Updated: Nov 14
Michael Blakely, UNO class of 2014, repeat study abroad participant, and CEO of InterOperate, is leveraging his success to help current Mavericks study abroad by supplying funding to help UNO students obtain their first passport through the Maverick Passport Project!
Blakely's advice to students; "Mavericks are so lucky to have the UNO Education Abroad office. Not taking full advantage of these opportunities, dilutes the quality of your education."
Michael Blakely; young, tenacious, and fueled by a precisely defined plan for his future, began at University of Nebraska, Omaha pursuing his business degree focused on marketing and advertising.
Spoiler alert! His plan was thrown entirely off course by the amazing team in the Study Abroad office, and life-changing experiences he never knew he could be so captivated by.
BITTEN BY THE TRAVEL BUG
Most students can relate to Michael’s struggle finding excitement for mandatory prereq. after mandatory prereq. Until one day they stumble into one that changes everything they thought they knew about themselves, and their future. For Michael, it was a single history course with instructor Dan Weis. Not only did he find an
unexpected passion for history, but through that course, was offered the opportunity to join his first study abroad through France & Italy.
Like most study abroad students, Michael did not have a strong international travel foundation; and instructor, Dan Weis, did not take it easy on them. Dan has a unique way of challenging his students to learn and grow in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine. Students are compelled to learn not only the local language, culture, and history; but how to make their own way through and about the cities they visit. For example, they were, begrudgingly, taught to navigate using public transportation, compasses, and paper maps (yes, they still exist). For Michael, it was a lot, and frustrating at times, but diving in that deeply is what really spawned all the incredible, life-changing adventures he found in every location. The Study Abroad Department, and trips with Dan Weis, reinforced his passion for and ability to travel on his own. He was bitten by a Travel Bug that’s never left.
Michael grew up in Omaha and didn’t have many opportunities to get out before his first study abroad. So he wasn’t really aware of all the people, culture, history, traditions, food, and adventures he was missing out on. Omaha has everything one needs to thrive, to feel comfortable, and at home.
But when you take the leap to get out of that comfort zone, you're inspired and enabled to rediscover yourself, what you love, and potentially a whole new world of plans and opportunities for your future.
The skills Michael, and every other study abroad student, develops aren’t only critical for future travel, but they’re the foundation on which most other life-long skills are built. Michael returned with newfound knowledge, confidence, independence, excitement, motivation, and an insatiable craving for more.
ESCALATING THE TRAVEL BUG
Michael worked hard and fast to plan his next study abroad, and the one after that. He began an internship within the Study Abroad office, and a simultaneous internship with the International Study Abroad Office, a third party provider that sponsored his initial trip.
As Michael’s UNO college career progressed, and he checked more and more countries off his bucket list, he realized the only way to satisfy his Travel Bug was to escalate it. He no longer wanted to just travel, he wanted to move. Michael applied to one of UNO’s partner colleges, University of Electronic Science and Technology in Chengdu, China. The day he was accepted into their International Business Master's Program was, until that point, the happiest day of his life. Michael thrived in China! His Mandarin improved each day (thankfully, because he didn't know a single word when he got there), he made life-long friendships, his spice tolerance skyrocketed, he learned and did things people at home never dreamt of.
Upon Michael’s return to UNO, he was chosen as the commencement speaker for his graduating class, to share his story one last time. Michael ended his college career as an entirely different man than he’d begun.
FEEDING THE TRAVEL BUG
Enabled by the UNO Study Abroad program, and the difficult (yet invaluable) teachings of instructor Dan Weis, Michael activated new plans and travels he was finally prepared for.
Before COVID changed our world, technology was the only industry equipped to allow for fully-remote work. So to continue feeding his Travel Bug he immediately moved from Omaha to San Francisco to pursue a career in technology. After years of experience climbing the corporate ladder, Michael is now the founder and CEO of his own technology company, InterOperate. Where everyone has always been fully-remote; where they are not only allowed, but encouraged, to get out of their comfort zone and travel while working.
InterOperate is working hard to revolutionize and invigorate the way we work, to enable everyone the time discover our world and the incredible possibilities it holds.
SHARING THE TRAVEL BUG
Now, as Michael grows the company, and travels with Madison, and IRL Travel Bug, Charlotte (InterOperate’s Barketing Intern) he’s finally gotten to a place where he, and InterOperate, can continue working with his beloved UNO Study Abroad office. Michael’s life wouldn’t be the same without the incredible UNO Study Abroad team, instructor Dan Weis, or his first passport. That’s why InterOperate is sponsoring the Maverick Passport Project, to enable 75 Mavericks who may not otherwise have the opportunity to get their own first passport. Michael, and InterOperate, are excited for students to hopefully follow in his footsteps, participate in their first Study Abroad, and get out of Omaha to discover a whole new world of possibilities, experiences, and plans yet to be made.
ADVICE TO FIND YOUR OWN BUG
Mavericks are so lucky to have the incredibly passionate UNO Study Abroad office, and instructor Dan Weis, supporting and encouraging you to get out there. Not taking full advantage of the opportunities they work hard to bring you, dilutes the quality of your education and the overall purpose of a fully-rounded college experience. Don’t limit yourself to Omaha, your comfort zone, or the plan you think you have for the future. Unleash and harness the full potential of your education, opportunities, growth, and self, through UNO Study Abroad.