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When Friends are Abroad

“It was super easy to feel inadequate and like I wasn’t having the ‘correct’ Goucher experience because I wasn’t going abroad for a semester.”

Studying abroad, on either and ICA or a semester, is a quintessential part of the Goucher experience, but what happens when all your friends are studying abroad for a semester and you’re not? This happened to me this semester, and is going to be even more apparent next semester as well. While it’s been a difficult experience, I’ve definitely learned a lot from it and I wanted to share some of my insight.
My freshman year, one thing that I loved about Goucher was being able to walk down Van Meter and overhear conversations such as, “Professors were just so different in Paris” or “I miss the food from Seville so much!”. There was so much casual name dropping of people’s amazing experiences, I was so impressed and jealous of everyone. When it came time for me to decide where I was going abroad, I so badly wanted to go abroad for an entire semester, however it soon became clear this wasn’t possible. It became obvious that with the schedule of my two majors that I wasn’t going to be able to both go abroad for a semester and graduate in four years. Even though I was disappointed, I was still happy and excited for the different ICA programs that I could possibly go on. However, it turned out that most of my friends were all going abroad my junior year, leading to me to feel nervous about what Goucher would be like without them.
The first thing I struggled with was feeling jealous. It was super easy to feel inadequate and like I wasn’t having the ‘correct’ Goucher experience because I wasn’t going abroad for a semester. This was especially hard when my friends would tell me about how beautiful Scotland was or how great the beer in Brussels is. I genuinely wanted to hear about their experiences, but also struggled with feeling jealous. I’ve found that while it’s important to listen to my friends and hear about their lives, it’s also necessary to take space away from it as well.
My daily routine has also been disrupted. I’m used to getting coffee with the people I usually have class with around midday, but those people aren’t here this semester. I felt lost at the beginning of the semester because I found myself wanting to get lunch, but not knowing who to text; my go-to people were all eating dinner halfway around the world. This took some getting used to, and I definitely had a few weeks of feeling kind of lonely. However, it also pushed me to reach out to some new people who I had wanted to get closer with.
While it did feel lonely at first, I got to make some incredible new friends. I now feel a lot more like Goucher is my home and that I have a stronger connection to this community, after I was pushed to expand outside my little bubble. I also got to change up my normal Goucher routine and see what a change of pace was like. I’ve been seeing more of Baltimore and trying new things that I would never have had the chance to do if I hadn’t expanded who I was hanging out with.
Another very important part of this for me was getting really excited about the ICA’s Goucher has to offer. We have some amazing programs, with incredible and passionate professors running them! An ICA is very different than a semester for sure, but it’s equally as valuable and enriching as one.
Being at Goucher while your friends are abroad is hard. It’s a big adjustment especially if you have settled into a friend group and a pretty consistent routine. But change is good, and shaking our routines and experiences, while difficult at first, is ultimately positive.

