Swarthmore's independent campus newspaper since 1881

Tag archive

study abroad - page 3

From ceramics to catacombs, swatties abroad go beyond classroom

in Campus Journal by

Students at Swarthmore study abroad for countless reasons. Some go to fulfill language requirements, some because they find the one perfect, chance-of-a-lifetime program, and some, if not most, go for the main goal of getting off of Swarthmore’s beautiful but sometimes suffocating campus. While many Swatties choose to enroll as a student at a different college or university in another state or country, some Swatties opt into programs that aim to take learning out of the classroom.

 

Although about 75% of Swarthmore students graduate with a degree in either social or natural sciences each year, students of all majors choose to study humanities abroad, selecting programs that allow to them to earn credits while immersing themselves in a personal passion or studying something new entirely. Nikhil Paladugu ’16 is a double major in neuroscience and studio art, and also plans on attending medical school after graduating from Swarthmore. Although studying abroad as a pre-med student is difficult, Paladugu chose to enroll in an intensive ceramics program in China during the fall semester of his junior year.

 

His program, run through West Virginia University, placed Paladugu with three other undergrads in a ceramics studio in Jingdezhen, a rural city in Eastern China known as the “Porcelain Capital,” famous for its talented ceramicists and rich artistic traditions.

“We stayed at a youth hostel in the same factory as the pottery workshop where our studios were,” Paladugu said. After breakfast, students would work in the studios for essentially the whole day, taking a break for lunch mid-day.

Although Paladugu could have fulfilled his studio art credits at Swarthmore, he chose to go abroad instead, making up his other necessary credits by taking 5 classes other semesters. “If I’m going to do 10 years of rounds with doctors, I wanted the opportunity to really delve into ceramics,” Paladugu said.

Though Sadie Rittman ’16, is an honors religion major, she chose to study abroad her junior year at Prague Film School, taking classes on film directing, editing, cinematography and screenwriting.

“I’ve never really known what to study,” Rittman said. “I’m not a film major, but I have a lot of interest. I wanted insight into what it’s like making films; I was exploring that option.” Rittman’s program was more course-based than Paladugu’s: she attended classes four days a week for six hours a day. Rittman’s academic work consisted of four different film projects that involved large amounts of individual, creative work time outside of class.

 

Both Paladugu and Rittman seemed to share the notion that their experience was very different from that of being at Swarthmore for a semester. “I didn’t have to write any papers or do any reading the whole semester,” Rittman said of her experience at in Prague. “I got to work with a different part of my brain. It was nice to spend a whole semester not doing any Swarthmore work. It was extra nice to experience a new city in Europe while doing that kind of work.”

 

Paladugu shared a similar experience. “Our art history midterm is the only real work,” he said.

“Otherwise you’re free to just focus on your art.”

 

For many students, studying humanities abroad in a certain location greatly enhances the experience of their learning by providing a new perspective.

 

Natalia Sucher ’16 chose a program that was directly related to her honors classics major. Through Duke University’s Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies, Sucher studied in Rome with 30 other undergrads from the United States. Although the format of the program was several hours of lecture-based classes per week, Sucher’s professors would bring the students to relevant sites in all parts of Italy where they would learn while experiencing in person the architecture or artifacts about which they were learning.

 

“Twice a week we had a double credit class where we would take trips for the entire day,” Sucher said. These trips often included long days at museums around Rome, where students would look at the same artifacts they studied in class. The group also travelled up and down the entire Italian coast, took a trip to Etruscan tombs to see paintings, spent a day at Mount Vesuvius and got the opportunity to walk through the Roman Catacombs.

 

Paladugu also stressed the importance of his program’s location in his learning experience.

 

“The entire city is focused on ceramics,” he said. “The biggest thing I learned was the cultural history. They took us on field trips to amazing hundred-foot long dragon kilns…. We got to see things that tourists can’t see.” Being fully immersed in a culture so focused on ceramics allowed Paladugu to develop as a designer and ceramicist in a way that may not have been possible had he not gone abroad.

 

“They want you to basically try everything you could possibly try,” he said. “The people you’re working with and living with are all international superstars. Since you get this opportunity to completely dive into and immerse yourself in the study of ceramics, it really helps you grow as an artist.”

