“In Love with the World”: Study Abroad in France

51Geneva3

Shea Pitre ’15 at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Before I began my study abroad at L’Université Catholique de Lille, I had never been out of the country and had rarely ventured out of the southern U.S. I’m an International Studies and French double major, so studying in France was a necessity, but the decision to do it for a year was both insanely easy and incredibly frightening. I was worried about all the usual things students worry about before they begin their study abroad. Would I like it? How was I going to handle being so far away from home for so long? Did I know enough French to actually live in France?

Not long after my arrival in France, all of my worries were put to rest. The first few months were not without their fair share of struggles and homesickness, but I quickly fell in love with my surroundings. Being constantly surrounded by the French language and culture was, and still is, absolutely thrilling. I am constantly learning new things in and out of the classroom, not only about the world around me but also about myself.

London

London!

In the classroom, I have been able to attain a higher level of French. I have also been able to gain a different perspective on international relations and what is going on in the world. Most of my classes this year have focused on international political ties and foreign policy from a French and broader European view, and it has truly enriched what I already knew and loved about my International Studies major.

My time abroad so far has been a truly transformative experience. Thanks to Europe’s connectedness, I’ve now been to 24 cities in 13 different countries, and I have learned so much in each place from experiencing it, rather than reading it out of a textbook. Besides finally realizing my childhood dream of going to Paris (which was amazing), one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had during my exchange was visiting the Palace of Nations and the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It was so wonderful to learn its history and be in a place where so many important decisions have been made on the international front.

Lille

Lille, France

Thanks to all of these amazing experiences that I have had and the fact that I have been submersed in a completely different culture for seven months, I am more confident and inspired, and I have fallen in love with the world. However, as amazing as this experience has been, I am ready to return home to see where everything I have learned leads me in life and in the rest of my time at Oglethorpe. I urge every Oglethorpe student to talk to Dr. Collins and take advantage of one of the many amazing study abroad opportunities our school has to offer. You won’t regret it.

Study Abroad Awesomeness

Autumn Wright 4I’ve heard plenty of excuses why students don’t want to study abroad. They don’t want to miss out on a semester. They’re afraid they’ll get behind. Perhaps there’s an internship they want to do, or a concert they want to go see. Maybe they think that it’s too difficult to put all their friends and family behind them and run away for a year.

Let’s get this straight: study abroad is not always the glamorous life depicted on the glossy brochures in front of Dr. Collins‘ office, where a politically-correct diverse range of students stand in front of An Important, Easily-Recognizable Monument and flash their Photoshopped-white teeth at the camera on a perfect spring day.

But sometimes it is.

Autumn Wright 3The Road to Cultivation 128There are moments that feel perfect, those once-in-a-lifetime sparks that imprint themselves on your mind. Standing on a bridge over the Seine on New Year’s Eve at midnight while the Eiffel Tower lights up and fireworks flash over the Parisian skyline. Climbing to the top of some ridiculously tall, ridiculously old cathedral so you can catch a glimpse of the city from above. Lying on the grass with new found friends from all corners of the globe, the taste of the pastry you bought at the nearest boulangerie still on your tongue. And, feeling like the world’s biggest bad ass for navigating London’s winding roads and underground on two hours of sleep.

Autumn Wright 2Study abroad will lead you to places that you never pictured yourself going. For example, even though I’m studying in France at the moment, I’ll be going to England in a fortnight with my job. I have an internship this summer through my school here in France that spans across three different countries, taking me all the way from Amsterdam to Paris. (Which seriously rocks. If I’d stayed in Atlanta, I would probably have some cookie cutter internship that would have involved making copies and using my honed barista skills to brew pots of coffee.)

Autumn WrightSeriously. Study abroad is one of the best experiences of my life. College is one of the only times where you can take a semester or two “off” and just go somewhere and it’s perfectly acceptable. If you try doing the same with your boss in a couple years’ time, I doubt they’d be too thrilled to let you go adventuring across Europe. Study abroad now, or else regret it later.

Autumn Wright, an Oglethorpe University junior majoring in French, is studying abroad and interning in Lille, France.

Study Abroad Offers Transformation

Sophomore Emily Prichard traveled to London and Paris during the summer of 2013 as part of a short-term study abroad trip, led by Dr. Jeffrey Collins and Professor Loehle. Students explored and studied these cities as the settings for artistic and architectural revolutions. Here are some of Emily’s experiences in her own words.