Tasmania: Sunsets, Stars, and Sand

Jess makes a kangaroo friend. Photo Credit: Jessica Solomon

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imaged touching the stars or seeing the most vibrant pink sunset reflected against the sea. Nor did I imagine participating in a failed sunset-chasing trip up an unmarked hillside, only to reverse in a stick-shift car with barely enough room to not fall off.
When looking at a map, Tasmania appears to be the size of a penny. In reality, to get from Bay of Fires on the East Coast to Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast, it takes seven hours. After weeks of planning, meetings, booking Airbnb’s and hostels, rental cars (one stick-shift and one automatic), adding people to the group, and route mapping, the eight of us were finally ready to go.
We set off from Melbourne, with dreams of petting kangaroos, seeing the “Tassie Devil”, and having the best fall break ever. I was astonished that the flight from Melbourne to Launceston was only 45 minutes. It’s shocking considering it takes an hour and 15 minutes on the tram to get from La Trobe University Melbourne to Flinders Street Station, which is in the heart of Melbourne. Upon arriving to Launceston, which is one of the smallest airports I have ever seen, we were greeted by three 25-year-olds, who were picking up the cars and making sure we had the proper insurance.
In seven days, we stayed in four different towns, drove through countless others, spent hours at beaches (including a “hotel guest only” beach), hiked, saw some friends from Melbourne, became friends with a person from Arkansas, critiqued wine, made family dinners, and saw incredible sunrises, sunsets, and stars. Those seven days were packed full of adventure and amazing memories. Every morning, I was overwhelmed and excited for what was to come. Each moment posed a different question: what would the drive look like today? Who will get the nicest room in the Airbnb? Will the car stall out? Will we see a “Tassie Devil,” wombat, or kangaroo? What will the stars look like tonight?
On our first night in Bay of Fires, we could hear the Tasman Sea roaring from our backyard. But we couldn’t find the gate! So we all walked down the street, only to be amazed at the zero-light-pollution town. We took flashlights and finally came upon a small patch of sand and the vast sea. To sit and see the stars so clearly, as if you could reach out and truly touch them, was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I had never just spent time sitting and staring at the midnight sky. Or getting up before dawn to literally chase the sunrise and see the day truly come alive. Or pet kangaroos, or stop at the tiniest grocery stores or drive with minimal directions. The craziest experience was being lost in a small town at midnight, with only one phone working, no hostel phone number, two street lamps, and the stars shining bright. Though we knew roughly where we were going and that we always needed to make it to the Airbnb or hostel on time, we had the freedom to drive. This is a freedom I don’t know if I will ever experience again. There were no worries; just the open road, friends, and an almost straight-shot to our next destination. Tasmania will always have a special place in my heart and I am thankful that we didn’t hit any “Tassie Devils”, and that the kangaroos didn’t fight us.

T-A-S-S-I-E Photo Credit: Jessica Solomon

10 Places You Must Visit While Abroad


**These are in no particular order**

Argyll National Forest Park in Scotland Photo Credit: Alexis Regopoulos

1. Argyll National Forest Park (Scotland)
Through her program, Alexis Regopoulos, ’18, was able to take a guided hike through the Argyll National Forest Park in Scotland. She said, “From the parking lot, it just looks like any old forest. This was a bit disappointing since it was pouring rain and I was about to hike several miles. However, once you get hiking, you realize how truly beautiful this area is. Everything was covered in a dense layer of fog, giving it an eerie feel.” As she reminisced about her three-four hour long hike through the mystical forest, she mentioned that “one particular spot on the hike, known as Puck’s Glen, is a small trail that followed small waterfalls through a narrow valley where everything was covered in vibrant green moss.”
2. Bergen (Norway)
Visit Norway’s second largest city and step into a different realm and time period. The “Hanseatic Wharf” is a remnant of what once was, as the wharf has been a staple of trade since the 14th century. Or explore one of the seven mountains that surround the city via the famous Flåm railway, biking down to Flåm, or the fjord safari to Gudvangen, where you’ll feel like you’re stepping back to a time where Vikings roamed the mountains. Grab your camera and get lost in Bergen’s fjords!
3. Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Travel to the place where there are just as many bikes as people! Over the last couple of years, Amsterdam has turned into a tourist hotspot. From the Anne Frank House, to the Van Gogh Museum, to the Heineken experience, Amsterdam has something for everyone. Just remember, if you venture into the Red Light District, be careful that you don’t take pictures of the ladies in the window, or you will get in trouble!
4. Helsingør (Denmark)
While Copenhagen is an amazing city, the place you want to go visit in Denmark is Helsingør. While you may not recognize the Danish name, you might be able to recognize the English translation: Elsinore. Still haven’t gotten it? This city is where Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is set. While the city is now modern, Kronborg Castle still stands. For the English literature enthusiast or Shakespeare junkie, this city is the perfect place to go. The Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Hamlet was even filmed at the castle. The city is a charming, cozy place with cobblestone streets and friendly people. Overall, if you are looking for a place that isn’t filled with tourists, but is still accessible, go and explore Helsingør–you’ll thank me later.
5. Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau (Germany)
If you’re a Disney fan, then you need to come here! This castle appeared in movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Great Escape, and provided the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. The castle is nestled on a hill above a cute little village that looks like something out of a fairytale. So buy your ticket and feel like a Disney princess for a little bit before chowing down on a bratwurst.
6. Cliffs of Moher, County Clare (Ireland)

Want to feel like you’re on the edge of the world? Head to County Clare, Ireland. These cliffs are a popular location in cinema. They served as “The Cliffs of Insanity” in The Princess Bride (1987), and were also seen in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009). The Cliffs of Moher is a place where you will encounter nature in its purest form. You’ll feel invincible against the ocean and be one with the land.