 

Sucher, who chose her to study based in part on a desire to learn Italian, also found that the location of her program offered large advantages over classes at Swarthmore. Although she entered the program without even a familiarity with Italian, Sucher became fluent by the end of the semester. On her return to Swarthmore, this skill allowed her to further her study in Classics by taking a directed reading on Dante’s Divine Comedy in its original form.

 

Other students also felt their abroad experiences impacted their academic lives at Swarthmore upon return.

 

Rittman felt that her experience abroad gave her a much-needed sense of renewal and clarity, and saw her time in Europe as a much needed break from the overwhelmingly academic experience of school at Swarthmore. Going abroad also helped her make the choice to participate in the Honors program, although the actual content of her study abroad was not related to her major in religion.

 

“I would not have done honors before going,” she said. “Now that I’m back it feels so different from before. I’m more relaxed about what I’m doing and can appreciate it so much more… I feel much more grounded.”

 

Paladugu shared the notion that a semester abroad was a necessary relief from the intensity of Swarthmore.

 

“Taking a break from academics was awesome,” Paladugu said. “Especially coming from a place like Swarthmore, it’s really refreshing to get a new perspective. It doesn’t matter where: I think traveling abroad is something everybody should do.”

Discovering tragedy from thousands of miles away

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

This semester, I am lucky enough to be studying abroad at the University of St Andrews in St Andrews, Scotland. The past month has been a whirlwind of re-experiencing freshers’ orientation, going out to pubs (I’m legal here!), and remembering how school works. As I immersed myself in this new place, Swarthmore remained far from my mind. If I imagined campus at all, I figured that nothing much was happening. My life might be fast-paced and constantly in flux, but Swarthmore could only be steady and unchanging.

The death of Meg Spencer on September 24 shook me more than I realized. I did not know Meg, but I recognized her from the countless hours I spent in Cornell Library over the past two years. I always joke that Cornell is like my second home at Swat, but Meg’s death served as a stark reminder that my words held more truth than jest. Sitting in my room, with its picturesque view of the town and the hills beyond, I felt the stable Swarthmore of my imagination sway ominously on its foundation.

A little over a week later, that foundation crumbled entirely when I received an email from newly inaugurated President Smith, informing the community that Anthony Chiarenza ‘18 had passed away unexpectedly. I am very grateful that I received the news while at an ultimate frisbee tournament in Edinburgh; the intensity of the tournament forced me to focus on something other than tragedy.

Receiving news of Anthony’s death via email was like having a bucket of cold water poured over my head. I could not believe it. Since Meg’s passing, I had made sure to keep track of Swat news a little more carefully than usual (i.e., I actually glanced at most of the dozens of emails I received every day before deleting them). I knew that President Smith’s inauguration was coming up and I felt some vicarious excitement over those festivities. It seemed unbelievably perverse, like a giant middle finger from the universe. What should have been a moment of renewal for the community became a moment of grief and pain.

I felt very alone on Saturday and Sunday. Isolated. Every now and then I paused and wished I were 3,000 miles away, back at Swarthmore, back with my people. Like any good millennial, I remedied this feeling of isolation by sharing my life with a lot of people I don’t really know. I told my roommate about it, I told my roommate’s friends about it, I told a girl from Bryn Mawr about it, I told some of the members of my ultimate team about it. I made a Facebook status sending support and love to all my Swatties. I liked any Facebook status that echoed or improved on those sentiments. I grasped at any connection to Swarthmore and the people I love there (which, it turns out, is basically all of you).

The most relief I felt last weekend was when a friend messaged me and a few other study abroad people, telling us that one of our mutual friends knew Anthony well and asking us to show our support for her. Her demand (I would say request, but the message had a characteristically and gratifyingly familiar dictatorial tone) propelled me into action, giving me a purpose and allowing me to do something, even an ocean away. So I messaged our friend, told her how sorry I was, and reminded her that the people around her, including me (despite my distance), were there to support her. Later, I also messaged another friend, someone I don’t know well, but who I know was good friends with Anthony.

I felt so much more at peace after sending just a few lines expressing my sympathy. I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here for you.

Literally hours after sending that message, I got Mike Hill’s Awareness Bulletin informing students that “threats of violence ha[d] been made against ‘an unspecified university near Philadelphia’” for the next day. I was lying in bed when I saw it and, as my roommate can attest, I started laughing hysterically in response. What world do we live in that my fear of a gunman terrorizing Swarthmore is legitimate or even remotely founded in reality? I went to bed and woke up the next morning anxious. My grief about the loss of Anthony mingled with my anxiety and I feared that the next email I got would be a report of a shooting on campus. (I also suspect that I have a very active imagination.)

The threats said that something bad would go down at 2 pm Eastern time, so I factored in the time difference and held my breath until 7 pm in Scotland. As you know, 7 pm came and went and nothing happened. I let myself breathe again and I hope you did, too.

I know from friends on campus that the current mood at Swarthmore is somber, gray, and full of apprehension. My friend Abigail Henderson ’15, who is away from campus because she is a real adult these days, wrote in a Facebook status, “My heart hurts for Swarthmore and all of my friends there. Staying present in my Connecticut life will be hard today, but I wouldn’t want my heart to be anywhere else. Take care of yourselves, Swatties. I love you.” Her words express how I feel as a Swattie abroad during this difficult time. I am engaged with the St Andrews community, but it is impossible for me to leave Swarthmore behind.

At small liberal arts colleges like Swarthmore, the word “community” gets thrown around so much that it starts to lose its meaning. I have searched for, but not found, a silver lining or a chance for redemption in the loss that Swarthmore has experienced over the past couple of weeks. I have, however, found community. Community is not the stable, rock solid structure that I thought it was; in fact, it is a whole lot of people trying to pick themselves up and dust themselves off after an earthquake. I am so far away from Swarthmore College, but, maybe for the first time, I feel close to the Swarthmore community.

Students clash with Off-Campus Study Office over study abroad credit

in News by
IMG_2564
Photo by Ashlen Sepulveda

Nestled behind clusters of flowers, the college’s quaint Off-Campus Study Office is a hive of activity this time of year. Director Pat Martin and Assistant Director Rosa Bernard, who have over fifty years of combined experience, have their hands full not only with recently departed juniors, but with transcripts and syllabi from returning seniors seeking credit for their time overseas.

Whereas some colleges and universities follow automatic accreditation policies, Swarthmore’s unique departmental approach allows students to choose from a selection of over 300 approved programs of study when they choose to head abroad. Department heads are asked to look at not just reading lists and notes, but logs of day trips and reflective journals to evaluate a student’s learning outcome when they return. According to Martin, the process demonstrates the college’s commitment to diversified educational experiences.

“One of the advantages to this system is that getting credit is based on student work and student outcome,” Martin said. “That allows students to do things that at many other schools they might not be able to do.”

According to Martin, departmental evaluation of work for credit also provides a degree of “quality assurance” — assumptions that students won’t be challenged intellectually can be combated with proof of academic engagement. But in some students’ opinions, Swarthmore’s standards of academic excellence are taken too far when evaluating semesters abroad. Stuart Russell ’14 directly enrolled in the University of Bordeaux through a program run out of Middlebury College in 2013; despite completing coursework for which Middlebury students received 5 credits, he was only awarded 4.5 after departmental evaluation.

“At the end of the semester, the most frustrating thing was that I got a Middlebury transcript, saying ‘oh, Middlebury would give you x amount of credit for these classes,’” Russell said. “And I feel like Swarthmore should just look at that and take it, especially since the college was of comparable stature and quality.”

“I feel like Swarthmore tries to hold itself to this intellectual rigor and excellence, which is great, but it just makes things more complicated than it needs to be,” Russell added. “When other peer institutions are approving these classes, it just makes things more stressful for the students.”

Sarah* ’15, who returned from France this semester, says she felt “snubbed” when a department head suggested she complete a supplemental reading after reviewing a course syllabus — all to earn .75 credit. Although she hasn’t yet had her semester evaluated, Sarah, who is also a tour guide, says she’s nervous that departments won’t necessarily put a point value on learning experiences that took place beyond the classroom.

