Every semester and even every break at Virginia Wesleyan College is marked with extraordinary opportunities for students to take their learning outside the classroom and travel around the globe. Whether for fun or academics, each person comes back with a different story. Some focus on the culture; others, the experiences; and a few inevitably become enraptured with the small details.
Junior Jessica Pittman went to London, Paris and Amsterdam over the winter session as part of the Psychology 305 class.
“I really liked it. I kinda just love traveling, so being able to go, especially as it relates to my major, and to see how psychology can intermix with traveling was really cool,” Pittman said. “One thing I did before I went [on the trip] was to look up meals from each country. It was definitely helpful to know ahead of time, ‘Oh, I like this, I won’t like that,’ but to still be able to try authentic food.”
Fish and chips, served with a side of peas, was her staple while there. She tried it in every city she traveled to.
Junior Zoe Traficante spent her winter break in Prague with others in the History 262 class.
“It was a lot of fun,” Traficante said. “[Prague] just has so much culture… You only get chances like this once in awhile.”
Despite having a busy itinerary and setting a lofty goal of visiting as many sacred sites as possible, Traficante found it easy to keep an upbeat attitude and a smile on her face.
“It’s hard to worry about being tired if you’re having a good time,” Traficante said.
Senior Taylor Simons spent roughly four months in Costa Rica as part of the requirements for her two majors, Spanish and international business. From September to mid-December, she studied at the Universidad Veritas in San José.
“It was really cool to be abroad while the U.S. election was going on,” Simons said. “I think as Americans we get caught in our, like, Americanized bubble? And we have a hard time seeing outside perspectives when something really big is going on in our country. It was really cool to experience that whole process with locals.”
She also had the chance to visit the Territorio de Zaguates, or ‘Land of the Strays,’ a volunteer-run, privately-funded dog sanctuary. Currently the organization houses more than 900 canines.
“I think I just learned a lot about being culturally aware,” Simons said.
Junior Lydia O’Connor spent the fall semester and part of August in Florence, Italy. Though her time there was certainly eventful, flying there was just as exciting. She battled spilled wine, bad capers, Italian pay phones and lost luggage — all before leaving the airport.
It really helped me to just have a bigger perspective on the world. I grew a lot personally.
After the chaos of her flight, Italy greeted O’Connor with art museums, community gardens and gorgeous architecture.
“It really helped me to just have a bigger perspective on the world,” O’Connor said. “I grew a lot personally.”
As well as growing in her academic confidence and as a person, O’Connor also grew spiritually.
“Faith was a big part of my journey there, and just really trusting in God,” O’Connor said.
Though these student travelers all took different messages and meanings from their trips, they all had the same answer when asked what they would say to others considering studying away: “Do it.”
For more stories about student experiences, periodically check Virginia Wesleyan College’s website. VWC offers a wide variety of study-away courses and study-abroad opportunities. Trips vary in destination and duration, from one-week outings to nearby cities to semester-long journeys to countries across the ocean. Courses are offered every fall and spring semester, as well as during winter and summer sessions.
Though the staff and faculty in charge of each course set the itinerary, students all reported they had plenty of free time to use as they pleased.
Study away experiences are mediated through the Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery. Mandy Reinig is the director of the study-away program and students are encouraged to contact and make appointments with her to discuss what experience may best benefit them.