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland. Photo Credit:

7. Edinburgh (Scotland)
Scotland makes its second appearance on this list and for good reason. Edinburgh is filled with magic. From The Elephant House, a tea and coffee house where J.K. Rowling created the wizarding world of Harry Potter, to Arthur’s Seat, a possible location of Camelot, Edinburgh will steal your heart. If you are interested in something a little spooky, head to Mary King’s Close, an area swathed in myths, urban legends, and tales of hauntings. There is something to do every hour in Edinburgh!
8. Santorini (Greece)
We’ve all seen the pictures: stark white buildings with bright blue tops, azure waters sparkling in the sunlight, shades of orange glowing against the old unique buildings as the sun sets. Santorini is a place of wonderment. Find peace and tranquility as you walk on the black sand beaches or become like the Greek god Bacchus and partake in a wine tour, in which you will literally be able to taste the experience.
9. Kiruna (Sweden)

Kiruna, Sweden. Photo Credit: Ashley Aylward

While abroad, Ashley Aylward, ’18, was given the opportunity to take part in an once-in-a-lifetime experience. As she found herself surrounded by miles and miles of white snow, all she could think was that “it was a magical feeling like you had stepped into a story book.” To Ashley, the experience was like Freud’s “oceanic feeling,” where she learned and came to appreciate the lifestyle and culture of the Samis and Northern Swedes. “It was just an unbelievable trip. I would love to take my friends and family to show them the beauty” of the Arctic Circle.
10 . A Tie between Florence, Rome, and Verona (Italy)
Italy is a country filled with culture. Each city has been an integral location in history: Florence saw the start of the Renaissance, Rome saw the power of the Roman Empire, and Verona inspired one of the most well-known tragedies ever written. With that in mind, it’s nearly impossible to just choose just one city to visit. So why not visit all three? See the work of Michelangelo and da Vinci, throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain (maybe a Paolo will appear when you open your eyes), and go to the Arena di Verona — a first century Roman amphitheater.
No matter where you go, you will make memories that will last forever! So buy that plane ticket, get that passport stamp, and experience a culture unlike your own.

A Study Abroad Experience In-Waiting

“I imagine many of us come to Goucher because of the study abroad requirement.” Photo courtesy of Google Images.

I imagine many of us come to Goucher because of the study abroad requirement. At least, that was the case for me. My senior year of high school was a period of uncertainty– it involved quite a bit of waiting and wondering what the future held. Yet the one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to learn more about the world by studying abroad. Today, I find myself in yet another period of uncertainty, but this time, curiously enough, the variable is the study abroad experience itself.
Before coming to Goucher, I envisioned study abroad as a mystical experience where every day would feel like a wonderful dream. I would forge ties with people who spoke a completely different language, learn about a completely different country like the back of my hand, and come back home with lots of pictures and warm and fuzzy memories. Now I find myself only a few months away from beginning my program in Seville, Spain, with a changed vision. The feeling of enchantment is still there, but I am much more apprehensive of the challenges I will likely face.
I had assumed that when the time came that I received the study abroad acceptance letter I would feel prepared. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The truth is, I feel far from prepared. While I manage to express my ideas in Spanish more or less coherently in class, I think back to times when I have interacted with native speakers and have lost my language ability completely. This may partially be due to the fact that, as a bilingual constantly struggling to maintain my French accent, I am painfully aware of differences in language fluency. I worry that when I travel to Spain and meet my host family I will choke up. I question whether all of the vocabulary packed away in my mind will decide to reveal itself in the moments I need it most. Say it does, will I have the energy to recognize and use it 24/7?
I had also assumed that having grown up in both France and the US I would feel prepared for the cultural immersion of studying abroad. In my ignorance, I had thought to myself, Since Spain and France are both European countries, won’t it kind of be the same? After learning more about Spanish culture through my classes, through research, and by quizzing Goucher alumnae of the program, I realized that there would actually be multiple adjustments in my lifestyle, French or not. For one, while we do eat late lunches in France, they apparently are not nearly as large as the almuerzos of Spain. Second, the french eat late dinners and can go to bed quite late by American standards, but I may be expected to stay out till five in the morning in Sevilla and catch up on some z’s during the siestas.
Granted, these are all anxieties that may be founded on generalizations, and some cultural adjustments may end up becoming blessings. For example, I love to sleep (what college student doesn’t?), so I may come to appreciate afternoon naps. Apprehensions aside, I am anticipating an enjoyable study abroad experience overall. I am looking forward to engaging in interesting classes and with different people. I’m eager to explore the beautiful, historical city of Sevilla. I’m excited to learn whole new perspectives; I’m particularly curious to know what Spaniards think of American politics. As a foodie, I’m very excited to taste authentic tapas, cola de toro, and torrija.
My expectation, then, is not that my semester in Spain will be unpleasantly difficult, but rather that it may be more challenging than what I had originally thought. While new challenges can be intimidating, I am choosing to embrace this one because ultimately, I believe it will be worth it. The road ahead may be uncertain, but when I return I will have an even better story to tell – this I can be sure of!