“On tours, we’re told that it’s really cool to tell people that 50 percent of the junior class goes abroad at some point,” Sarah said. “And that’s something that Swat’s really proud of. But then there’s this sort of disconnect. They encourage us to go abroad and they want us to go abroad but then we can’t necessarily get all the credit we require and so we just have to buck up and take five credits our senior year or find a way to make it work.”

While returning students may feel that credit approval is left largely to their own initiative, the faculty advisor — this year, Carina Yervasi from the French department — plays the wizard behind the curtain: as students take their materials to department heads, she sends out emails with credit recommendations and weighting, translating foreign intellectual experiences into Swarthmore standards. While it is ultimately up to individual departments to accept coursework, the off-campus study office has a few tricks up its sleeve in cases of accreditation conflict: Martin said that the Provost could be enlisted to advise departments on issues of concern, and intercultural credit can be awarded by the office for coursework that doesn’t fit within any of the college’s academic divisions.

According to Bernard, only in exceptional cases does a student get denied credit. Failure to complete the pre-estimation process or changing course selection abroad, presenting an inadequate amount of work, receiving below a C or not completing course requirements can all result in zero credit.

Both Bernard and Martin emphasized the importance of the pre-estimation process; however, not all students are able to procure syllabi and reading lists before arriving in their host country. After going through a frustrating pre-estimation process in which he could only present possible plans of study, Russell found he had to repeat the ordeal over email when he arrived in Bordeaux in the fall of his junior year.

Ximena Violante ’14, who completed Hamilton College’s program in Madrid, found that the art department was unwilling to honor its pre-estimation upon return. Needing all credits from her overseas experience to transfer in order to fulfill the twenty-course rule, Violante resubmitted materials for only .5 credit — which the art department only agreed to award if she needed it for graduation.

“I applied to this program specifically because I thought Swarthmore had a long history with it and that it was very easy to get credits from it,” Violante said. “Swarthmore professors have taught there, it’s through Hamilton, so that felt like a good choice for me because I really needed credits outside my major to fulfill the twenty-credit rule.”

Timeliness was an additional problem for Violante. While two departments approved her credits quickly, she was forced to enlist Registrar Martin Warner for help in pressuring the remaining two departments to award credit as she went into her senior spring — a full year after leaving for her program — to determine if she needed an additional course to fulfill the twenty-course rule.

Warner also stepped in when Emma* ’15, who returned from Australia last spring, left her debriefing meeting with the then-faculty advisor in tears after being told that a misunderstanding over grading policy would ruin her GPA. With a strong average going into her final exam, Emma decided to play the numbers game and not prepare, not realizing that receiving below a certain mark would result in automatic failure of the class.

“I asked if there was any way for the class not to show up on my transcript, or for my transcript to just say I took three classes,” Emma said. “And [my faculty advisor] said, ‘No, absolutely not. It will show up on your transcript and you probably won’t get into medical school.’”

Although the course was eventually removed, the experience made her feel like not everyone in the office was rooting for student success. She says she’s had conversations with friends in different years who described their faculty advisors’ attitude with the same word she and Russell used: “cold.”

While Bernard and Martin have pinpointed places to improve student experience both pre- and post-departure, including the establishment of a database with courses taken for credit abroad and a greater degree of departmental automatic accreditation with popular programs, they believe the freedom offered by the college’s current process is one of the best models available. Bernard described the process like building a house: while the regulations present provide the floorboards and rough frame, it’s up to the students to develop their own learning experience.

She also believes that for returning students, credit evaluation can provide a rare and valuable space for intellectual reflection.

“When you’re putting together your study abroad work and looking through it, I think it’s such a wonderful experience to kind of relive the academic experience,” Bernard said. “Because conversations stop after a while. You come home, you’ve had the summer, people are not listening, you’re not talking as much and here you are, at Swarthmore, putting the work together, and it continues the study abroad experience.”

