Semester and Year-long Experiences
Arcadia Greece Fall Semester '08 and Arcadia Ireland Winter Semester '09
“Get involved with your school. I was in boxing and met lots of people that way.”
— Aleata Alstad-Calkins
Aleata Alstad-Calkins is a Psychology major that had always “wanted to get out of America and see what else there is.” During the academic year of Fall 2008 – Winter 2009, she did just that. Aleata explored the rich history of Greece in the fall and the scenic landscapes of Ireland during the winter. Her study abroad experience has shifted her perspective on a more international level and she is currently looking at Graduate schools abroad. From her studies in two different cultures, she not only got to experience the differences between Greece and Ireland, but learned about herself as an American woman. She got to view American culture from a different point of view and “how different American culture is and how much our media influences us”. Many students fear that taking a year to study abroad will put them behind in their coursework. Contrary to this, Aleata will be graduating a semester early. In addition to Aleata’s travels around Ireland and Greece, she travelled to Italy, Holland, the Greek Islands, England, Germany, and Austria.
Life in Greece and Ireland was very different but there were some similarities. Aleata was surprised at the importance of socializing in these cultures, especially how “prominent going out for tea and coffee was and how long it took them”. In our fast-paced American lifestyles we do not necessarily take as much time for this nor do we give it as much importance. Another similarity was how involved both Ireland and Greece were in their sporting events. Aleata’s words of advice: “Watch their big sporting events in a public space because the enthusiasm was so much different than ours.” Overall, Aleata had a very positive experience abroad. It was “too amazing to summarize because it was the best experience of my life. It was amazing to be immersed in two completely different cultures. I saw the most beautiful places, met the most interesting people, and I had the best experiences!”
CIEE Spain, Winter '08
“Studying abroad, being in another culture is like living with the volume turned up. You learn so much about yourself and the other culture.”
— Julie Nelson
Julie Nelson is an International Relations and Spanish major who has always wanted to go to Spain. Throughout her high school years, she heard all about the fantastic experiences her Spanish teachers had as study abroad students. Based on these stories, Julie made Spain her study abroad destination through the CIEE program. The courses she took through CIEE were beneficial for her because they were at a Spanish university but were taught in Spanish for international students. Julie participated in a home stay, which helped her to get a sense of Spanish culture and reinforce her language skills, but she acknowledges that it can also be quite difficult because students may have to give up some of their independence. She recommends that students do a home stay but they should realize that there are sacrifices.
Julie learned quite a bit about the differences between Spanish and American culture; she especially noticed difference in the sense of time. Life moves at a much slower pace, there’s no rush and the Spanish still honor the tradition of la siesta. She was surprised however at people always cleaning their sidewalks and steps, not always throwing trash in a bin, and “all the ham”. Julie made the best of all her opportunities to explore the culture, even trying foods like rabbit, bull’s tail, octopus, and a blood sausage called morica. By being abroad, she also learned quite a bit about America, which she says is much bigger and more diverse than she ever thought, but is somewhat open and accepting about its diversity. Speaking highly of her experience, Julie says, “Everyone should go to Spain!”
“Go with an open mind and really believe you are going to be a better person because of your experience. You are going to change. We can do a lot more than we say we can.”
— Terra Seeler
As a Japanese language and culture major, Terra Seeler knew that experiencing the language first-hand was something she wanted to accomplish: “I’ve known other Americans who have studied the Japanese language, and I’ve been able to see how much of an impact going to Japan has had on their language abilities.
I also saw it as a way to supplement the learning I’ve had here — which can only go so far without immersion.”
Terra experienced her most profound cultural experiences through her living situation. “Living in a host family was one of the best ways for me to practice language skills — eating Japanese food, hearing Japanese TV in the background,” she remembers. “They took me to cultural events. I really think it’s the key in making [study abroad] a fuller experience.” Taking advantage of her advanced language skills, Terra also enrolled in a Kendo class, the martial art of Japanese fencing.
Terra’s study abroad experience provoked reflection on her identity. Her light brown hair and fair complexion amidst the Japanese population contributed to a more acute sense of self-awareness. “I feel like I can better relate with minority groups even in this country — being in the majority is something we too easily take for granted,” she admitted. Terra returned to the United States with a deeper sense of self-confidence.
Fall '07 in Egypt, American University of Cairo
"Make sure you go knowing academics are not in the liberal arts framework. Take courses that might not be exactly what you need, but be flexible with the classes.
Pamela Elsafy is majoring in Middle East studies and Political Science with a minor in Theology, so Egypt seemed to be a perfect place for her to study abroad. She chose Egypt to enhance her major studies, but also because of its dynamic position in the Middle Eastern region and because it is the “gateway to the western world”. Pamela studied at the American .
University in Cairo and took classes she would otherwise be unable to at St. Kate’s like Coptic Studies, Quranic Studies and Egyptian Law, among many others. Pamela also interned at the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights where she spoke with women about their experiences with harassment. The harassment and the attitudes towards women in Egyptian society were one of the challenges Pamela found the most difficult, especially coming from a community like St. Kate’s. The AUC is an American institution and classes are taught in the American style and as a university it is fairly progressive, however everything has to be taught considering the values and constructions of Egyptian society.
The best thing about studying abroad for Pamela was meeting the international community, which is full of expatriates and global citizens with interests and concerns similar to her own. “There was an on-going joke throughout the semester that we’ll all end up negotiating treaties together in the future.” Sure enough, when she visited Washington DC after her time in Egypt, she ran into a student from Sierra Leone she met during her semester at AU Cairo.