STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Drake University’s study abroad program impacts many students as they travel the world, see exotic sights and immerse themselves into a new culture.
The motivations for students’ traveling abroad varies but almost always students look forward to the adventure ahead.
“All of the students really seem to enjoy it,” professor Elizabeth Robertson said.
Robertson led a January Term last month to India, where she, Professor Tim Knepper and a group of students traveled across India in the hopes of gaining a greater understanding of Indian culture.
“We’re trying to give students a first-hand exposure to some of the complexities of Indian society, the complications of the colonial history that lead to some issues in the present, the very rich fabric of religions that exist side-by-side, not always comfortably in India,” Robertson said.
The course, entitled “Developing Democracy: Critical Political, Social and Religious Issues: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945-47: Reacting to the Past,” focuses on teaching students about the distinct cultural differences between the two countries.
Senior biochemistry, cell and molecular biology major McKenzie Leier studied abroad in Uganda during the summer of 2013, a trip that challenged her comfort level.
Still, her decision to go abroad and the revelations after she returned reflect those of Robertson.
“I wanted to go abroad to get more international exposure and understand how (learning works) in an international context,” Leier said.
“I chose the Ugandan program because it was a lot more immersive and you spend the whole program with Ugandan students so you get to hear their perspective on everything and you also get to make friendships that have sustained over a couple years.”
The Ugandan program itself focused on fostering sustainable development, which doesn’t necessarily align with Leier’s BCMB major, but she felt that much of what she learned came outside of the traditional learning environment and through experiencing Uganda as a whole.
“It helps you look at American culture through a different lens and you can kind of have an introspective (look at) certain cultural practices that you do,” Leier said.
This is a concept that Robertson agrees with, as she has seen it first-hand in her travels.
“To know that there are ways of living and ways of thinking and being in the world that are other than what we have here, to get a sense of a wider world. That’s a large part of it, I think,” Robertson said.
“You not only come to understand, perhaps, another country or other peoples a little bit better, but I think you also get a perspective on your own country.”
This change in setting should be beneficial to junior Rebecca Brown as well, as she travels to Paris, France for a May-Term at the end of this school year.
Brown, a public relations major, said she is looking forward to experiencing a country and a city with such a rich history.
“I’m just kind of glad to see the world. I’ve never been to Europe before, so that’s really exciting,” Brown said.
The history and portrayal of Paris in the media has given ‘The City of Love’ a mystified image around the world.
However the class hopes to illuminate and refine the arnished depiction.
“It’s an English course, so we’re going to read certain passages and then go to those places where they were written and how that portrays certain sights,” Brown said.
All three of these Drake women have gone, or will go, to vastly different countries with diverse purposes, but they look to their experiences as formative in their lives.
“I think you learn a lot more about yourself from studying abroad as well as the other culture,” Leier said.
Becoming a part of another culture, even if only for a short time, is what those who study abroad feel is most beneficial.
There are still May-Terms classes open for enrollment.