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The Gambian Art Coalition

I went into my sophomore year at Juniata with a full schedule. Three jobs, two internships, and a full load of credits. Never in a million years did I think I would have the time or the ability to co-found a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) as an undergrad.

The NGO I cofounded with two of my great friends, Evelyn McCammon and Sarah Borgardt, is called The Gambian Art Coalition. It was an idea brought to us by Professor Nagengast in the Politics department. He’s been travelling to The Gambia for the past 15 years and has made many great friends amongst the Gambians.

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Bienvenidos al Ecuador

Hola amigos.

I am writing you from the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. I am here in the archipelago until May for my study abroad semester.

Through Juniata, I am taking courses in a marine based track in the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) program with Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). I spent my first month living with a family in Quito. During that time, I completed a week-long Spanish intensive course and my first module, which included a 7-day trip to the coast of Ecuador. I also took advantage of being on the mainland and traveled during my free time.

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Third time’s the charm

It is now my senior year at Juniata, and for the third time, I traveled to Quebec during fall break (October 11th to the 14th). Unlike previous years, this trip was something that I especially looking forward to for several reasons:

Fall break this year came about 2 days after the Fulbright program’s deadline. The application process was very challenging, and by far, it has been the most difficult application that I have written. I applied for a linguistics research Fulbright in Cote d’Ivoire, a project that stemmed from my internship in Strasbourg, France in the Spring of 2018. I worked diligently with a cadre of faculty members who pushed me to craft a competitive and compelling research project. The process got overwhelming and intense at times, so after the Oct. 9th deadline, I was excited to travel to Quebec and celebrate, alongside another Fulbright applicant and a friend of mine, Annaleigh Baremore.

Annaleigh and I are French club officers and worked together to plan this trip, despite meeting many obstacles. First, the Quebec trip did not occur during the previous year when Annaleigh and I were abroad. Professor Henderson who is head of the French department and also the club’s advisor was away on sabbatical. As seniors, Annaleigh and I wanted to bring this trip back, and travel to Quebec one last time. Another issue that we encountered was the high cost of transport, which almost canceled the trip. However, at the very last minute, the Office of Student of Activities gave us a minivan and two vehicles to go to Canada!

Posing for a group photo!
Posing for a group photo!

This 3rd trip to Canada was in my opinion the best because we had a diverse cadre of students. The trips were previously dominated by French speakers, but this time we had students who spoke Spanish, Korean, German and Hindi. I was happy to see them participating and learning about francophone cultures. They all tried poutine, maple syrups, all specialty of Canada. In addition, because we all shared various backgrounds, we tried other cultural foods: we went to a Korean restaurant in Montreal called Kantapia and drank some bubble tea at Chai. Once in Quebec City, we had dinner at a Cambodian restaurant and tried a delicious tapioca desert!

Although the experience was tiring, given that we had a 12hours ride back to campus, I would do it once again if could. As it is my last year at Juniata, I will be looking at various memories such as this trip to smile back on.

Unpacking Me: A Personal story of Identity and Passion

There are a lot of things if your life that you must learn how to unpack. The hardest will be unpacking your passions. Especially as a high school senior, college student, college graduate, and many times as an adult you are going to have a dark night of the soul when you have to ask yourself what you want to do for the rest of your life. Its normal.

 

For me, I came to Juniata and I knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to travel the world and get paid for it. However, after my trip out of the U.S. it took me a long time to unpack that experience and understand it in terms of my own passions. And to be honest I still do not fully understand the impact it had upon me as individual.

 

For a Juniata student, I think that it is even more difficult to admit that my study abroad experience wasn’t one of the best experience of my life, because at a school where most people study abroad, all you hear is “my study abroad experience changed me,” “It taught me who I am and what I want to be”. After a lot of unpacking, I can honestly say that my study abroad experiences were not the best experiences I have had over my college career.

 

My study abroad experience challenged me, it helped me grow, it broadened my horizons and it did make me understand what I didn’t want to spend my entire life abroad. However, unpacking my last 4 years here at Juniata. I can honestly say my defining moment that helped shape me as the person I wanted to be happened on October 30th, 2014. That was the day my grandfather died.

 

When he died, it was echo that pushed me outside of the reverberations. For me it was like superman died, and very slowly all I saw were cracks in my foundation. For so long I was convincing myself that traveling was my passion, but it wasn’t. When he died, everything started to crumble and it was in that suffocating mess that I realized the void he left.

 

Being raised by my grandparents I was raised in a legacy. We were farmers. We raised cows. We gardened. We canned. That was our identity. After his death, I was fighting for that to stay my identity. I grew a horrible garden, but I grew a garden. And in many ways I thought that maybe I could connect the pieces of my life that seemed to fall through the cracks, but it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t good enough. Because gardening wasn’t the only part of my identity I need to unpack.

 

Returning from Cork, Ireland

When I was walking around Huntingdon on my first day back at Juniata College, I couldn’t help but smile. Even if I had an amazing time in Cork, Juniata was still home.

 

Here is UCC’s most photographed building – affectionately deemed Hogwarts. I studied Old Irish (c. 600-900 AD) in the left portion.
Here is UCC’s most photographed building – affectionately deemed Hogwarts. I studied Old Irish (c. 600-900 AD) in the left portion.

I spent my entire junior year studying Irish language and literature at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. Talking about study abroad is tricky – you don’t want to downplay the opportunities and experiences you had while there, but you also don’t want to sound arrogant or pretentious. In terms of school, UCC is much larger than Juniata. UCC has just under 20,000 students, around 2000 of which were international students like me. Compare that to the approximately 1600 undergraduate students at Juniata.

Most of the classes I took were within the Celtic Civilisation department (yes, civilization has an “s” instead of a “z” in Ireland). These classes had small, discussion-based approaches like at Juniata. This was not the case for other students in larger departments. I was happy to learn about Celtic linguistics, Old Irish grammar, and Otherworld literature as part of the 30-credit Certificate in Irish Studies that I earned.

This is me receiving my certificate for Intermediate Modern Irish.
This is me receiving my certificate for Intermediate Modern Irish.

The primary difference, for me, between Juniata and UCC was the workload. Juniata students are driven by a deep desire to learn that comes from somewhere within them. Most work abroad was done right before the heavily weighted final exams. I suppose they would think our structure was strange if they came here, though. Additionally, a huge difference upon returning is working. I have a few campus jobs, and I love working for Juniata. I couldn’t work at UCC because I didn’t have the paperwork to be eligible, and the shift from not working to working has been an adjustment these past few weeks. However, that adjustment is a welcome one. I really missed working in the Writing Center while abroad, and I made sure to meet up with some tour guide friends who were abroad to catch up with them.

UCC has an arch, too! No one storms their arch, though.
UCC has an arch, too! No one storms their arch, though.

One of my favorite aspects of Juniata is that it has offered me opportunity after opportunity, and one of the greatest has been the chance to study abroad at UCC. I came back with so much academic, personal, and cultural development, but I am thrilled to be at Juniata again. I’ve had so much fun (and I’ve learned so much) talking to other students who were here last year and who were abroad, and I love seeing the way their eyes light up when they tell stories from abroad, or talk about an event on campus that they orchestrated, or dive into the developments they made in their research. You could say that what I missed the most about Juniata was the passion in the students.

Go raibh maith agat, a Chorcaigh, ach táim sa bhaile anois.

Thanks, Cork, but I’m home now.