The Friends You Meet Abroad and Take Back Home


One of the most integral parts of being abroad, if not the most important, are the friendships you make in your host country. A perk of being abroad for a semester are the months spent solidifying friendships and making a new family away from your family back home, in addition to your “Goucher Family.” The memories you make while abroad are ones not easily forgotten; the little things stick with you for the rest of your life, although you may not initially realize it.

L to R: Carmela, Danielle, and Julieta (kneeling)
Photo Credit : Danielle Brundage

When I was abroad in Denmark, I connected with two girls to the point to which I feel like they are family. One is my now ex-roommate, Carmela Fleri (a senior at Loyola University Maryland). The other is a senior at American University named Julieta Barbiero who lived on the floor above me and Carmela. I recently asked the two of them what their favorite memory was from the times we spent together. It was interesting because the first thing that popped into their heads was the same type of memory that popped into mine. Each are mini “traditions” that we made and miss.
Carmela recalled that every  “Saturday morning (sometimes afternoons depending on how the night before went) we would make scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee.” While this seems like the traditional thing that people do in the morning, Carmela and I didn’t realize that the coffee we spent so long preparing in the traditional coffee maker was instant coffee: we just had to add it to hot water. For Carmela this was her “favorite part of the week because we would be able to catch up on each others lives and it would just be the two of us.” It was a reality check from the busy world of living in a different country. It was in those mornings that Carmela and I would sit back and realize that we were living and learning in Denmark. We were thousands of miles away from our “normal,” but we made Denmark and those mornings our normal.
Like Carmela, Julieta and I had our own tradition. We found this little cozy bar called Amager Ølhus about 5 minutes walking distance from our apartment complex. The first night we went there, the bartender/owner talked to us the entire time. In those three hours we spent, sipping different stouts (none from Denmark), we learned so much about Denmark that we couldn’t learn in a classroom. He told us where to go for brunch if we wanted authentic Danish cuisine, told us little facts about Copenhagen, and made us feel like we weren’t foreigners. He even gave us our beers free of charge that night. This became our place; we told no one about it because we felt a special connection with the establishment and those that worked there. However, during our last week in Copenhagen, we went there with Carmela. The bartender was sad that he wouldn’t be able to see us again, so he gave us a free drink and a gift. One of the quirky aspects of this bar was that tourists and other people would give a rubber duck to the bartender. He told us that when he first bought the place, he decorated the bathroom with rubber ducks and people would steal them, so he just made rubber ducks with “This was stolen from Amager Ølhus.” Keeping with the tradition, Julieta and I each gifted him with a rubber duck. I’m not going to lie, we made him cry and it was a very sweet moment. So, as a gift to us, he gave us a rubber duck so that we would always remember the conversations and fun we had at his bar.
The people you meet abroad become your people. You all are experiencing something that no one else can. So whether it is making breakfast or going to a special bar or just hanging out, the memories you make with the friends you make while abroad will stick with you forever. Though it has been hard making plans to see my friends from abroad, I am always thinking of our little traditions and how they impacted my life in Denmark for the better. This article is dedicated to Carmela and Juliet, as a thank you for being my friends and for being my people.

