The goal set last year by Castleton College when it joined the Generation Study Abroad Commitment was to double the number of students studying abroad by the year of 2020.
It didn’t take nearly that long.
“We have already doubled it actually,” said Ana Alexander, Castleton’s Spanish professor and coordinator for the study abroad program.
Last semester there were five students studying in foreign lands and this current semester there are 10, she said proudly.
Another six will study abroad this summer and eight more will depart in the fall – totaling 29 since fall 2014.
Initially, studying abroad for a semester was only required of Spanish majors. It then became a requirement of global studies majors as well, Alexander said.
As you’re reading this, there are students in Spain, New Zealand, Australia, China, Italy, Costa Rica, Berlin and Germany. And only one of them is a Spanish major, she said.
Alexander emphasized that studying abroad is more than just a traveling experience.
“Anyone can study abroad,” but it is what you do while you are in away that makes the experience, she said. She stressed how it is important that students go somewhere and do something that will be useful to their specific career goals and give them a more promising future.
Castleton junior Emma Faucher has studied all semester in New Zealand and has started a blog called #FollowTheKiwi charting her weekly adventures. Her journey to New Zealand started 10 days after she applied for a scholarship when she learned she had won $15,000.
Alexander said Faucher is a great example of what can happen when students try to get funding help to study abroad.
“Apply! Apply! Apply!,” she said, adding that students cannot win a scholarship any other way.
“Winning the scholarship helped all the pieces fall into place,” said Faucher.
On top of taking four classes, she still is managing to take full advantage of a lot of opportunities around her including traveling and getting to know countless locals.
Her whole family came to Castleton to celebrate her surprise scholarship award presentation.
“Like my dad said, it was the only time he’s ever seen me speechless in my life,” she said.
Junior Eric Ginter is also abroad this semester, studying in China. He said he quickly immersed himself into the culture and easily adapted.
“We actually went to this world famous irrigation system first that I studied back in high school!”
Like Faucher, Ginter received scholarship money through the Gillman’s Scholarship to help offset his travel costs.
In Europe this semester is Nicholas Bradley. He is studying in Spain, but when contacted to be interviewed, he was in Prague, Czech Republic.
“I travel almost every weekend on budget airlines. I have been to England, Italy, Greece, Germany, France, Czech Republic,” he said, and added that he also wishes to go to Portugal and Amsterdam soon!
Once he gets back, he said he hopes to go cross-country in the United States.
Not only does Castleton have students going to other countries, but the school also has students from other countries studying here in Vermont – and an effort is underway to increase those students. Current Castleton students hail from countries including Sweden, Germany, Canada, France, China and Peru among others.
Junior Jekabs Grinbergs is here from Latvia. This is his second year here and once he finishes his college experience, he can bring Castleton’s legacy back home with him. He is very passionate in his studies and said he is soaking up everything the experience is offering.
“For me, I wanted to be different in my path and to achieve bigger things and hold myself to higher standards,” Grinbergs said.
Grinbergs does a lot in his not-so-new community. He has been in the United States for three years, but at Castleton for only two. On top of being an exercise science major, he mentors, is a student advisor for studying abroad, advertises studying abroad and promotes a Facebook page for studying abroad.
It is one thing to simply travel abroad, from the United States to other countries or from other countries to the United States, but to make something of it is the important part, students say. And with Castleton’s growing study abroad program, it is getting easier and easier to go.
“I Love spreading the word, as I want more people to know about it and take the jump,” Bradley said from thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean.