Coming to Carleton from San Francisco, Lisa Au ’18 knew she wanted to have an international experience. Little did she know she’d have five.
As a chemistry major, Au didn’t find many off-campus programs in her department. After all, molecules act the same way in European or Asian labs as they do in Northfield labs. But Au knew her interests expanded past science alone, and she actively worked to plan around her chemistry classes to determine which terms she’d have available to potentially travel abroad. Then, she simply decided that if an off-campus program looked interesting to her, she’d sign up for it.
So far, she’s studied farming systems in China on the Agricultural Sustainability: U.S. and China program with biology lecturer David Hougen-Eitzman and horticulture in Japan on the Gardens, Landscape, and the Built Environment in Japan program with director of Asian Studies Kathleen Ryor. She installed solar panels in an India village as part of the Sustainable Energy Principles & Practice in India class with physics professor Arjendu Pattanayak, and she worked in an energy research facility at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, through a Career Center global education internship.
Obviously, she says with a laugh, she really likes traveling. “My parents were never able to take me to any of these places, and having these opportunities is a way to learn things that my parents couldn’t teach me.
“And you learn things professors can’t even teach you,” Au continues. “Life skills—little things like navigating new places, being flexible, keeping a positive attitude. In class it’s easy to get frustrated over assignments, but knowing that I’ve been in a situation where I didn’t know what to do and still overcame the obstacle makes me feel like I can do anything.”
Thanks to all her study abroad experience, Au feels she’s grown much more confident and better prepared for life beyond Carleton. It’s good practice, she says, for the real world—practice she’s gaining even more of this term as she travels to Europe on the Architectural Studies in Europe: Britain, France, Italy, and Spain program with art history professor Baird Jarman.
“I never thought I would take an art history class,” Au says. “But that’s part of why I like traveling—being in that environment makes the subject so real and interesting. That’s why I choose off-campus programs that are so different from what I’m focusing on academically.”
Au is still a little unsure what life after Carleton will look like for her, but she is thinking of finding work in a research lab for a while before applying to graduate school. In any case, she’ll have had plenty of practice finding her own way.