Never Forget Because It Never Left: Antisemitism Abroad


With  the events that happened in Charlottesville in August, the question on the rising antisemitism in America has been on the minds of most Jewish citizens. With white supremacists screaming “The Jews will not replace us,” as well as other antisemitic phrases,  there is an overall feeling that is starting to be reflective of Nazi Germany. To our neighbors across the ocean, many people view antisemitism as something of the past. However, antisemitism did not start or end in World War II.
The history of antisemitism in Europe dates back hundreds of years. From the Black Plague being blamed on the Jewish population, to Martin Luther’s “On the Jews and Their Lies,” to modern day antisemitism conducted by neo-Nazi groups around the world, the hatred of the Jewish population is still present. Adding to this the existence of Israel and Zionism, which is the self-determination of the Jewish people in the Jewish homeland, antisemitism in the world continues to spread fear into the Jewish community.
While in Europe, the antisemitism I faced wasn’t someone yelling antisemitic slurs or other obscenities. No, it wasn’t seemingly personal, but any type of antisemitism is automatically made personal for any Jewish person. I didn’t see or face any antisemitism during my time in Denmark. This is mainly to Denmark’s fight against the extermination of the Jewish Dane community during Nazi occupation. The Danish resistance movement, along with assistance from Danish citizens not a part of the movement, evacuated 7,220 of the 7,800 population and over 99% of the Jewish Danes survived the Holocaust. I felt safe in Denmark, even though there was only one synagogue in Copenhagen.
Germany, however, was a different story. I was able to go to Hamburg, Germany with one of my friends for two days and within the 48 hours of being there, I saw signs promoting neo-Nazi groups. Germany has tough laws against Nazi symbolism. These laws prohibit distributing Nazi paraphernalia and having them in public. This includes flags, insignias, uniforms, and slogans.
I saw the signs for only a split second on the metro, but it was enough for me to feel unsafe. It was jarring for me to see Nazi paraphernalia, to be faced with symbols of those who would want me dead. If I was able to see it for a split second, how many thousands of people had seen it? How many people had seen it and agreed with its meaning?
I was taught from a young age to “never forget” the atrocities of the Holocaust and I never have. I can’t think of one Jewish person that has forgotten the stories we have been told. We learn about the basic facts of the Holocaust in public schools, yet we aren’t taught the ever-lasting impact it had on the future generations of the Jewish community.
The amount of times I have been told to “get over” the Holocaust because it didn’t happen to me personally is too much. The horrors of the Holocaust are forever etched in my DNA and will exist in the DNA and lives of the generations after me. Antisemitism isn’t gone; it didn’t start with the Holocaust, and the Allied powers freeing the Jewish people from concentration camps did not end antisemitism. I face it everyday; I fear it every time I step outside my dorm room. Going to Germany taught me a morbid, but important lesson; no matter where I go, someone will think I am inferior because I am Jewish. But as the generations above me, I will rise above these people and survive, as survival is the story of the Jews.

Welcome Back! Welcome Home?

Goucher’s study abroad requirement means that students are returning to Goucher after having a myriad of experiences that stimulate a variety of needs. Photo Credit:

It was an uncharacteristically warm January night when I returned to Goucher after five months of living and traveling abroad. The night had a surreal clarity to it; the buildings stood out sharply in the darkness. My Uber ride from the airport landed me in front of the Alumnae/i House, from which I slowly made my way to Van Meter, lugging my suitcase along the familiar brick pathway. The Athenaeum beamed in its artificial brilliance; it was familiar, yet I stared for a halting minute, convinced I had never seen the building before. I stopped before the end of Mary Fisher, near the door to Dulaney. The academic quad glittered in the glow of the tall sidewalk lamps. It was quiet, as a Goucher night is so often quiet – when you can’t be sure if there’s anyone really on campus at all.
A distant figure began to approach, gliding down Van Meter from Stimson. The figure moved with confidence, a majestic flight I knew so well. Meg John. My roommate emerged from the shadowy distance, embracing me in a hug of world-saving capacity after our nine months apart. With the warmth of her smile and glowing welcome, the campus began to regain its feeling of home.
Goucher’s emphasis on study abroad doesn’t just mean that students have the chance to spend three weeks or a semester living and studying in another country. It also means that these students are returning to Goucher after having a myriad of experiences that stimulate a variety of needs. Here we explore some of those needs, and questions that arose in our process of reentry.
“It wasn’t fully 360 to me,” John Nobriga ‘19 wrote in an email response to our inquiry of his return experience. He wondered what it would be like if we “discuss[ed] how going abroad works into our education rather than going abroad and then ending it all with nothing back at school.”
One of the things I needed most when being back at Goucher after study abroad was time. Through this need of time, I realized how study abroad has been a part of my experience at Goucher. Though I can distinguish my time abroad and my time at Goucher, there is a certain level of connection that exists to bind the two in their collective reality of my undergraduate experience.
How do we return from an experience “abroad”? How do we share it? Who do we become when we return? And what do we need? “Returning to Goucher,” Rachel Grosso ‘18, shared, “I really needed a bicycle and a place like home to be cozy and chat with other people. Danes have a cultural value called ‘hygge’, which is basically coziness and comfortability. Often found by cuddling up, being with good friends, enjoying non-controversial conversation, maybe a warm drink, and some fuzzy socks. I needed that when I returned here.” These responses answer the question of how we incorporate our experiences back into our time at Goucher. We need something we felt was lost on that plane ride home.
Needing time was something I recognized mostly in hindsight. I needed time to process my experiences abroad, and in returning to Goucher I needed time to process what it meant to be back in a familiar and comfortable place. Moreover, I needed someone to tell me that it was okay where I was – it was okay for me to feel angst about Goucher, it was okay to want to talk about changes to the system of study abroad at Goucher, it was okay to want to sit alone and think and feel whatever arrived in those moments. Reentry into Goucher’s bubble was allowed to be bumpy and messy and bittersweet. But at the same time it was okay for returning to feel normal, uneventful. As Madeline St. John ‘18 said, “I was also kind of in the space of I’m just ready to be back at Goucher and not really thinking about abroad.” Some days that’s exactly what I wanted too.
Though we students have many gripes when it comes to the study abroad program at Goucher, there is a unique and quite honestly amazing quality to the opportunities we receive. I’ve heard many fellow students notice a distinction in their experience as a Goucher individual studying abroad. They weren’t aware of the nuances of the Goucher identity until being abroad with non-Goucher American students who perhaps handle the privilege of study abroad with a different awareness. Is this a part of a Goucher identity? What connections do Goucher students share when abroad? What do they not share? As Rachel Grosso puts it, upon her return she needed “a place to talk about more serious subjects, like my privilege and how Goucher students study abroad differently than Greek life kids do…”
Madeline St. John continues, “When you leave a place, that’s when you realize you’re from a place. So leaving the U.S. and going to Argentina is when I was labeled an American and looked at that identity.”
Many of us have returned to Goucher from study abroad experiences. Maybe we’ve changed, maybe Goucher has changed, or maybe nothing has changed and we’re back in the swing of things before we know it. That night I returned to Goucher’s campus for the first time, my roommate and I made our way into Dulaney, up to the third floor double that was to be our room for the rest of the semester. Both of us back at Goucher from semesters abroad, we spent that spring semester challenging each other with questions of what it meant to be gone, and what it meant now to be back. Her presence made my reflection process possible in ways I didn’t know it could be.
There are still questions, there are still reflections, and I continue to learn.


The Time I Turned Into A Russian Grand Duchess

The vodka wasn’t the only interesting part of St. Petersburg. The Winter Palace in St.Petersburg. Photo Credit: Danielle Brundage

When you were little, what was your favorite movie?
It’s hard to look back on your childhood favorites from so many years ago. But I will always remember my favorite movie growing up (and not just because I watch it three times a year). It’s not because the heroine isn’t like the typical cartoon princess. She doesn’t even know she’s a princess…well in her case, Grand Duchess.
Have you guessed who it is yet? No?
I’ll give you some more hints. She has a really cute dog and almost jumps off a steamboat because of a dream cast on her by an evil sorcerer with the help of green demons. Ding ding ding! We have a winner! It’s Anastasia!
I had the pleasure of going to St. Petersburg for a week as a part of my study abroad program. You could say, for a week I was able to embody my favorite childhood heroine. And yes, I was able to find myself a Dimitri during my time there (but that’s a story for another day).
St. Petersburg is a strange place; while it is a Russian city, it’s considered more European in nature. However, the city itself is still as Russian as I can imagine. While there are bars in the city, there are additional bars specifically for vodka. The key is going there during the day with some pickles: you take a shot, take a bite of the pickle and suddenly the bitter taste of the vodka and your day is gone. Think I’m kidding? It’s literally how they survive winters there (not everyone, of course). The vodka wasn’t the only interesting part of St. Petersburg. The buildings and life are something you have to witness yourself to believe.
Like Anastasia, I had the opportunity of dancing around the halls of the Winter Palace. The movie did not prepare me for the hundreds of eyes watching me with worry as I did so. The Winter Palace is filled with art and wonderment; there was a whole hallway that was copied directly from the Vatican. My professor joked that, while traditional Russian art was pretty, the copies they did were even better. Another cool thing about the Winter Palace are the cats that live in the palace, protected by the government. Our tour guide said that sometimes, if the litter is big enough, they will sell the “Winter Palace kittens.”
How many palaces can say that they have their own breed of cats?
I wasn’t prepared for St. Petersburg, but that wasn’t a bad thing. If you go into different settings with expectations, they can sometimes be ruined. It was weird for me to actually be in Russia, as it’s where my family was originally from. I am the first one in my family that has been back and it’s weird to think that I could be the only one. St. Petersburg isn’t like any other city I’ve been to; the people, the places, and the culture make the place and make me want to return. Thank you St. Petersburg, for teaching me the proper way to drink vodka, and for allowing me to become Anastasia for a week.