Postcards from abroad: Julian Randall

in Arts/Campus Journal/Postcards from Abroad by

Julian Postcards 1

Dear Campus Journal,

My experience abroad has so far been unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced! As a few people back home and at Swat know, this is my first trip outside the country, so everything from customs, to inflight movies, to the cars going on the wrong side of the road, is all totally new to me. I’m currently at Goldsmiths, a branch of University of London, which is in a cool little neighborhood called New Cross, in the southern part of London. The college itself is really cool and has a very different feel from back at Swarthmore.

Currently, I’m taking two classes each in the Sociology and English departments and they give me lots of chances to explore the area. One of my classes has me doing a project taking pictures of cool street art and graffiti from the top level of London buses, which has been pretty awesome. When I’m not doing that, I go salsa dancing, and have been working on a submission for a TV show called Verses and Flow that I’m hoping to be on. So look for updates for that!

Love, Julian

 

Postcards from abroad: Sara Morell

in Arts/Campus Journal/Postcards from Abroad by

Hassan Tower

Dear Campus Journal,

So I’ve been in Rabat for the past two weeks and am absolutely loving my time here!I’m taking classes through a program called AMIDEAST with about 27 other American students. My host mom has promised to teach me how to cook delicious Moroccan food like chicken tagine and harira. The dad loves giving me lectures about history entirely in Arabic. He doesn’t speak any English, which has been great for language learning! He also loves Andalusian music, particularly when mashed-up with Western jazz!

So far I’ve gotten to explore Rabat, and also spent the weekend in Fes. Rabat is the political capital, and is a much newer city. However, it still has a very chaotic medina (old city ) that’s fun to explore. It’s also got fantastic pastries and mint tea. Fes has a huge medina and the streets are so narrow that cars can’t get in. The architecture is a mix of mosaic, stucco and wood-carving that manages to be lavish without feeling gaudy. Each medina has entrances called babs (doors), which are huge and often elaborately decorated. I’ve also visited Volubilis, which is composed of 2,000 year-old Roman ruins. Basically, I’m having a great time, even if I miss Swat a ton!

Love,

Sara

Athletes abroad: unique challenges and unforgettable opportunities

in Sports/Uncategorized by
Darrel Hunter and Joe Hagedorn competed in the Copa de España this fall while they studied abroad in Europe.
Darrel Hunter and Joe Hagedorn competed in the Copa de España while they studied abroad. Photo Courtesy of Darrel Hunter.

As many Swarthmore student-athletes know, when returning from summer and winter breaks, there is a high possibility part of the team will be missing. Each semester, the school sends students all across the world as part of the study abroad program. A good number of these students happen to be athletes.

Before deciding to study abroad, there is a considerable decision to be made on the part of the student-athlete. While a great cultural and academic experience surely awaits them if they choose to travel, it comes with the tradeoff of giving up off-season team activities and practices.

The way of life in other countries can be incredibly different from what we have here in the United States, and especially what we have come to know at Swarthmore. All students must adapt to new languages, foods and local customs. But there is more than that for an athlete.

It can be challenging for athletes to stay on top of their game when their whole world is different. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the new experiences that present themselves: meeting new people, traveling to various countries and trying to soak in the sights, all while balancing the course load of the program.

It is a true testament of passion for those athletes that maintain their athletic lifestyle abroad. On top of these distractions it can also be difficult to find a gym, a field or any sports venue, for that matter, in a foreign city.

But that is one of the unique and interesting aspects of Swarthmore and its athletics’ department. Most coaches leave the decision to study abroad in their players’ hands and some actively encourage it. Most surprisingly, perhaps, is the permission given to some winter athletes to study abroad for a semester. This is especially shocking because the winter sports season overlaps both the fall and spring semester. Inevitably, a winter athlete studying abroad will miss some portion of the season.

Even so, the Swarthmore swim teams saw six of its members choose to study abroad in the fall. This means these athletes missed the entire off-season training program as well as a few early season swim meets.

While head coach Sue Davis knows exactly what it means for her athletes to go abroad, she ultimately leaves the decision to them. Davis says, “To go abroad or not to go abroad is the decision of the individual alone.”

When asked about the challenges studying abroad poses for the coach, Davis didn’t seem overly concerned. “We had 5 women abroad and one man. Any time that people are abroad they are missed.  We have lived through it before and I am sure we will live through it again.”

