Katies abroad: Students share their experiences

This March on her China trip, First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged young people to study abroad. St. Kate’s is certainly doing its part.

Did you know there are over 50 St. Kate’s students studying abroad this semester? According to Catherine Spaeth, Director of the Office of Global Studies, this includes students studying overseas in semester and year-long programs and students studying off-campus in the U.S., as well as Doctor of Physical Therapy students embarking on service learning trips to Mississippi and the Dominican Republic and Masters of Occupational Therapy students leaving for a clinical workshop in Peru this May. That’s not even counting student trips over J-term, spring break and summer.

Two Katies share their experiences studying abroad this semester:
Elea Ingman (‘15) is a theology/English double major who studied in Cork, Ireland this semester. What’s it like, living in Cork?

“[Cork is] better than Dublin!” Ingman said. “It’s the second-biggest city in the Republic of Ireland…A standard of all Irish towns is that they feel small—it’s very vibrant and it feels like a city…Everyone’s really nice, like extremely helpful. Like they’re not just going to tell you where to go, they’re going to give you detailed instructions and walk you there.”

Ingman’s class load this semester includes music lessons and two major-related classes. These ensure she stays on-track for graduation and also gives her the opportunity to try classes that are not offered at St. Kate’s, namely an archeology class with field trips to ancient and medieval sites.

A semester in Ireland is something Ingman has been anticipating for a long time. It even influenced her college decision.

“[Studying abroad] is something I’ve always wanted to do, because I grew up with Irish culture: the music, the dancing, the food, everything.” Ingman said. “It’s just always been my dream to go to Ireland. So when I was looking for colleges, that was a huge yes or no for me, if they had study abroad programs, and if a program went to Ireland.”

Ingman said a habit she hopes to bring back with her after her trip is budgeting her money, something she had never done in the United States but really found necessary while abroad. The word she picked up the quickest from Cork is “grand,” used to describe everything from the weather or her mood to a party or a cup of tea.

Would she recommend study abroad to any other Katies?

“Definitely!” said Ingman. “Because it’s a fantastic experience, you get out of your comfort zone and out of the culture you’re used to. There are little tiny things you take for granted that you don’t even know are different outside of America … and then there are things that are the same, which is almost even more surprising.”

Bridget Ferrell (‘15) is a criminal justice major who spent this semester in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Denmark is the foremost country in “going green” for the environment, Ferrell said. Bikes and public transportation are much more common in Denmark than in the U.S., a fact Ferrell noticed the first day she arrived when a bike almost ran her over. Relying on Copenhagen’s public transit system is one of the challenges Ferrell cited of adapting to daily Danish life.
“I was not used to having to map out my trips for every time I left the house,” Ferrell said. “It became so mentally exhausting to constantly think about how I am going to get to my destination and then how I am going to get back…However, I decided to rent [a] bike to immerse myself in the culture and so I could have more flexibility with my transportation. Although, this was another learning experience of finding my way around!”

Another challenge Ferrell faced was learning her way around Copenhagen. Getting lost in the city without the Internet to rely on, Ferrell had to leave her comfort zone and ask strangers for help.

“I actually made a life-long friend by asking for directions one night,” she said. “So I am glad I pushed myself in this way.”

One aspect of Ferrell’s time abroad was getting to know the people of her host country.
“The people are very nice but definitely reserved compared to the American people. I found the Danish people to be very helpful and patient from the numerous times I had to ask people for help with directions,” said Ferrell, but “Denmark is also known for their alcohol culture. Being in the city I’ve seen that almost every night can be a party night.”

In addition to studying this semester, Ferrell has traveled to other countries, her favorite of which was Switzerland. Known in Europe as the land of stunning lakes and mountains, Switzerland also has a fascinating culture. Because so many countries border Switzerland, there are four main cultures and languages that make up the diversity of this small country. One-quarter Swiss herself, Ferrell was able to get back to her roots in Switzerland, and found that she could apply for Swiss citizenship because her grandmother was Swiss.

“Living in Switzerland has huge benefits, especially because of the education, and healthcare system,” Ferrell said. “I have now seriously considered spending at least a couple years of my life in Switzerland in the future.”

The experiences Ingman and Ferrell had studying abroad are just a tiny look at the adventures available for St. Kate’s students.

Taylor can be reached at tcharwood@stkate.edu.

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