From the overlook in Parque Sarmiento, this photo is above a grand old staircase that people run up and down to work out or sit on the benches and talk with friends. The old abandoned Ferris wheel sits inside the zoo and the apartment buildings to the left look like the ones I walked by every day in Córdoba that had a distinct look.
A nighttime view of La Cañada near El Paseo de los Artes, a weekly artisan fair full of tempting things to buy. I crossed La Cañada every day to go to class at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba and when I went almost anywhere since my host family lived right next to it downtown.
Monte Fitz Roy or Cerro Chaltén is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, mountains and hiking locations in Andean Patagonia in southern Argentina and Chile, so I made sure to see it before I left. My friends and I got lucky with a clear day and good weather when winds and storms are notorious for keeping people off the trail.
A view of the Quebrada on the trail from the town of Tilcara to the Garganta del Diablo. La Quebrada de Humahuaca in northern Argentina is known for its colored mountains, trade route of the Incas, and indigenous Quechua people.
Some Argentinian, French, and German friends I made in the UNC Trekking program and a local language practice group. We hiked around one weekend in La Cumbrecita, a Swiss/German village in the mountains of Córdoba.
As an Irish Dancer I was excited to find a twice-monthly Irish Cultural Organization in Córdoba. Here I am with one of my Irish Dance friends/teacher Andrea when her dance school Celtic Argentina came to perform at Argentina’s famous Oktoberfest in Villa General Belgrano, a town with Bavarian roots in the mountains of Córdoba.
BY KATE LONGABAUGH
The train glides away from the stop at Plaza Mar 2. In seconds, I see Castillo de Santa Bárbara above me, the Mediterranean Sea stretched out in all its sparkling glory below. I feel myself getting overwhelmed and choked up. I know this sense of being overwhelmed comes from both the sadness that I am leaving Alicante, Spain tomorrow, and the great sense of happiness that I had this study abroad experience.
For about thirty seconds, Castillo de Santa Bárbara moves from the right side of the train window to the left. I think about my first day in the city, when the sight of the castle was unfamiliar but still just as glorious. It was my first experience traveling abroad, and the day before had been a traveler’s nightmare, with my connecting flight taking off just minutes after I’d arrived to the gate. An unexpected visit to Heathrow Airport and a train ride from Madrid later, I was in a taxi to my host mom’s house at 9:30 p.m. I was jet lagged and upset that the airline had lost my luggage. My host mom, however, brightened my mood with dinner –– which included my first Spanish omelet.
The next morning I woke up early, a busy day of touring the city ahead of me. I met my class at Plaza Luceros, which served as the primary meeting place throughout this three-week Intensive Course Abroad. We rode on a bus past the sea, then up a steep mountain where we reached Castillo de Santa Bárbara. At the very top we could see the whole city, its low buildings glowing and other mountains in the distance. After leaving, we walked down the mountain through a picturesque neighborhood of brightly colored homes with tiled door frames. I was quickly enveloped in a sense of awe at this city I’d only been in for 12 hours.
This sense of awe kept coming back to me during my time in Alicante. Whether I was walking down the quirky and fun Calle San Francisco with its hopscotch painted streets and fun mushroom sculptures (some of which you can go inside; it was a great place for selfies), or when I visited Playa del Postiguet, a nearby beach, and watched the sunset with my friends, this awe was ever present. It came back when I ate at the many different restaurants, cafes, and heladerias – I had some of the best food of my life there (I’m tasting my host mom’s paella as I type this…mmm).
Excursions to places like the MARQ (an architectural museum), the Valor chocolate factory in Villajoyosa, and La Alhambra in Granada were both educational and fun (and the visit to the chocolate factory was delicious). Whether I was in Alicante or somewhere else in Spain, I was always able to find something interesting and enjoyable to do (one evening after leaving the Día de Reyes parade, I stumbled on a night market near Plaza Luceros that was full of vendors selling everything from jewelry to hot chocolate. It was absolutely delightful).