Ice Skating On The Sea

How many people can say that they’ve ice-skated on the ocean floor? Danielle in Fanø. Photo Credit: Danielle Brundage

When I was a kid, I wanted to do many things: become a dragon-riding princess (I’m coming for you Daenerys), walk on the bottom of the ocean, become a mailbox, etc. These are just the dreams of a child, ones I realized to be impossible as I aged (I have no idea why my four-year-old self wanted to be a mailbox of all things). Never in a million years did I think I would be able to check one of my impossible dreams off of my list; I did the impossible and  walked on the seafloor.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: How is this possible without proper equipment? My answer to that question is simply one word: Fanø.
I was lucky enough to study abroad this past spring semester in Copenhagen, Denmark, through the DIS-Study Abroad in Scandinavia program. The program is a little different than the other study abroad programs Goucher has to offer. For one thing, you choose one “Core Course”, a class specific to your discipline. I took a Core Course that focused on my major, English Literature. The coolest part about the Core Courses is the inclusion of a weeklong study tour to a European destination and “Core Course Week.” The week compromises of a two-day seminar and a three-day study tour.
For my three-day study tour, I had the privilege of travelling to a small Danish island called Fanø. The way of living on the island is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Time seems nonexistent: hours feel like minutes, days feel like hours and everything is so relaxed. My class worked with a famous Danish poet, learned some of the area’s traditional dances and songs, ate rabbit and oysters at a native Fanø woman’s home, and (drum roll please) walked on the ocean floor.
The Wadden Sea, the body of water that surrounds Fanø, experiences an amazing phenomenon. When the time is right and everything lines up, the tide goes back for miles, leaving the ocean floor free to wander about. The one downside to my experience of this amazing phenomenon was that I was completely and utterly sick the whole study tour. There I was, witnessing one of nature’s most intriguing spectacles, all the while feeling like death. However, even with the way I felt, I walked for miles across the ocean floor in my mint green galoshes, picking up seashells here and there, listening to the stories our tour guide was telling us. The beach was filled with pieces of World War II-era bunkers built by the Nazis, as Fanø was part of the Atlantic Wall. As a Jewish woman, it was slightly scary to touch bunkers built to protect people that would want me dead. At the same time it was invigorating to know that I was touching an important part of history.
Denmark is a cold place, and it was winter when we went to Fanø. At times, there would be areas of thin ice on the ground, leading my classmates and I to “ice skate.” How many people can say that they’ve ice-skated on the ocean floor? Sure, I fell a bunch of times, almost re-sprained my ankle, and ended up even sicker than before, but I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world. So thanks Fanø, for showing me a different type of lifestyle, and for letting my inner child experience something amazing.

What is the Role of Study Abroad at Goucher?

