Students Return from Fall OCS Programs

22 February 2018

On why they chose their program and what they expected

Justine Seligson (SIT IHP Human Rights in the US, Nepal, Jordan, and Chile): I wanted a program where I could learn about human displacement in particularly Jordan, a country that has received many different refugee populations. While scanning through programs on SIT’s website, I learned about the comparative (IHP) programs. The IHP Human Rights program had a component in Jordan and focused on displacement among many other topics like Indigenous rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, etc. This program seemed perfect for me and I expected to understand human rights issues in an applied sense across different national contexts.

Lon Hutchinson (Carleton Spanish Studies in Madrid, Gilman Scholarship recipient): I chose my program because of the experience it would offer me. I am a biology major and the program I went on was in Spain and focused heavily on art history. Although I know very little about art history, my goal was to improve in Spanish which I think I accomplished. I honestly did not know what to expect of the program first because I’ve never been abroad on a Carleton program before. I also had to budget everything and keep track of my cultural activities which was about all the information I had before the trip. I only expected to speak Spanish, take courses, and delve into daily life in Spain.

Sonia Moreno (DIS – Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Gilman Scholarship recipient): I chose the DIS Computer Science program for a few reasons. I wanted to take more applied and project-based courses to get a feel for what a career in CS could potentially look like, since most of Carleton’s classes are very theoretical and problem-set based. I also really liked the integrated study tours and field studies during which we got to visit different tech companies in Denmark and Germany to see what the tech culture was like there and to get advice from people in the field. My expectations were to essentially become a stronger computer scientist, but I ended up gaining much more than that, including learning a lot about Danish culture and falling in love with Denmark, which wasn’t something I had expected or thought about too seriously, but ended up being one of the best parts about my experience.

On what was a memorable moment/aspect of the program

Justine: There were many memorable aspects on my program, but the one that really stands out was conducting my independent research project (that each person on the program does). My particular project was educational access and support for immigrants and refugees. When I determined my project at the beginning of the program, I was mainly thinking about the Jordan component, with less consideration of Nepal and Chile. I did not realize the unique research challenges I would face in each country, such as language barriers and finding relevant people who were interested in speaking with me. However, I learned so much about this topic. I have become increasingly interested in educational policy and may apply this knowledge to my Comps. I also developed a comprehension how field research works, with skills that I can apply in various areas of my life.

Lon: It may sound cliché but my 21st birthday was very memorable during the program. My birthday lined up with an excursion trip where the whole group was together for a few days in Bachao (an extremely amazing looking villa). We did a lot of traveling to get there and we were so high on a mountain that I really saw a cloud beneath us. By the end of the day back in the Bachao we all came together to eat dinner. Once our amazing feast was over, little apple pie type desserts came out with one hoisting the numbers 20 and another 21 (another student shared my same birthday 🙂 ). It was a sight to see and taste but the night wasn’t over yet a there was one more activity, La Quemada. I didn’t exactly know if this event was planned because of the birthdays or if it was going to happen anyway but La Quemada was a truly new experience. A halloween-esqe chant followed by a hug red pot filled with what I believe to be rum, coffee beans, and orange peels. It was all stirred up and set ablaze and we literally saw fire being stirred and poured out of the ladle. To top it all off we drank it too (without the fire) but it had an extremely strong, sour, and kind of gut-wrenching taste. But hey, it was my birthday and I enjoyed the experience!

Sonia: Definitely the study tours to Vallekilde, Denmark, and Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany with the rest of my class. It was on these trips that I formed really strong bonds with both my peers and my professors by game jamming together and exploring interesting cities and all that they had to offer. It was also pretty surreal to be in a place with so many historical sites and museums and there were many powerful monuments in Berlin. It was overall an amazing learning experience and a great chance to bond with people with similar interests in a completely new place.

On advice they wish they had prior to their program and what they want future OCS students to know

Justine: I wish I had known how emotionally demanding the IHP programs can be. Moving around to drastically different countries and having long days learning about gruesome human rights issues like the Syrian refugee crisis and torture camps during the Pinochet regime takes learning to a new level. However, this learning also involved many positive aspects as we traveled, such as viewing many types of landscapes (like how we went from a desert to a snowy mountain over the course of less than a month), becoming extremely close with 29 other college students and the various people we met along the way, as well as trying some amazing food I had not previously known of in each place. So essentially, future students on the IHP Human Rights program should know about the emotional labor expected, but also the unforgettable fun you will have that will you forever treasure.

Lon: Some of my advice definitely applies to my program but others could be for any study abroad. Don’t underestimate your classes because even though you are abroad make sure you know what your professors are looking for in terms of expectations with their work. Besides that, please do take advantage of all the new experiences (safely!). There’s so many things that I wish I could go back and do again or try for the first time! Also reflect a little now and then so that you are able to be in tune with yourself and what you want your experience to be like. Finally,  as logistical as this is it is a very good idea to budget early. Have fun with the things you can do but it may not be wise to spend some money every day in Granier partaking in the bread and donuts! Just do that sometimes because there are many other things that you can try!

Sonia: I wish I would have traveled more and planned trips earlier on. When you’re in Europe, there are so many different countries and cultures to experience literally a train ride away. I would highly recommend taking advantage of this and travel as much as you can, but also strike a balance so that you can enjoy traveling while still being able to immerse yourself for a few days in each one.

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