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Hope College June 2014 : Page 10

Campus Profile There and I n most contexts, having a group of upperclassmen tell their younger peers to leave their college might seem like a problem. When they’re speaking during Hope’s International Education Week as part of a panel presentation on study abroad, however, the message takes on a different character. In fact, as veterans of semesters overseas, the four seniors are celebrating the experience as an important part of a Hope education, meaningful not only for what they learned while away but for enriching their time back on campus and equipping them to thrive in the diverse world in which they will live and work in the years ahead. “I became so much more comfortable with myself and knowing who I am,” said Kelsey Herbert of Avon, Connecticut, an international studies and Spanish major who spent the spring of 2013 in Chile. “Obviously it’s super-possible to continue growing at Hope, and all of us have grown every single semester,” she said. She noted, though, that she has especially valued her semester in South America for providing an opportunity to “grow in a different context and bring that back here and see how I can continue growing here based on what I’ve learned.” The event’s four panelists feel so strongly about the benefits of international study that they each served this year as “study-abroad advisors,” mentors available to meet with other students who are considering a semester, year or even four-week summer term overseas Back Again and want perspective from a peer who has lived the experience. The student advisors complement the professional staff of the Office of International Education as well as the multiple members of the faculty whose teaching and research carry beyond the borders of the United States. Hope students have access to more than 200 program sites around the world, covering every continent except Antarctica and tailored to a wide range of academic interests. Some are in English-speaking countries, so that understanding an additional language isn’t a prerequisite; in other cases, initial language acquisition is built in; and for many, applying and strengthening proficiency in another language is a significant part of the experience. Herbert’s academic program included a major research project, but it was beyond the classroom that she often found the greatest Study abroad offers meaningful lessons beyond experience with the nation visited, providing perspective and self confidence that significantly enrich students’ time back on campus as well. Karen Harvey impact—as epitomized by an evening spent making Japanese food with friends from Chile and Germany. “The opportunity for cross-cultural conversation—learning about Germany and Chile while making sushi—was really cool,” Herbert said. “I just think that’s what study-abroad is, is bringing different people together.” Amelia Townsend of Zionsville, Indiana, an international studies and psychology major, spent the spring of 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa. “South Africa was a great place for me to study because I’ve always been interested in learning about diversity, and I thought the “Traveling and reaching out and being out of your comfort zone makes you more adventurous and brave in everyday life... I learned a lot about myself while I was abroad, but mostly that it is possible to make every place you’re in new and exciting as long as you don’t get caught up in a routine.” – Amelia Townsend ’14, who studied in Cape Town, South Africa in the spring of 2012. 10 News News From From Hope Hope College College

Campus Profile

There and Back Again

“Traveling and reaching out and being out of your comfort zone makes you more adventurous and brave in everyday life... I learned a lot about myself while I was abroad, but mostly that it is possible to make every place you’re in new and exciting as long as you don’t get caught up in a routine.”
– Amelia Townsend ’14, who studied in Cape Town, South Africa in the spring of 2012.

In most contexts, having a group of upperclassmen tell their younger peers to leave their college might seem like a problem.

When they’re speaking during Hope’s International Education Week as part of a panel presentation on study abroad, however, the message takes on a different character. In fact, as veterans of semesters overseas, the four seniors are celebrating the experience as an important part of a Hope education, meaningful not only for what they learned while away but for enriching their time back on campus and equipping them to thrive in the diverse world in which they will live and work in the years ahead.

“I became so much more comfortable with myself and knowing who I am,” said Kelsey Herbert of Avon, Connecticut, an international studies and Spanish major who spent the spring of 2013 in Chile.

“Obviously it’s super-possible to continue growing at Hope, and all of us have grown every single semester,” she said. She noted, though, that she has especially valued her semester in South America for providing an opportunity to “grow in a different context and bring that back here and see how I can continue growing here based on what I’ve learned.”

The event’s four panelists feel so strongly about the benefits of international study that they each served this year as “study-abroad advisors,” mentors available to meet with other students who are considering a semester, year or even four-week summer term overseas and want perspective from a peer who has lived the experience. The student advisors complement the professional staff of the Office of International Education as well as the multiple members of the faculty whose teaching and research carry beyond the borders of the United States.

Hope students have access to more than 200 program sites around the world, covering every continent except Antarctica and tailored to a wide range of academic interests. Some are in English-speaking countries, so that understanding an additional language isn’t a prerequisite; in other cases, initial language acquisition is built in; and for many, applying and strengthening proficiency in another language is a significant part of the experience.