Oh, and the academics? (This was an ICA, after all.) Muy fácil. What originally was fear and intimidation about condensing 16 weeks of material into a three-week course turned into genuine excitement about learning after my first day in class. Professors Maria (lovingly known as Chitty) and Sonia effortlessly kept the entire class’ attention throughout our five-hour long sessions. And even with all the excursions, I never found the amount of work for the class to be overwhelming. In fact, despite the fact that this was a three-week course, I found it easier to handle the amount of work that was required since I was only focusing on one class, rather than having to juggle work for four (or more!) classes like I do during the semester.
Starting around my second week in Alicante, I began developing a routine that helped me relax into the slow, easy pace of the city. I was able to overcome my feelings of self-consciousness and communicate with my host mom (albeit slowly). The mistakes I made in communicating with her were essential to helping me get a better understanding of the language. And let me tell you, there was no greater joy than when I was able to speak with my host mom and others around me in Spanish and not only understand them, but to be understood as well.
Castillo de Santa Bárbara disappears as the train enters the tunnel, which signals the last three stops on my final train ride in Alicante. At the beginning of the trip, the castle was unfamiliar, but on this last day, going towards Plaza Luceros, the castle, and the city of Alicante, were starting to feel familiar. Like home.
With sweeping landscapes of lush, green grass mixed in with the lively energy of a big city, Dublin, Ireland is a must-see when traveling Europe. I had dreamed of visiting Ireland for as long as I could remember, so while I was studying abroad in Greece last fall, I decided to book a flight! My friend Grace and I planned a weekend trip, where we stayed in the heart of Dublin. Below, I’ve listed the 5 best things we did during our short visit!
Cliffs of Moher
Any Harry Potter fans? This one’s for you! While the cliffs aren’t located in Dublin themselves, I think they’re a must when visiting any part of Ireland. Visiting the cliffs was, for me, mainly driven by my love for all things Harry Potter, and it was honestly one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. The dramatic cliffs that jutted out at all different angles above the constant blue ocean was incredible!
We actually did the Cliffs of Moher day tour with Paddy Wagon tours, which was definitely worth it! The drive from Dublin to the cliffs is quite pricey by cab. However, for 40 euros, this tour included the drive on a charter bus (with free Wi-Fi and USB plug ins by your seat!) and a stop in Kinvara, a small, picturesque village, famous for fishing; a drive along the coast of Galway Bay; a drive through the infamous Burren with a stop at the Baby Cliffs; a stop in Doolin for lunch; a stop at the Cliffs of Moher for about 2 hours; and finally a stop at the village of Bunratty where you can visit some local shops or walk to the nearby Bunratty castle. Whether you decide to do the day tour or simply visit the cliffs themselves, the Cliffs of Moher are definitely a beautiful must while visiting Ireland!
With a laid back, warm atmosphere and a welcoming, friendly environment, the Temple Bar is the best spot to experience a traditional Irish pub. While the pub stays pretty packed throughout the night, be sure to fit some time in to visit — you won’t regret it. The Temple Bar is the established home of traditional Irish music and also houses the largest selection of whiskies in Ireland! They also serve food if you’re hungry, and boast about having the largest selection of sandwiches in the world.
I was a bit skeptical about this one at first. I’m definitely not an avid beer drinker, much less a Guinness enthusiast, but this was actually a really fun experience! We bought tickets for the tour, which includes a student discount rate, and learned all about how Guinness is made. The Storehouse itself is huge and had various parts where you could interact with displays and watch interactive videos. At one point during the tour, we were able to go a few at a time into a tasting room where they gave you a mini pint of Guinness (the drinking age in Ireland is 18). At the end of the tour, you get a voucher for a free pint of any kind of Guinness beer from any of the 3 restaurants inside, which are on the top floors and include some spectacular views of Dublin! If you’re like me and not really into the beer aspect, I’d still suggest going for the experience and views alone!
Our Airbnb was about a 10-minute walk from Phoenix Park, which is the largest park in Dublin and the largest urban park in Europe! The park is also home to the president of Ireland and the Dublin Zoo. If you’re looking for something free to do or just a good place to relax, a visit to this park is a must! There are numerous walking and hiking trails, where you might even spot one of many deer, as well as different events throughout the year.