What does it mean to label ourselves “Number One in Study Abroad”? Photo Credit: Google Images

Since 2006, Goucher College has required all undergraduate students to study abroad. Last year marks the tenth anniversary for the shift in campus experience, now a significant selling point for the college. But what does it mean to label ourselves “Number One in Study Abroad”? How does that translate to our everyday campus life?
Calla Fuqua (’18) believes, “Study abroad is one of the main reasons people go here. They see it’s required. That sticks out.” There is by no means, a be-all-end-all easy explanation for the role study abroad plays on our campus. More than anything, perhaps there needs to be a larger conversation about why it exists and what that means for each member of the Goucher community. As Fuqua said, it makes us stick out. But what dynamic does that create on campus?
The Goucher undergraduate population is over 1,400 students. Of the population, we interviewed eight students who have different relationships with study abroad – those who have not yet gone, those who are currently abroad, those who have recently returned and are in their first semester back, and those who have been back for a bit longer and are currently in their second + semester back.
A.J. Bhadai (’18) explains, “It’s [study abroad] a major cultural importance for our small community. Everyone is exiting the United States and entering new communities and new cultures and everyone has different interactions and experiences.” If study abroad is a large part of our Goucher identity and, to some extent, a significant part of our personal journey through college, how do we, as a community, want to engage with this part of our self?
Laura Williams (’17) put it nicely by saying, “It [study abroad] served me as a way to take what I had learned at Goucher and either apply it in a different context, or build upon it.” There is an interconnection between time at Goucher before study abroad, the time abroad, and the time returning to Goucher, jumping into the world beyond our undergraduate experience. Jess Solomon (‘18) mentions, “Study abroad was very important to me at Goucher, as I felt it was important to leave ‘the bubble’.”
Solomon raises an incredibly intriguing tension by referencing the “Goucher Bubble”. The bubble implies different realities for different people and generally implies a sense of insulation. What’s insulating about Goucher, in light of the travel each student is required to partake in? Sam Goldberg, a philosophy major and creative writing minor, suggested that the requirement of study abroad brings to light the union of “here” and “there.” In other words, the “there” of different ideas and places is brought very close to the “here” of Goucher. Do our experiences abroad lead to the sensation that Goucher is only one facet of a much larger world of meaning spanning the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual spectrum of possibility? Are we left in limbo of recognizing “here” and “there” but never quite being sure where we are?
Erin Snyder (‘17) also mentioned the Goucher bubble, saying, “It’s hard because people don’t talk about it [study abroad]. I see it as a way to get us out of the Goucher bubble…I love Goucher but you get so immersed in it, in the bubble – it’s [study abroad] a breath of air.”
Study abroad also serves as what Williams calls “a mental vacation”. Andrew Rowland (‘18) also mentioned this idea, saying that many students may look to study abroad as a space for “limited obligation”.
These ideas seem to imply a value of refreshing one’s mindset. Are our mindsets refreshed when we return from abroad? Rowland thinks some people believe it’s supposed to be a life-changing experience, while Solomon mentioned that before going abroad, she heard from upperclassmen “how transformative it was for them”. Do we want to bring to light the change people undergo and the meaning behind “a life changing experience” ?  Midori Fujitani (’17) states, “I think the biggest thing that students get is diverse perspectives by going to countries they’ve never been to.”
Do these changes in perspective come from a change in the pace of life we’re used to, as a shift from our norm? As Williams put it, “Study abroad as a concept has been a role model in the sense it normalizes being different.” Back to the question of the role of study abroad, Emma Minkoff (‘17) reflected that upon returning to Goucher from her time abroad, she now thinks about Goucher differently. Her experience deeply contrasts her Goucher pace of life. But once back, it’s easy to brush over the experience and the transition of returning to Goucher. How many times have we asked, “How was it?”, and left it at that?
Snyder states, “Its [study abroad’s] role is to push you out of your comfort zone when you get comfortable or too comfortable – it pushes you to learn a little more – it gives you a larger sense of responsibility as a person and as a person navigating the world. So you don’t move through the world and not know your impact.” Williams also speaks to this point, saying, “Traveling to a different context and being able to function there and make something of myself inspires me to go out and have the confidence to make something of myself wherever I go.”
If study abroad means to push us out of our comfort zone, then the role it plays is a force both brutal and transformative. But do we have the language to speak about it? It takes a larger conversation to discuss something so personal, so broad, so fundamentally a part of our campus and yet paradoxically distant from the time we spend here. It deserves a larger conversation; we want to be a part of it, and we want you to speak up too.
This article is not to prove a point; this article is to say this is messy to talk about. Let this be a brainstorm, an attempt to weave our voices together. But upon returning to school next semester, we want to invite you to workshopping sessions in order to articulate our goals as students who study abroad.
More information to come but in the meantime: Have questions? Want to talk? Contact me at .


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