This Winter Term, many study abroad returnees are coming back this term with fresh global perspectives and expanded horizons. Lawrence has offered study abroad programs since the 1960s; one notable program is our very own London Centre. The London Centre program first opened in the fall of 1970, and has been running ever since. Today, Lawrence offers approximately 55 off-campus study programs in 28 countries. Out of 140 applications, there will be approximately 125 students studying off-campus this academic year. Typically about 38 percent of each graduating class at Lawrence has studied abroad. Nationally, this number is about 9 percent for all undergraduate students.
“Overall, I hope that students gain academic and intellectual benefits, greater understanding of other perspectives, and develop their independence and open-mindedness,” Director of Off-Campus Programs Laura Zuege commented.
Zuege studied abroad when she was a student at Lawrence. “I participated in Lawrence’s London Centre program when I was a junior and it changed everything about my understanding of education, myself and what the world might hold for me,” said Zuege. “Studying abroad exposed me to what it felt like to engage with a topic firsthand and find a true love for learning. I learned a lot about the world from my experiences traveling and living in a major world city. Mostly, though, I gained untold amounts of confidence and direction from facing the challenge of exploring and learning in this environment.”
Senior Rebecca Schachtman, an Off-Campus Programs Returnee Experience Specialist studied in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Schachtman’s job is to reach out to students who have just returned from studying abroad and create a network for them to share their experiences. Schachtman coordinates different events and manages the portion of the off-campus program website with quotes of those who have returned from abroad.
“Studying abroad gave me a much more global perspective,” said Schachtman. “I participated more in class and was comfortable being independent and traveling by myself. Lawrence will be a much more globally-aware and active campus community if more students had the opportunity to study abroad. “
Senior Olivia Gregorich returned from The Gaiety School of Acting (GSA) in Dublin, Ireland this winter. Gregorich wanted to study abroad in Ireland because of her connection to Celtic music, myth cycles and culture.
“I didn’t know anything about contemporary Irish culture, and I got to learn in the best possible way,” said Gregorich. “I was also fortunate to be there during the centennial of the Easter Rising in the Irish Rebellion against the British, and the entire year was filled with artists and theatre and museum galleries devoted to the historical.” Besides attending classes, Gregorich had the opportunity to explore festivals and museums. “It was fascinating to me how apparent the oral storytelling inheritance is in their theatrical writing and performance styles, and I have gained an even greater respect for this culture’s unique relationship with language. My own growth in autonomy and self-confidence is marked as well, and my time there has pushed back my horizons of what I considered possible future homes.”
Gregorich described studying abroad as an invaluable experience in broadening one’s awareness of the world. “As much as I loved Ireland, part of me wishes I had challenged myself to get even further out of my comfort zone and away from the culture and lifestyle to which I am accustomed. As well as helping to reorient yourself in relation to the world, study abroad is an opportunity to re-evaluate one’s self in a fresh light. The world is so much bigger and more full of fascination than we like to allow ourselves to know sometimes, and I think an essential part of being alive is a healthy, open curiosity to encounter the unknown. I cannot imagine a better chance to practice being braver.”
Study abroad gives students the opportunity for personal and academic growth while expanding their world view. In various cases, students will increase their knowledge or skills in another language or research environment. Students return with valuable characteristics that are important when entering the workforce, such as being able to adapt to a new environment, navigate independently through a situation and being open to new ideas. Overall, studying abroad helps undergraduates prepare for life after Lawrence.