Located a short walk from Trinity College, home to the infamous Book of Kells, lies Grafton Street. This a perfect spot if you want to do some shopping or walking around. With just about every store you can think of, and a steady row of pubs, Grafton Street is a great way to spend an afternoon admiring the hustle and bustle of Dublin.
Studying abroad is an important part of your education here at Goucher. Despite the fact that everyone does it, studying abroad often comes with a lot of questions. From “Where should I study abroad?” to “How do I choose a program?” and “Where do I even start?” it can be an overwhelming process. However, I spoke with Office of International Studies Director Jennifer White to answer some questions about the study abroad application process that should help you get started!
Q: When should students start the Study Abroad process?
It’s never too early to start! We encourage students to come as early as their first year on campus to find out about the many programs and opportunities for a meaningful study abroad experience here at Goucher!
Q: If I were thinking about studying abroad, what should my first step be? Next?
The Office of International Studies has designed introductory workshops known as Study Abroad 101 for semester and short term programs. We encourage students to come to one of those workshops as their first step. Each is offered twice per week throughout the semester.
The next step would be to come to region- and program-specific workshops called Study Abroad 102, where students can learn about the programs offered in more detail.
Q: If I’m having trouble deciding on a study abroad program, who should I see for help?
We encourage students to meet with an OIS advisor for their program(s) of interest as soon as possible after attending the 101 workshops. Students can also stop by during drop in hours Monday to Thursday 2-4 pm for a quick overview/discussion with our advising staff!
Q: Are there any important policies or things students should know about (credit policies, grades, financial aid & scholarships, etc.)?
Beginning with this year’s entering class, students need to complete their study abroad requirement prior to their senior year. This policy has been implemented to facilitate student reflection in the classroom and in extracurricular activities upon the students return to Goucher.
For financial aid, Goucher’s approved semester programs allow students to apply/utilize their institutional financial aid awards for their semester abroad. There are also a wide range of external scholarships that students can apply for as well as Goucher scholarships administered by the Office of International Studies. Students do need to be in good academic and good judicial standing.
It’s useful to know that the [study abroad] requirement is fulfilled by an international experience at least 3 weeks long and carrying at least 3 units in credit. For short term programs this can be an international internship, a Goucher faculty-led Intensive Course Abroad, or a short term program external to Goucher.
Semester and ICA program grades transfer into the Goucher GPA! It’s a great idea to consult with your faculty advisors on how study abroad fits in with your academic plans.
Q: Any advice or suggestions for students starting the study abroad application process?
Try to imagine yourself after your study abroad experience and think through, “what are the most important aspects and goals for my time abroad?” It really helps to come to OIS with an idea of what you want your study abroad experience to be about so that our staff can help match our available programs with your goals!
For more information regarding study abroad, visit the Goucher Study Abroad website at https://www.goucher.edu/learn/study-abroad/
All students who plan to study abroad are required to attend a Study Abroad 101 session in OIS. Each session lasts about 30 minutes and covers topics such as how to explore program options, applying for a study abroad program, how to obtain academic credit, and financial matters. For semester programs, sessions are on Tuesdays at 4pm or Thursdays at 11:30 am. For short term programs, such as Summer or Winter ICA’s, sessions are Mondays at 1:30 pm and Thursdays at 4pm.
If you want to talk with someone in OIS email IntlStudies@goucher.edu to make an appointment or stop by during walk-in hours Monday through Thursday from 2pm—4pm.
South Africa was never somewhere I had on my travel list. It wasn’t somewhere I always dreamed of going or even a place I knew much about. And that’s exactly why I went. I was craving something different, something unexpected. So, when I received an acceptance email for an internship through Masambeni in Cape Town, South Africa I knew I had to go.
Three months later, I found myself boarding my first of three flights to meet a city over 8,900 miles away. I was nervous to say the least, but I also had an overwhelming sense of excitement thinking of all of the possibilities lying ahead. As I moved from flight to flight, and from one country to the next, I was anxious to land in my final destination.
After 32 hours of traveling, exhausted, weary, and definitely a bit nervous, I finally made it. I was in Cape Town! I couldn’t wait to get through passport control, find my luggage, and head out to catch my first glance of the city I shockingly knew so little about. As I walked past several advertisements and photos of what I presumed to be must-see attractions, I stopped to admire a giant mural of penguins, seemingly waving their black little fins as a silent hello. The sign just to the right above the exit to the main part of the airport read, “Welcome to the Mother City.” And out I walked to what would be my home away from home for the next 2 months.
