn’t know anybody in La Crosse with whom she could practice her conversational skills.

In June 2021, Mormann began her two-month internship with Symbioliving TECH, a company based on the Yonsei University campus in Seoul, where she took classes in Korean culture and language. During the internship, she helped the company with an effort to promote youth awareness of universal design, which is “is the design of buildings, products, or environments to make them accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability, or other factors,” including language.

One day, she was given notice that the next day she would have to give a presentation to members of a board of education … in Korean.

While her oral Korean language comprehension and reading had developed well, Mormann was still not quite fluent speaking Korean. She got through it thanks to having great team members, but it was nerve wracking.

Allie Mormann in South Korea

“My Korean was basically good enough to order food and talk to children,” Mormann said with a laugh. “I gained a lot of respect for all the exchange students who come to our country.”

Now back at Viterbo after graduating in May, Mormann is working on her Master of Business Administration degree, which she hopes to complete in a year, on top of her work as study abroad coordinator.

The pandemic has curtailed international study in general. In the past year, Mormann was the only Viterbo student to study abroad on her own. Solo international study, of course, isn’t the only option. Student groups went to Italy, Guatemala, and the Galapagos Islands in the past year.

For the 2022-23 academic year Viterbo is planning faculty-led international trips to London, Austria, Belize, Guatemala, Spain, South Africa, and Thailand.

And, Mormann noted, Viterbo’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which now is home to the study abroad program, is working on setting up service education trips to Peru to start in 2024.

Mormann is hopeful that conditions will be right in the coming years for Viterbo students to fan out around the globe and get the kind of great international experiences she gained.

“I think it’s important to study abroad. Going abroad not only helps you understand the world better, it also gives you insights into your own country,” she said. “I learned a lot of lessons, and I definitely learned a lot about myself by being by myself.”