Scott Young, Staff Reporter
For many Jacksonville State University students, studying abroad provides the unique opportunity to personally experience a vast world filled with a variety of different cultures. As students travel the world, they’re immersed into an environment they’ve never been before—an uncharted territory. JSU’s Study Abroad Program prepares students for a globalized society.
On Wednesday afternoon, JSU Study Abroad Students attended a Welcome Back Reception for those that studied abroad this past year, where many shared their experiences and taught attendees about the country they visited. Dr. Rebecca Turner, the Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, began by posing a question to the participants.
“How many of you can truly say that your study abroad experience changed you in ways that nothing else could have?” Dr. Turner asked. “That’s how I see these kinds of experiences for students and for faculty. They’re transformational, and they’re transformational in ways that nothing else compares.”
Dr. Turner went on to recognize the improvement of the JSU’s Study Abroad Program, stating that it has improved because they’ve created “an infrastructure that supports faculty as they develop these plans to study abroad.” Following this brief introduction by Dr. Turner, and then a recognition of the Study Abroad Committee, students were given fifteen minutes apiece to overview their visit to a foreign country and what they gathered from that experience.
“We went on a river boat ride the first day there and saw all kinds of animals and plants…there were also monkeys everywhere,” said Laci Gurganus, who visited Costa Rica alongside Shelby Harris. “You could go right out on the balcony of your hotel and listen to the rainforest.” Laci and Shelby paint a picture of a country very concentrated on its ecosystem, where tourism plays an important role in the economy of Costa Rica.
Cheyenne Strickland and Ben May spoke of their visit to Italy, where they say both the modern and ancient architecture blended together beautifully to capture the history of Italy. “It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and have them lecture at you about this, but when you’re actually standing in front of the building and they’re talking to you about it, it’s something incredible,” said Strickland. “Being in Rome, there’s so many churches and Court events that have happened there,” said May. Both mentioned that their interest in history lead them to their decision to visit Italy.
Some students also visited England, a country that is rich with literary history to interest Drama or English majors like Chloe Barnes and Rebecca Weaver. “London is such a huge theater scene and since that’s what I want to do as a career, it was really interesting to see where theater started” said Barnes, a Drama major. From the Shakespeare’s Globe to seeing plays in theater, this trip meant a lot to the students who aspire to build their careers in theater or writing. “It’s a great opportunity to find out who you are, who you want to be as a student.” Said Weaver, an English major.
The last presentation came from Mariana Alvarez, a biology major who visited Colombia. “You can look at things on the Internet, but nothing compares to being able to experience it in person,” Alvarez said. During the trip, students snorkeled on the coast of Santa Marta and participated in dance classes which Alvarez said gave her the ability to experience what the childhood of her dad, who grew up in Colombia, might have been like.
The overarching theme of the Study Abroad program that each student expressed during their presentation was that the Study Abroad experience was worth every penny and helped them to grow as a person. Reading words on paper or viewing images in a textbook do not compare to visiting these countries first-hand, and every student that participated said they gained memories that they will remember for years to come.