My first few days were jam-packed, and I was instantly thrust into the life and beauty of Cape Town. I traveled all the way down to Cape of Good Hope and made the strenuous trek to the top. Although Elisha, my director from Masambeni, seemed to think it was simply a warm up to the rest of the activities ahead. While I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I was determined to get to the top to see what all the fuss was about. And let me tell you, every step, incline, and flight of stairs was worth it! It was beauty. It was the clear, open skies above an endless deep blue ocean. It was the steep, broken rocks and bits of green grass that jutted out at different points in different angles from the drop off of land to water. It was the way you felt as if you were on top of the world, with every bit of beauty and any possibility within arm’s reach. I had never seen a view so breathtaking in my life. And that was just the start.
Aside from the diverse landscape, with awe-inspiring mountains to narrow city streets and long stretches of sand and ocean, some of the most beautiful experiences I had were admiring a Cape Town sunset. And let me tell you—this isn’t any ordinary experience. Whether it’s on the beach, in a coffee shop learning Xhosa, on top of Signal Hill, on a sunset cruise, or in the room of a house with a twist-to open window in a slanted ceiling, there is nothing quite as awe-inspiring. As the sun starts to set and the sky is slowly painted with shades of yellow to orange and pink to blue, and you’re surrounded by people as carefree as you with ear to ear grins and bubbly laughter, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
The thing about Cape Town is it wasn’t just about the views and pretty sights, it was about the experience—the people you meet, the time you spend together. It was the way the energy and overwhelming sense of welcoming that surrounds the city and people truly made me feel like Cape Town was my home away from home. From the moment I accepted my internship to the day I arrived back home, something about Cape Town just felt different. And it was. The experience I had opened my eyes in ways I never expected; I was able to experience a job I’d always dreamed to learn more about while simultaneously exploring one of the most beautiful and diverse cities I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. If you are even remotely thinking of visiting Cape Town or South Africa, please do—you won’t regret it! Doing an internship there this past summer was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I was extremely fortunate to be a recipient of the Goucher Intern Fellowship, which made my internship experience abroad not only a possibility, but a reality. During my internship, I was able to work with an online blog called Secret Cape Town and learn some of the ins and outs of online journalism. I had the opportunity to do local research, pitch ideas, interview the creator of a local company, and even write my own articles! If you are thinking of doing an internship either in the States or abroad, I highly suggest talking with someone in the Career Education Office or visiting https://www.goucher.edu/career-education-office/professional-experience/internships/goucher-intern-fellowship to learn more!
Photo Credit: TripAdvisor
Developing a bond to the place where you are studying is part of the study abroad experience. This particularly happens in a semester long program, where you build your life for about 5 months around the people near you and the places closest to you. As two students who studied at the University of East Anglia, both of us developed a love for the city of Norwich, which is located just outside the university. This old medieval town has a rich literary history with a modern edge. If you ever find yourself in or near Norwich (which is only a two hour train ride from London), be sure to check these places out!
A traditional Japanese restaurant off of Tombland, Shiki has some of the best food in all of Norwich. Although it can be a bit expensive depending on what you order (about £5 for 6 pieces of sushi, £22 for a bento box), the quality of the food and the service makes the prices worth it. If you’re in Norwich and looking for a quality sit-down meal or a break from the typical pub food, check out Shiki and try their Tonkatsu Curry (curry being an “English” addition), or grab an onigiri to go.
Off of a lane of the same name, Tombland Books was my go-to used bookstore in Norwich. This bookshop, comprised of two floors, has the classic feel of a used bookstore — extra lines of books because there isn’t shelf space, that mix of wood and old book smell, and also some incredibly beautiful and slightly unique books. There are plenty of bookshops in Norwich that deserve a visit, such as City Bookshop, The Book Hive, and Dormouse, but the lack of claustrophobic spaces, in addition to its extensive collection of beautiful, well-kept, used books makes it a bookshop not to miss.
