By Lora Owston
If you had the chance to study abroad and see the world, would you go back again? The answer to that question was a definite “Yes!” for seniors Brooke Thomas and Charlee Thomas. Both students took the opportunity to participate in Alderson Broaddus’ Semester in Europe program – a three month long semester abroad in Salzburg, Austria with incorporated weekend travel to additional nations. We asked Brooke and Charlee to detail some of their experiences in the following short Q&A:
BATTLER COLUMNS: Why did you decide to participate in the Semester in Europe a second time?
B: I almost backed out of the second go round, but the thought of skipping out on the opportunity to see the world from a different view point again convinced me to go.
C: It was just so wonderful the first time. I had to go back.
BATTLER COLUMNS: Would you say that studying abroad has changed you as an individual?
B: There is no doubt about it – studying abroad changed my life in so many ways that it is almost indescribable. I learned to appreciate the world and all the people around me, no matter how different they may seem. It taught me to open up, not just to people, but to new experiences and to the world.
C: I feel as if I can understand people from different backgrounds much better now. I also gained a lot of common sense while traveling – like with reading maps.
BATTLER COLUMNS: How do you think this semester will compare with your previous semester abroad?
B: I know that the second time will not be the same as my first time studying abroad, but that’s okay. This time, I hope to not just see and learn about the places I go, but meet and learn about the people that live there.
C: I think it will be really different, but definitely better because I know stuff now – I kind of already have my foot in the door. I felt like I had a better grasp on how to do things by the end of the semester the first time.
BATTLER COLUMNS: What’s your fondest memory of the Semester in Europe?
B: Mine would have to be the group travel to Italy. I feel like we bonded as a group, and it was a fun experience from a family dinner, to exploring Rome at night, to the exciting building with, “not one but two domes!”
C: This is kind of weird, but I have this one memory of where the sun is setting and across this big field on a little dirt road is an old man riding a bicycle. It was one of those really old-timey bicycles with the large wheels, and he had flowers in his basket and the sun was behind him. I think about that a lot.
BATTLER COLUMNS: What would you say is the biggest challenge to studying abroad?
B: The biggest challenge by far would be coming back home after spending all that time away. You become accustomed to taking trains and buses everywhere. It becomes the normal, everyday routine to be somewhere new and exciting, like one day you are riding a gondola through the canals of Venice and the next you are at a rave in Amsterdam. It’s normal, you really don’t think twice about it, until you’re back home not having that new adventure every day.
C: I’d say it’s having the confidence to feel like you can travel on your own…It’s a learning experience and you end up figuring things out as you go along.
BATTLER COLUMNS: Do you plan on pursuing any further international opportunities after this semester?
B: I believe that many things cannot be learned in a classroom, but through the world. So yes, I do plan on pursuing further international opportunities, whatever they may be.
C: Well, I plan on going into international human rights law. So hopefully!
Students may participate in the Semester in Europe program multiple times.
“It’s not uncommon for a student to go back. It’s happened before. But two at the same time? No. As far as I know, it hasn’t happened before,” William Klaus, Professor and Director of International Learning and Service, says about the rarity of the scenario.
This extraordinary situation shares another strange similarity that you may have already noticed. Brooke and Charlee both share the same surname – Thomas. Despite this, these students are not related and even participated in the program in entirely different years. Now, these international study veterans will have the opportunity to share their second experience abroad together – along with 13 other students.
“It’s a sign of the times and how the program has changed,” Professor Klaus said. “We’ve added all these online classes to our curriculum, so students can go and complete major requirements while they’re there…That makes it a little bit easier to return for a second semester.”
The Semester in Europe program kicked off over the Labor Day weekend with students and parents alike joining in for a special dinner Sunday evening. Their journey began bright and early on the following Monday at 8 a.m, and the group arrived in Salzburg early Tuesday morning.
“Travel while you can – do this while you can,” Professor Klaus said. “It makes us diverse – it makes us more human; more creative…You come back with all these great stories and have a better sense of the world. It gives you a streak of adventure – a little bit of grit and determination that is so lacking among graduates of college today.”
If you are interested in the Semester in Europe and would like more information, contact Professor Klaus by email at email@example.com or through social media at the Battlers Abroad twitter account. https://twitter.com/battlersabroad