In the spring of last year, then junior Alex Noonan was anxiously preparing for an excursion to Prague to study abroad for the following semester, when he got some disturbing news.
Castleton wouldn’t allow it.
Apparently, Noonan hadn’t completed the required amount of Soundings credits. Suddenly, Noonan’s eagerly awaited semester of exploring Eastern Europe had come crashing down.
His dream was over.
Castleton’s website describes Soundings as a program to “expand our horizons and help us to see a part of our world in a slightly different way. Beyond this broader cultural awareness, however, they will serve another important purpose in your education.”
Soundings director Jessica Cowden, emphasized that statement, along with her faith in the program.
“I get excited about Soundings because it brings opportunities to our students to see and experience things that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. We’re able to bring around 60 events a year and expose our students to some of the most interesting minds, best musicians, best dancers, best performances, and they get to do it all for free,” said Cowden. “I wish more colleges and universities did this, I’m not really sure why there aren’t more programs like this,”
Noonan, however, believes he has accomplished everything Soundings stands for and more during his two previous study abroad trips.
“I traveled to East Tibet, Chengdu, China and Ladakh, India through Castleton,” said Noonan, “I would say travel with Jim Hagen, Wisdom study abroad is by far the best program Castleton has to offer.”
Noonan strongly believes his time spent studying abroad with Hagan was far more influential than any Soundings event. Having very little faith in the program moving forward, he feels annoyed by what Castleton defines as “cultural awareness.”
Cowden understands where many students frustration comes from and admits the program does have its flaws, but overall deems it a success.
More than anything, Cowden said she would love to see students study abroad. Having studied abroad herself in France while she was in High School, she knows how amazing it can be. She said she wants to help students get the soundings credits they need while studying abroad.
“We are actually set up to be able to work with students who are studying abroad in order to get Soundings credit. I don’t know how well that is advertised, and it’s not a system that’s set in stone,” said Cowden, “We don’t have a system that’s been used or tested, it would definitely have to be more of a come to the soundings director and talk to me about what it is you’re doing and let me oversee your experience and we can find a way to make it work,” said Cowden.
Noonan shook his head in disappointment upon hearing Cowden’s words.
“Typical Castleton,” said Noonan, “They should be advertising that, not just through Soundings, but professors and teachers should be talking this up as well.”
Castleton senior Zach Devoid, who spent the fall semester of last year studying in Australia, would also like to see study abroad count towards Soundings.
Devoid, sympathizes with Noonan, understanding his resentment, but echo’s a similar statement to that of Cowden.
“I’d like to see it happen, but you should write a paper or do a short presentation on some of the ways you’ve broaden your horizon or what you’ve learned from the culture you’ve been studying in,” said Devoid. “Receiving a Soundings credit would be another incentive, and a good way for the school to push studying abroad, saying you don’t have to do Soundings.”