Students immerse in culture during summer study abroad programs

July 27, 2010

While fall and spring semesters remain top choices for study abroad, more than a dozen McDaniel students spent summer experiencing new vistas and cultures they say will change their lives forever.

“I will never be the same,” says Lauren Vilkas ’11 in an e-mail from Malaga, Spain. “I learned so much from this trip academically, personally, historically and culturally. With such a shrinking and diverse world it is increasingly important to learn, tolerate, appreciate, encounter, and embrace other people and cultures.”

Vilkas, who has traveled extensively during her 10 weeks studying Spanish, had an insider’s view of Spain’s first-time World Cup.

“Every apartment, restaurant, shop, school, house, and car proudly displayed the red and yellow colors of the Spanish flag for the entire month of the event,” she says, explaining that no one missed a game and the entire country celebrated. “Crowds of red and yellow chanted, ‘Yo soy Español’ (I am Spanish) for weeks.”

Most of the McDaniel students are taking courses while immersing in life in Ireland, Denmark, Thailand, South Africa, Costa Rica, France, Germany and Mexico. But Brittany Lines ’11 chose the Experiential Learning Abroad Program (ELAP) with International Studies Abroad (ISA), and spent six weeks volunteering at a children’s hospital in Costa Rica.

An Exercise Science major, Lines wanted to improve her Spanish, including learning some medical terms, while gaining experience in a hospital. She’s considering a career in physical therapy.

“I would buy little gifts for the kids and bring them in every day to try to make them happy,” she says in an e-mail from Costa Rica of the Silly Bandz, collectible rubber-band bracelets in a ever-expanding range of shapes, that are so popular with kids in the U.S. “I would bring in these bracelets that were in different shapes of animals, things at the beach, dinosaurs, all different things, and they would teach me the words for them.”

Juniors Nathan Wuertenberg and Karla Saravia traveled in nearly opposite directions from the Hill, but both rank the cultural experience as remarkable. Wuertenberg, a History and Spanish major, e-mails from Cuernavaca, Mexico, that there are plenty of sites to visit right in town plus he’s gone of several trips including one to Teotihuacan, which means, he says, “land where men become gods.”

Nathan Wuertenberg stands on the first level of the Temple of the Moon in Teotihuacan. The big pyramid in the background is the Temple of the Sun.

“It was named that by the Aztecs who visited the abandoned city and couldn’t believe it could have been built by men,” he says.

Saravia, a Spanish and Communication major, also watched firsthand as a nation celebrated its first World Cup, while studying at the University of Salamanca in western Spain.

“There is such a great vibe because it is a university town. I’ve learned so much in the small amount of time I have been here,” she says of the six-week program run by Academic Programs International (API).