Herbert’s academic program included a major research project, but it was beyond the classroom that she often found the greatest impact—as epitomized by an evening spent making Japanese food with friends from Chile and Germany.

“The opportunity for cross-cultural conversation—learning about Germany and Chile while making sushi—was really cool,” Herbert said. “I just think that’s what studyabroad is, is bringing different people together.”

Amelia Townsend of Zionsville, Indiana, an international studies and psychology major, spent the spring of 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa.

“South Africa was a great place for me to study because I’ve always been interested in learning about diversity, and I thought the parallels between South Africa experiencing apartheid and the end of apartheid paralleled well with the Civil Rights Movement here,” she said. “It was interesting to see how both of those related to each other.”

As she studied at the University of Cape Town, as she learned the particulars of public transportation, as she learned some of the Tswana language to better communicate with new friends, as she took additional trips to places like Botswana and Zimbabwe and saw Victoria Falls, she also learned a few things about herself and how to appreciate opportunities she may not even have recognized at Hope prior to her time abroad.

“Traveling and reaching out and being out of your comfort zone makes you more adventurous and brave in everyday life,” Townsend said. “It allowed me to create opportunities for myself and go try new restaurants here that I’ve never been, or join new clubs, or different work opportunities, or different school opportunities.”

It’s perspective that she will carry well beyond graduation.

“I learned a lot about myself while I was abroad, but mostly that it is possible to make every place you’re in new and exciting as long as you don’t get caught up in a routine,” she said.

Karen Harvey, a psychology major and ministry minor from Silverdale, Washington, threw herself into not only a new culture but a new language when she enrolled in a semesterlong program in Beijing, China, in the spring of 2013. She didn’t need to know Chinese to attend—the academic program was taught in English specifically for students from abroad— but her goals included learning at least some of the language while she was there.

The immersion wasn’t easy initially, especially in combination with the language barrier—living, as Harvey put it , “where I had no idea what anyone was saying ever.”

“China is pretty much different in every way from Holland, Michigan,” she said. “So many things that I thought about myself, about other people and they way they are, about God, about traveling, were totally flipped around.”

The language acquisition came in time. She recalls in particular a visit to a market and “the victory of ‘Wow, I just bargained for this thing in Chinese. Even though they were trying to talk to me in English, I was able to keep answering in Chinese,’ and realize I did learn a lot and make a lot of progress with the language.”

Along the way, she was also learning to handle the differences and learning of her capacity to do so, lessons themselves meaningful. “I definitely learned about my own ability to go with the flow, because you just have to do that,” she said.

She’s glad to have had the experience, and advises others to likewise take advantage of the opportunity while in college, when they have the relative freedom to make the most of opportunities to travel (she especially enjoyed the two weeks she spent in Tibet through the program) and learn.

“Even if you were going to live overseas and work, with that you have more time commitment,” she said. “With study abroad, the point of being there is to experience the culture, have fun and travel.”

Spanish and education major Steven Skawski of Elmhurst, Illinois, wasn’t expecting language to be a challenge when he spent the fall 2012 semester in Seville, Spain, but life had other plans when he knocked on the door of the family with whom he’d be living during the coming months.

“My whole family just greets me at the door, and they’re all speaking Spanish,” he said. “Here I’m thinking, ‘My Spanish level is okay. I should be able to comprehend most of this.’ And I lite rally did not understand a word they were saying. I was like, ‘Is this a Spanish speaking home?’”

He was encountering a regional dialect that differed from the Spanish he’d been learning back home. “They kind of combine phrases, they combine words, they leave out a lot of syllables,” he said.

Skawski persevered and ultimately thrived, finding himself at home in the cit y and developing a circle of friends.

“Eventually I began to pick up on the slang speak,” he said. “Once I got over that barrier, everything seemed to ease up a little bit.”

He, too, valued the opportunity to travel widely, visiting other nations including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey.

Certainly he improved his Spanish; definitely he learned to handle challenges and adjust to change; and equally, as he experienced the lessons that the world had to offer, he found his own enthusiasm for learning piqued.

“I had my curiosity reawakened, meaning that I took more of an interest in history, I took more of an interest in artwork, took more of an interest in people in general after studying abroad,” Skawski said.

“I’m just more enthusiastic about a lot of things after traveling, after seeing more,” he said. “It makes you have a hunger to learn more, see more.”

Editor’s Note: Several students blog about their on-going study-abroad programs. For more from those living the experience, please visit the college online. blogs.hope.edu/study-abroad/blog/

Read the full article at http://digital.ipcprintservices.com/article/Campus+Profile/1730278/212731/article.html.

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