Even the lack of training her athletes were going to get abroad had no impact on the way Davis went about her business. If the swimmers have a chance to train abroad or at home over break, the team will be better off for it, but either way they will be back in the pool hard at work once they rejoin the team.

Knowing she was going to get a handful of athletes back mid-season was no cause for worry. Davis says, “Getting athletes back mid-season is no different than returning students in the fall.”

With this opportunity put in front of them, swimmers Supriya Davis ’15 and Katie Wiseman ’15 made the decision to study abroad knowing they would miss out on some team activities. Not only are both winter athletes, but each has been formerly named to the All-Centennial Conference First Team.

Wiseman studied in Madrid, Spain with Hamilton College’s Academic Year for the semester, in part to help her complete her requirements for minoring in Spanish. Knowing she was missing out on training with her team, she made the effort to stay in the best shape she could.

Wiseman found a local gym that she tried to visit as much as she could. On the swim front, she did the best she could to try and swim 2,000 to 5,000 meters in a week. Knowing it posed too much of a challenge to keep up with the workouts her teammates were doing back home, Wiseman did enough “to keep a feel for the water.”

When she returned home from Spain, Wiseman met up with her club team to get some added workouts before the always-challenging swim team winter break trip in Puerto Rico. She admits she was initially nervous when rejoining the team on the trip because she didn’t know how her body was going to hold up.

Luckily for Wiseman the work she put in abroad and before the trip proved to be beneficial. “I knew I wasn’t going to be where I normally am in January. It certainly wasn’t easy to jump right back in, but I was able to do more than I thought I would be able to do.”

Much like Wiseman, Davis had a similar experience in balancing the excitement of being abroad with the focus of athletic training. Davis ultimately decided to spend her semester abroad because she viewed it as a must. She said, “I have been swimming my entire life, whereas studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Davis spent her semester at University College London. Similar to her teammate, Davis found a local pool and was able to swim for about three hours a week. Upon returning home, she also joined up with her club team to get as much time in the water as possible before Puerto Rico.

The 15 practices in nine days didn’t make returning to swimming very easy, but Davis was able to hold her own. Perhaps the most noteworthy experience of returning mid-season was the strangeness of going on the “training trip and meet[ing] all of the freshmen for the first time.”

In their first meet back, Davis and Wiseman both placed first in an individual event and Davis also helped propel her relay team into first.

One Swarthmore lacrosse student-athlete, Darrel Hunter ’15, was actually able to compete on a few lacrosse teams while abroad. The first was the Blues in the English Premier League. While Hunter noticed a big difference in the pace and style of play, the overall experience was still highly beneficial.

The talent level was surprisingly high, which helped Hunter stay on top of his game. He says, “I was lucky in that the club I played for had 6 guys who played NCAA lacrosse in the States, including former All-American Trinity midfielder Matt Cohen, and we were coached by the English national team coach Matt Bagley.” The combination of talent and coaching currently has the Blues at the top of the southern half of the Premier League.

Aside from the talent in England, Hunter noted the level of camaraderie amongst the teams that competed. After each of the games, no matter the result, the home team would always host a meal for the visiting team. At their respective fields, clubs had pubs they would use for these post-game meals. This was yet another way Hunter feels he was really able to immerse himself in the culture.

Additionally, Hunter had experiences playing for the Madrid Bears with teammate Joe Hagedorn ’15 in the Copa de España and trying out for the Spanish national team. While the talent level was substantially below that in England, Hunter took his opportunity on the Bears to learn about the Spanish culture.

Because Hunter’s mother was born in Spain, he was eligible to tryout for the national team. He said the idea of representing his country gave him the motivation he needed to work hard enough to make the team. With his success in Spain, Hunter will be representing Spain in this summer’s World Championships in Denver, CO.

Overall Hunter feels lucky that he was provided the opportunity to study abroad in the fall. His experiences in England and Spain not only gave him venues to play the sport he loves in a foreign country, but it enabled him to familiarize himself with cultures he might not normally have come to know.

All things said, Swarthmore’s athletics department certainly gets it right in letting students study abroad. The experiences of Hunter and Hagedorn, combined with the immediate success Davis and Wiseman enjoyed upon returning, validates the department’s liberal study abroad policy.