Emily Prichard 1e

Emily in the Sainte-Chapelle cathedral in Paris.

This trip to London and Paris compounded my passion for art; I can’t think of a career for myself that doesn’t involve art. This was partly inspired by the atmosphere of purity and wonder that art can offer; art, in all its forms seemed to transform its environment into a sacred, treasured space.

One of the best examples of this transformation was Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France. The entire second story of the cathedral was floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows. Even though I had prepared a report on this cathedral, I was still incredibly blown away by the atmosphere, how the colors and light transformed a relatively tiny cathedral. With sunlight shining through the window panes, it felt as though the cathedral was a divine, living painting that the group had the privilege of experiencing from the inside: in a way, it felt like our tour group was literally inside the scene of a painting, only to realize it for a living organism. To personally see the mastery of detail involved to create each tiny scene was the equivalent to standing next to an expansive ocean: it gave one the feeling of not only being extremely small in comparison, but being somehow connected just by recognizing the true beauty and purity of the object. Sainte-Chapelle held beauty, purity, and color that can only be truly understood if experienced; even all of the research prior to Paris had not quite prepared me (or the rest of the group) for the atmosphere of the cathedral.

Emily Prichard 4

Dr. Collins (right) talks to students about Cezanne at the Courtauld Gallery in London.

One of my most favorite museums out of the entire trip was the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, France. Focusing entirely on ancient and oceanic artifacts, this museum invoked a sense of wonder and mystery in the same way that Sainte-Chapelle invoked beauty and purity. My favorite aspect of the museum is the fact that these artifacts are so appreciated, even though archeologists still don’t know the meaning or purpose behind several of the objects. Therefore, the objects give off an air of mystery, inviting the viewer to wonder, to imagine themselves several thousand years ago, crafting what they see in the present. I was personally struck by the eerie feeling of a few; it felt as though these pieces were intended for rituals, or for people (or spirits) of great power, that we were somehow intruding. This museum felt like a giant time capsule, the modern design failing to exhaust a feeling of stepping back into a lost era. While Sainte-Chapelle helped me to rediscover the purity of art, Quai Branly helped to create the idea of art sometimes becoming a separate entity all its own, significance defined by the synesthesia of the viewer.

Emily Prichard 2

A scene from the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.

Another important impact of this trip was realizing the general appreciation that Europe and the United Kingdom seem to have for art. The crowds in each museum and cathedral were VERY different than American museums/historic places. The average American seems to care less about the meaning or purpose of the piece; unless somewhat studied in art, they see museums as places for their amusement on rainy days. In Paris and London, the people treated museums as places of learning and interest, and were generally somewhat knowledgeable about what they were looking at. For example, nearly every museum had a group of schoolchildren touring; they were not rowdy, but actually listened to and absorbed the lectures. I loved this culture shock because it showcased the idea of using free museums as a means of education, for schoolchildren and adults alike. The museums were treated with respect, and the viewers seemed to have actually learned something by the time they left. This cultural difference gave me hope, that fine art can be appreciated and valued even in an age of technology and digital media.

Not coincidentally, Emily just recently changed her major to Studio Art, with a minor in Art History.

Oglethorpe Study Abroad: The Oxford Experience

OxfordCrestStudying abroad is an invaluable experience for young scholars. It allows the opportunity to live and work on your own in another culture, learn from a new perspective, and travel to incredible places. Oglethorpe University has worked to develop a study abroad department that has formed partnerships with universities all over the world. Oglethorpe’s partnership with Oxford University was among one of its most appealing qualities for me, as studying at one of the most prestigious and oldest universities in history was a personal dream of mine. During my three months in England, I not only fulfilled that goal, but changed the course of my academic and professional future.

For most college sophomores the experience might seem daunting: holding hour-long academic discussions with an Oxford professor, reading seven or more books and writing an essay each week, and then receiving feedback and critique. But, this is what is expected of any student who studies at Oxford University. The process is simple, but effective: the student chooses a course of study and the university selects an expert in the field to design and instruct the course in a one-on-one setting called a tutorial.

SKYLINE (1 of 1)

The Oxford skyline view from the Oxford Castle tower.

