Andrew Rock, News Editor
There is something breathtaking about seeing something that could be from a postcard before your own eyes. Anyone who goes abroad will tell you, there is nothing like seeing it for yourself.
Mississippi College offers a number of opportunities for students to travel abroad, whether they wish to do it for the summer, for a week, or for an entire semester. Those who participate in these opportunities report that it changed their lives.
One of the more prominent study abroad programs at MC is the London Semester. Roughly 20 students spend the spring semester in London. They take classes from both MC staff and native British professors. The real fun, however, comes being free to explore one of the greatest cities in the world during one’s free time.
Students in London take time to see plays, visit the site where the Harry Potter movies were, filmed, and see where the Bird Woman in Mary Poppins fed the birds (St. Paul’s Cathedral!)
Melinda Gann, professor of mathematics, accompanied the most recent London students on their journey. She said that she noticed the students becoming more independent and developing a “sense of adventure” over the course of the semester.
“At first, you all would only go off [exploring the city] in herds,” she said. But as time went by, Gann noticed that students became more adventurous, and thought nothing of taking a train trip halfway across the country to see a museum or landmark.
Gann also spoke of how travel broadens one’s mind. She said that “If you’re open-minded, you can learn something from every culture.”
Gann’s sentiment was echoed by Elaine Everett, a senior English major who studied abroad in Spain this summer. Participants in this program stay with a Spanish family who speaks little to no English, completely immersing them in the culture.
Everett said that this experience really “shows you a culture,” and helped her learn language and communication skills.
Beth Stapleton, chair of modern languages spoke at length about studying language abroad. She emphasized that while most students who participate in the Department of Modern Languages’ study abroad programs are language students, most programs are open to any students. Stapleton recalled the effect these trips have on students.
Students “grow personally on so many levels,” Stapleton said. She went on to say that international travel gets people out of their comfort zones, and lets them grow into adults.
Stapleton also said that immersion in a foreign language will give anyone a lifelong skill. She recalled students who went to places like Spain or Costa Rica without knowing any of the language, and carried on 45 minute conversations in Spanish upon returning.
In addition to London and the multiple language-based trips, some departments also offer programs focusing on specific topics, such as the Holocaust and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Michael Mann, associate professor and assistant chair of psychology and counseling and John Meadors, professor of Christian studies and philosophy, are taking students to Europe to study these topics in spring 2016.
“On our trip, students will see the sights and sounds of great European cities like Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, and Prague,” Mann said, “I hope students will experience other cultures and other peoples and specifically see the historical sites related to the Holocaust and the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”
Mann also emphasized the value of seeing other cultures and having fresh experiences abroad. “People who have had the experience of traveling abroad often say that their understanding of the world, other people, and themselves has greatly expanded because of their traveling. I believe this will be true of the students who go on this tour. Mark Twain famously once said, ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.’”
A final opportunity for international travel occurs in May and June of 2016. Carrie Reeves, assistant professor of art will be taking a group to Greece to study famous historical sites “such as the Acropolis in Athens, the Temple of Aphaia, the Clocktower at Poros, and the Temple of Apollo, in addition to many more…”
Reeves said that, “Travel makes an individual more well-rounded, better educated, and as a result, a more valuable future employee in the career that individual pursues,” and that “it does so much for them in the way of understanding that ‘different’ doesn’t always mean ‘wrong.’”
While these opportunities sound promising, many students worry about the cost. Stapleton said that “It is affordable,” because scholarships apply to many of the programs. She explained that MC’s administration is friendly to international travel, and tries to encourage it and keep it affordable.
Nearly everyone with experience abroad recommended it. They shared their experiences of travel broadening their minds, making themselves and others more confident, and teaching things that one simply cannot learn in a classroom.
Those interested in the language-based trips should contact Stapleton at email@example.com. She encouraged students to participate. Anyone interested in London should stop by Dr. Dean Parks’ office in Hederman. He said he would be happy to talk to them about the upcoming London semester.