St. Gregory’s Antiques and Collectibles
One of many old stone churches, St. Gregory’s has long since left the religious life. Instead, it has been transformed into an antiques and collectables market. You never know exactly what you’ll find, from old clothes to knitting needles, from maps to music records and quirky tins. Just remember to bring cash with you; they don’t accept any cards.
Oh So Sweet
Oh So Sweet is essentially a combination of the candy shop from Willy Wonka with British sweets. Walls lined from floor to ceiling with colorful hues and confections of every imaginable type, from spicy to chewy and chocolates galore — every sweet tooth in Norwich would be remiss to overlook this sweet treat of a shop
Loft and Flaunt
Both Loft and Flaunt were the places to be when attending UEA. With their continuous seductive energy and cheap, yet surprisingly good alcohol (which is legal to consume while abroad), they were the best places to go whenever students needed to let out a little steam. Music blaring, hormones raging, and admission cheap (Flaunt: free admission; Loft: three pounds per person or about six dollars), it was easy to see why everyone loved going there, even on school nights!
By BENJI GUTSIN AND KATIE MONTHIE
In July 2018, I traveled to Junín in the region of Intag, Ecuador to assist environmental studies professor Emily Billo in her research on resistance to resource extraction. As we walked through Junín’s Community Eco-Reserve to test the water for contamination, I could see the negative effects of the exploratory mining activities on the landscape. There was visible deforestation and erosion from mule trains carrying drilling equipment in and out of the reserve. My companions told me how they used to be able to hear many different kinds of birds; now I could only hear the loud hum of generators and drilling in the distance. Then there was the water which was visibly discolored orange or brown in some places.
Junín is well known for its highly biodiverse cloud forests. However, these could soon be destroyed by the creation of an open pit copper mine. Negative effects are already emerging in the water from mining exploration in the area, including increased conductivity, acidity, and toxic elements. The environment is also affected by deforestation, landslides, and loss of biodiversity. In addition to these effects, Junín and other communities that subsist on the land, raising cattle, practicing fair-trade coffee production, and eco-tourism would be displaced.
The small campesino community of Junín has been fighting mining for over 20 years.
In the 1990s, Japanese company Bishi Metals began exploration for copper. Community organizers, supported by the national environmental organization Acción Ecológica and the local environmental organization Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN), mounted a resistance and ejected Bishi Metals. However, in the mid-2000s, Canadian company Ascendent Copper arrived. Confronted with community resistance that even challenged Ascendant’s hired paramilitary squad, the company left the region by the end of 2008. The documentary Under Rich Earth (2008) covers this incident and is available on YouTube.
The situation in Intag worsened after the 2008 election of president Rafael Correa, who promoted ‘post-neoliberal’ policies. Correa criticized exploitation by multinational corporations and introduced a new model of extraction led by the Ecuadorian state. Yet state control over extraction has not been better for all Ecuadorians as the state has criminalized anyone who protests extraction. The government also closed some environmental organizations and made it hard for organizations to get international funding.
Under Correa, the state-owned mining company of ENAMI partnered with CODLECO of Chile to explore minerals in Intag. In 2014, they forced entry with national police into Junín and their Community Ecological Reserve. While the community has rights to the surface of the land, the state has rights to the subsurface minerals. ENAMI kept a police presence in the area and even jailed the former president of Junín, Javier Ramírez, for 10 months under dubious charges. This presence led to a breakdown of community and people kept more to themselves. Divisions among families and friends had already existed for a while but worsened during this period of surveillance.
During our time in Junín, Professor Billo and I found that there were some changes in the social environment. ENAMI and CODELCO have solidified their presence over the past four years, employing local residents directly and indirectly. Other locals held to their values and made their living through more sustainable options of eco-tourism and fair-trade coffee. Miners and anti-miners were interacting again after previously ignoring each other, but the controversial topic of mining was off limits. However, life had already been permanently impacted by the past police presence and anti-mining residents in Junín still keep to themselves and their houses as Junín has become a company town for ENAMI.