As an Oglethorpe student, this self-motivated curriculum sounded familiar to me. Core classes consist primarily of individual reading of a text, discussing it among my peers and with my professor, and writing an essay to illustrate my perspective. Perhaps this is why my “Media and Politics” tutor, Dr. Tudor Jones, was delighted to hear that I had come from Oglethorpe University; he had taught another student from Oglethorpe before and recalled her proficiency in writing constructively and conceptually sound essays.

Dr. Jones is author of multiple books on British political party policies and philosophies, has been a lecturer at three Oxford colleges, and was the Liberal Democrat candidate for the district of Buckingham in 2001. When I arrived at his flat for our introductory meeting, I expected to spend the next eight weeks learning about the news, journalism, and social media effects on American Politics. During our meeting, however, I decided that his experience in British political campaigning was too valuable to pass up. He convinced me to leap head first into the world of British political marketing.

Christie Pearce resizedOver the course of the next two months I would read more than 20 books and write seven essays focusing on political marketing, a field I did not know existed only a few weeks prior. I became enthralled almost immediately. As a politics and communication double major, a discipline that combined rhetoric, campaigning, interpersonal communication and party platform design seemed to be tailored to my interests. Dr. Jones was impressed with my confidence and natural aptitude for the subject, and helped to convince me that I could potentially have a future in political marketing. I now plan to pursue this avenue in a doctoral program for graduate school.

My study abroad experience quite literally changed my life. This is Oglethorpe’s goal for every student it sends to another country, be it for a few weeks or an entire year. The independence that is gained both academically and in terms of living alone in a new country is a merit of studying abroad that cannot be substituted. Students should not hesitate to speak with Dr. Collins, the director of the study abroad program at Oglethorpe, if they feel motivated; the experience will not disappoint them.

Oxford University (Corpus Christie College) is the alma mater of General James Edward Oglethorpe, the namesake of Oglethorpe University.

 

Making a Difference in South Africa

cprebil_1369271904_600Oglethorpe’s mission to “make a life, make a living, make a difference” affects not only its students, but also touches lives in the global community. Last fall, Oglethorpe extended its global reach, becoming the new academic partner of Global LEAD, a purpose driven summer study abroad program. And this summer, students from more than 30 universities nationwide traveled to Greece, Ecuador, and Cape Town, South Africa to experience Global LEAD’s unique combination of “Leadership, Education, Adventure and Diplomacy.”

Children in the Sir Lowry's township of Cape Town

Children in the Sir Lowry’s township of Cape Town

Oglethorpe’s Dr. Kendra Momon, associate professor of politics and director of the Rich Foundation Urban Leadership Program, led 81 students on their month-long journey through Cape Town, South Africa. She served as the academic director for the group, instructing two courses: “Leadership in Action” and “Global Citizenship & Engagement.”

What sets Global LEAD apart from other study abroad programs? The program combines academic curriculum with two weeks focused on service projects that expand upon the classroom learning. Living and serving in these underprivileged communities allows students to apply the principles they learn in classes and creates an immersive atmosphere that often transforms the lives of the students, as well as the members of the community they serve.

Oglethorpe’s objective to make a difference is enriched by the Global LEAD program. “There is no doubt that we (made a difference) in Cape Town this summer,” said Momon. “…Two weeks of the program, in rotation for the two student groups, are spent in local townships serving poor and disadvantaged children and teenagers.”

Dr. Momon and Janine in Cape Town.

The partnership opens up possibilities for Oglethorpe to spread the word about the school and its mission to create global citizens throughout the countries that Global LEAD serves, universities nationwide, and with the non-OU students who are exposed to the Oglethorpe curriculum and teaching. Students receive six Oglethorpe credit-hours while studying abroad with Global LEAD which are transferred to their home university. Oglethorpe’s dynamic faculty are the perfect ambassadors for Oglethorpe. Dr. Momon, who showed her love for OU through her apparel and anecdotes, told me a story about Janine, a 13-year-old South African girl whom she got to know during their two weeks of service. “Janine asked me to give her something to remember me so I gave her my beloved black OU fitted cap which I’ve had for five years.”

This year alone, Global LEAD and Oglethorpe will potentially change the lives of hundreds of students and people scattered around the globe. The partnership creates exciting possibilities for the future of Oglethorpe study abroad and global leadership opportunities.

Dr. Momon agrees. “I think the partnership is a great opportunity to extend our brand internationally as well as extend the scope of our motto to make a life, make a living, and make a difference.”

To keep up with the experiences of students and Oglethorpe traveling with Global LEAD, visit their blog, which is updated frequently.