Postcards from abroad: Erik Jensen ’15

in Arts/Campus Journal/Postcards from Abroad by

erik-postcard-web-edit

Dear Campus Journal,

So I’ve been in Rabat for the past two weeks and am absolutely loving my time here!I’m taking classes through a program called AMIDEAST with about 27 other American students. My host mom has promised to teach me how to cook delicious Moroccan food like chicken tagine and harira. The dad loves giving me lectures about history entirely in Arabic. He doesn’t speak any English, which has been great for language learning! He also loves Andalusian music, particularly when mashed-up with Western jazz!

So far I’ve gotten to explore Rabat, and also spent the weekend in Fes. Rabat is the political capital, and is a much newer city. However, it still has a very chaotic medina (old city ) that’s fun to explore. It’s also got fantastic pastries and mint tea. Fes has a huge medina and the streets are so narrow that cars can’t get in. The architecture is a mix of mosaic, stucco and wood-carving that manages to be lavish without feeling gaudy. Each medina has entrances called babs (doors), which are huge and often elaborately decorated. I’ve also visited Volubilis, which is composed of 2,000 year-old Roman ruins. Basically, I’m having a great time, even if I miss Swat a ton!

Love,

Sara

Returning home from study abroad presents challenges for students

in Around Campus/News by

As the new semester starts many Swarthmore students who studied abroad last semester are back and ready to share their experiences. Swarthmore students have a choice of many programs and countries, ranging from China to France. Mayra Tenorio ’15, a Sociology/Anthropology and Gender and Sexuality Studies major, even studied in four different countries in one program. “My program is called Women and Gender Studies in Europe and one of the best thing about it is that it allowed me to study in Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic and Poland,” she said.

Even in such diverse programs, it is possible for students to keep up with their major requirements. Yet actually studying abroad is more complicated than one might expect.

According to returning Swatties, many procedures are necessary to make the study abroad experience both enjoyable and eligible for Swarthmore credits.

“Before I left, I talked to the department and got a pre-approval of the courses I will be taking in Peking University,” said Briani George ’15, a Health and Societies special major who is also learning advanced Chinese.

The same goes for Hannah Kosman ’14, who said that a pre-estimation of credits was required before she studied in Paris. Pre-estimation involves showing the heads of academic departments specific contents of your program and proving that they are eligible for Swarthmore credits. According to Kosman, the process can be strict.

“To get the credits, you have to take classes that are compatible with the ones already existing at Swarthmore,” said Tenorio, who spent two weeks negotiating with the Sociology/Anthropology department regarding to the credits she will receive. “It took me a really long time to negotiate with the head of my departments to approve the courses.”

Also, it is worth noticing that some classes abroad can be estimated to be worth less than one credit at Swarthmore. Christine Pham ’14, a psychology major who studied abroad in Japan, had classes that were estimated to be worth 0.75 credits at Swarthmore.

Moreover, having a pre-estimation does not ensure getting those credits. “I saved everything — handouts, notes, essays, etc.,” said Kosman, who had trouble bringing the materials back, “so I could give it to the departments I was seeking credit from.”

Proving that one’s classes are legitimate appears to be essential to the departments, as Tenorio and George also said that they brought all of their papers, notes and assignments back.

Other factors also affect how many credits students receive for their program. Kosman, for example, realized that one of her pre-estimated classes turned out to have a much lighter workload than expected and thus she will receive 0.5 credits instead of one for this class. She said she thinks this is reasonable. George, however, discovered that one of her pre-estimated classes actually consist of two sub-classes and she had to take both of them to complete the course.

“Fingers crossed,” she said about her plans, “I will get 4.5 credits. I’ll try to persuade them to give me the extra credit because in fact I took one more class than planned.” Tenorio’s case was even more interesting: one of her classes included content from both Sociology and Gender and Sexuality studies, and after negotiations, the Gender and Sexuality Studies Department is giving her 0.4 credits and Sociology/Anthropology is giving her 0.6 credits, leaving her with one full credit. This is different from her pre-estimation but she is content that she did get a full credit.

Go to Top