In talking to community organizers, we found that the fight continues and protest still exists, but it’s not as strong or organized as it used to be. As one organizer shared, rather than being a step ahead of the company like before, they are a step behind. They don’t have the same financial resources as before and instead pay out of pocket to go to meetings and protests. Many community organizers are women, presenting a double or triple burden for them as they balance employment, household chores, and caring for children together with resistance efforts.
Yet there is still hope. Two other major mining projects in southern Ecuador have been temporarily halted for concerns related to water contamination and other environmental and social impacts. Although the current president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, is from the same political party as Correa, Moreno has not taken a strong stance on state mining and these recent halts suggest a possibility to slow or stop extractivism. In December, ENAMI’s Environmental Impact Statement will expire, concluding a 4-year exploration phase, but the company has petitioned the government to extend this phase. If not granted, the company would enter a 4-year analysis phase which would mean the company would employ fewer local residents. Additionally, in February there will be local elections, and organizers hope to see the success of some anti-mining candidates giving the resistance a stronger voice in the government.
Community organizers asked us to spread the word of their situation and fight so that more people know what is happening in Intag. Please share what you have just learned with others! If you’re looking for more information or ways to help, DECOIN continues to engage in anti-mining resistance efforts with residents of the region.
There will be an ICA to Ecuador in Summer 2019, which will spend a few days in Junín and the cloud forest region of Intag to learn more about organized resistance to mining and the sustainable alternatives some community members pursue. If you’re interested in learning more, the Info Session for Ecuador ICA is on Friday, October 19th, 3-4 p.m. in JR 251.
BY KATE LONGABAUGH
As I sat in Goucher’s study abroad office as a freshman in college listening to the tour guides explain the various programs offered, I was completely enthralled by the large map that hung on the wall opposite me. It had the locations of the programs they offered pinpointed, but my eyes, and heart, could only focus on one destination — Athens, Greece. It was somewhere I could only dream of going to as a child and then, as a young adult, a place that I aspired to make it to.
Fast forward to a year later and I still can’t believe I actually made it. Not only did I make it, but I lived in Athens for four whole months. A year ago today, I was in my apartment at 5 Ipitou Street, probably headed to get a gyro from Kostas with my friends Taylor and Izzy or walking to Bazaar for groceries.
Now, when I think of my time abroad, it’s difficult to focus on anything but the fun memories and good times. Like when I finally said “ευχαριστώ” aloud in public and how the smile on the waiter’s face was indescribably exhilarating; how I met some of the most amazing people that I quickly grew to love and would probably not have otherwise crossed paths with; how I swam in some of the clearest blue water and traveled to some of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen; how my friend Lauren and I both got tattoos in Greek on a random Wednesday afternoon; or how I volunteered at a sea turtle rescue center and actually got to help real sea turtles. These are the moments I think about.
What’s easy to forget about are the tough times. The times I felt lonely and overwhelmed. How when I arrived, I spent most of the first few days in my room wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. How when I talked to family and friends I felt selfish, so I lied and said that everything was great and that things were amazing when I was actually confused and I didn’t know how I felt just yet. How when I walked outside, I noticed the narrow streets full of people; I heard a language that was completely unfamiliar with sounds I’d never heard before; I saw signs that I just couldn’t read with letters and symbols I’d never seen before; I felt the frustration of not being able to communicate and understand what people were saying; and at the time I didn’t quite know anyone well enough to ask if I was the only one who felt like this. As the semester went on, there were times when I was overloaded with work, but my friends were complaining that they didn’t have enough. I heard from so many people time and time again that this was going to be an amazing experience, the experience of a lifetime — yet sometimes I couldn’t help but feel so alone and isolated.
To answer the ever pressing question “was Greece what I expected?” I would have to say no. In all honesty, it just wasn’t. I had been dreaming of going to Greece for so long that I think it was easy to build up all of these expectations of what it would be like. There were just so many things that I wasn’t prepared for.
Now, looking back, I realize that my reality was different than all of the expectations I had; the culture shock I had was real and my feelings were valid. No matter what I felt or how I processed it, I know now that just because my experience wasn’t always amazing every single day — that’s okay. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the beauty of study abroad, but I think it’s also important to realize that at times it can be tough. I think that’s part of the whole experience; there isn’t a way to be one-hundred percent ready for living in a foreign country. It’s learning to not only accept but overcome those struggles that makes studying abroad such a valuable learning experience.
