When students come to her for advice, she tells them to go away. Go abroad, that is.
Ana Alexander is a Spanish professor at Castleton and a study abroad advisor.
Outside her office there’s a world map that stands about seven feet tall and 10 feet wide. Whenever she sees someone stop to take a look at the map, she jumps out of her desk chair and into the hallway and asks them “so, where do you want to go?”
It has always been her goal to encourage as many students as possible to go abroad, and now the rest of the college is joining her in that endeavor.
Last year, Castleton joined the Institute of International Education’s study abroad
Commitment, promising to double the number of students the school sends abroad.
“We feel this is a very good way for our students to grow and acquire knowledge that they would not normally have,” Alexander said.
The new study abroad website is easily accessible from Castleton’s new website. A map of the word is shown on the screen. Hover over any country to see the programs available there to Castleton students. In Europe alone, there are more than 350 programs.
Alexander, with the help of students, has been presenting information to first-year seminar classes. Today, Sept. 17, is the study abroad fair where student’s can speak with teachers, students, and program leaders about what it’s really like to go abroad.
For Associate Academic Dean Yasmine Ziesler, her desire for getting students to study abroad goes back to her own high school experience.
“I just know how much those experiences have impacted my life and connected me to the world,” Zielser said.
Her role in the study abroad initiative is to support other professors who want to incorporate study abroad experiences into their curriculums.
Think it’s too late in the game for you to study abroad, or that it just won’t work with your major? You’d be wrong.
Study abroad programs can be tailored to fit any major, and even if you’re about to graduate, there are plenty of interning, teaching and volunteering opportunities for recent college graduates.
Castleton student Nick Bradley is a health science major, but he just returned from a semester in San Jose, Costa Rica where he was in an intensive language program, and also studied some tropical marine biology.
But one semester wasn’t enough. Bradley leaves again for Seville, Spain for the spring semester where he hopes to take more business classes.
So what’s a health science major doing studying Spanish and business in foreign countries? Bradley hopes to use his health science major and foreign language skills to help bring medical care to lesser-developed countries.
Bradley has also been sharing his experiences with anyone who will listen, hoping to give them an idea of just how life changing a study abroad experience really is.
“ I can’t really stress enough how much you’re going to grow. It’s good to get another perspective. Not everybody thinks the way we do in Vermont, or in the U.S.,” Bradley said.
For education major Rebecca Marckoon, the decision wasn’t that easy. Leaving her family, friends and boyfriend was something she dreaded, and she put off studying abroad until the summer before her last semester of college. But now she views her time in Barcelona as one of the best experiences of her life.
“It’s so worth it,” Marckoon said, stressing the fact that you learn so much more just being there than you even would in classes.
“They should be scared,” she said when asked what she would tell younger students who were apprehensive to go abroad. “Learning happens when you’re outside your comfort zone.”
Both Bradley and Marckoon described the value of study abroad in the exact same words.
“It’s necessary to be a cultured person early in life, while you’re still forming your views on the world,” Bradley said.
Alexander has always been shocked at how much her students have matured when they return.
“I realized very early in my career that in a place like Castleton, I cannot teach students in four years what they would learn in one semester abroad,” Alexander said.
Ziesler agrees. There are just some lessons you can’t learn if you don’t travel outside your comfort zone.
“The world is a global place and having that experience first-hand helps you to relate to a greater amount of people and it gives you so much confidence,” Ziesler said.