Sit back in your chair, close your eyes, and picture a place that you have always wanted to venture to. Maybe it’s exploring the busy streets of Greece or riding elephants in Thailand.
Most people may not think past their brief daydreaming of studying abroad, but maybe they should.
Health science major Brittany Winter talked about how studying abroad had a huge impact on her life.
“I think it teaches you a lot about yourself and what you value. It really makes you open your eyes to how other people live. You get a better understanding of different cultures around the world,” she said.
Winter went to Barcelona this summer through the Center for International Studies and she talked about how she made this decision about the destination almost on the fly, but made sure she was going to go somewhere.
“Do everything you possible can to try and make it work if it is something that you are interested in so that you don’t end up regretting it after. Yes you can definitely travel when you are older, but this is when you are going to be the most carefree in your life,” she said.
And there are alternatives to studying abroad. You don’t necessarily have to leave this country to throw yourself in a different culture.
Anthropology professor Paul Derby and former Castleton arts professor Liza Myers teamed up to created a Semester in the American Southwest back in 2010. This was a trip to get students in a different culture and deepen their knowledge about anthropology and the arts in the southwest.
“The reason I decided to do it is because when I was an undergraduate, there was this trip to the American Southwest. I knew nothing about this. I was not an anthropology major, but it sounded fun and I did it and I was blown away,” Derby said.
“I didn’t know any of that stuff existed out there. We went to Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, etcetera, back in 1988 and it was awesome. When the idea came around here to do that, I thought that I would really like to give back because it had such an impression on me. It really helped shape my career,” he said.
Studying abroad offers a different approach on how you’re receiving your education. It forces you to test your limits and to put your knowledge to the test.
Spanish and communication major Carly Trombley traveled to Spain in the fall semester of 2015. She was looking for an experience to help enhance her Spanish. She studied at The University of Malaga, where she was practicing her Spanish seven hours a day.
“There were a lot of things that we had to do on our own. We had to go to the bus station and converse with the people who were there. Tell them who we were and, what company we were with, how long we were going to be there all in Spanish in order to get our bus passes to get to the city and back home, wherever we were going,” Trombley said.
“I would say that by the end of it I was able to find my way around the city, ask questions if needed, and hold a conversation with a Spanish speaking person. Which I was pretty happy about,” she said.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, international educators Allan Goodman and Stacie Berdan wrote, “Making study abroad a part of their education is the most effective and accessible means for students to develop needed skills because it pushes a student to get out of her comfort zone to experience another culture, language, environment and education system. It teaches students to appreciate difference and diversity firsthand, and enables them to recognize – and then dismiss – stereotypes they may have held about people they had never met, said
Those who have studied abroad said there is nothing more satisfying then doing something that is completely out of your element. Life is about experiencing a new place and meeting different people. Former Castleton student Maggie Rodgers decided to travel to the southwest in 2014 because she was looking to gain a different experience.
“I wanted an experience that a traditional classroom couldn’t offer me,” she said.
As an education major, she wanted to broaden her knowledge on what it was like to be in school without physically being on a college campus. Even after two years, this trip is still relevant in her education and in her roll as a student teacher.
“When the students at the high school talk to me about the places they want to go, I always talk about my trip to the Southwest. I tell them that it is very possible to be able to travel the world and get your education at the same time. You just have to find what it is that you’re looking for,” she said.
While some people don’t take the plunge to study abroad, others can’t keep themselves away. Former Castleton student Emily Haley went on the Southwest trip two years in a row.
“I wanted to deepen my understanding so that I could share it with others,” she said. “I’m just the biggest fan of experiential learning.”
Haley talked about how experiential learning is the best way to learn. As a student, you are really able to dig deep in what you are trying to learn. You aren’t just reading about something, you are living it, she said.
Being apart of an experience like studying abroad, or somewhere that isn’t your college campus is something that people shouldn’t push away and save for another time.
“If you’re trying to learn a language then absolutely. But even if you’re not, you can take classes that are related to your major in another country. And to me I feel like that is such an experience that you shouldn’t give up,” Trombley said.