Photo credits: Kalee LaPointe
Top of Webster University Athens Campus
At 9:30 am on August 25, the first Saturday within the Fall 2018 semester, a handful of returning students sit on the old couches of Buchner Hall. Fruit, cereal, apple juice, and tea are offered on a nearby counter for breakfast. There’s some slow chatter as others trickle in from their dorms, until our group is at around 7 people, not including the leaders of the retreat, Alum Meg John (’18) and Senior Kate Longabaugh (‘19). Meg eases the group into the first activity, a deep discussion on our experiences abroad. All of these students have gathered for one particular reason, including myself—we are all students who have recently returned from study abroad.
The Study Abroad Retreat, started last year by Alums Anna Young (‘18) and Meg John (‘18), was created as a space for students returning from study abroad to reflect on their experiences. Additionally, the retreat provides some guidance navigating the transition back into life at Goucher. Reflection primarily took place through activities like the one introduced above. Small, open-ended questions acted as prompts throughout, and each person built off of the prompt and shared experiences that are often not discussed or addressed when asked the infamous question, “so how was study abroad?” The retreat itself actively pushes against this question. As many noted during this discussion, it’s hard to answer such a broad question about such a long and complex time in one’s life. Small group discussions, which addressed both the good, the bad, and the neutral, were supportive and empathetic in a way that echoed throughout other aspects of the retreat. Peer listeners were also invited for an hour to allow those who had studied abroad to have a strictly confidential space about potential problems they experienced either abroad or upon returning to Goucher.
Outside of group discussion, people were given the opportunity to reflect on and explore their study abroad experience through small art projects and writing. A travel writing workshop led by Professor Lana Oweidat, Director of the Writing Center and professor of writing, prompted students to reflect critically on their time abroad, taking into account the ethical dilemma of writing about a culture that is not your own.
After Professor Oweidat addressed how to write about one’s experience, a “Resource Hour” was held at the end of the retreat to provide information about various clubs and offices on campus that can help students in their transition. Representatives from The Quindecim, Storymapping, Re:Home, and Title IX were present to share the services and opportunities they can offer to students returning from study abroad. The Quindecim and Storymapping provide a space for students to actively share their experience. Students can share their study abroad narratives with the Q through writing and images. Storymapping Club, run by Clara Colton Symmes and advised by Professor Evan Daley, provides students the opportunity to share their narrative using maps, images, videos, and writing online. Storymapping Club is in the process of creating a map connecting various Goucher study abroad stories titled “Gophers Around the World: Megamap.” Kalee LaPointe of Re:Home informed students about the revitalized club, which primarily acts as a long-term support group for students to openly talk about and reflect on their experiences abroad.
While reflection on one’s own study abroad experience is a huge part of the retreat, it also informs returning students about changes on campus. Lindsey Johnson from the Community Based Learning Center and Aisha Rivers of the Office of Student Engagement spoke with students for an hour regarding the many changes to Goucher since the spring semester. Title IX in particular shared information on their upcoming forum regarding abroad and sexual assault, communicating to those at the retreat that the forum would be student led, confidential, and open to all.
The student run event spanned from Friday Night to Late Saturday Afternoon, and was funded through OIS. Those who attended the retreat reflected positively on the experience, especially given that the nature of this event was student run and student focused. This allowed for more freedom of expression for many of them, including providing some students with the ability to discuss the more negative aspects of their programs. This included both racism and sexism that they experienced in their host countries, which they were unprepared for. The calm flexibility of the program added to its success, particularly because returning students were better able to communicate and process through their study abroad experience as whole, but not entirely all at once.
If you are interested in sharing your study abroad story with others, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join Story-mapping Club. Story-mapping meets Mondays from 2pm-4pm near the laptop kiosk in the Ath.
If you are looking for support as you transition back from study abroad, reach out to ACE, the Counseling Center, Peer Listeners, or Re:Home.
If you are simply looking to reflect on, discuss, or share your study abroad experience, reach out to Peer Listeners or Re:Home. Re:Home meets on Tuesdays from 7pm-8pm in the Chapel Undercroft.