Alumni Study Abroad experiences leave lasting impressions
Several alumni responded to requests from the Office of Communications to write about their Study Abroad experiences while they were students. While certainly not representative of the hundreds of students who have participated in overseas programs, those featured here do reflect what a number of participants have found during their programs.
ALLISON DeDOMINICK ’07, a Track II: art history, culture and art theory major, studied at Richmond (VA) University, Florence, Italy in summer 2006, and at La Scoula de Lorenzo de Medici in Florence in spring 2007.
“In the summer of 2006 I studied through AIFS (American Institute for Foreign Study) at Richmond University to research Leonardo da Vinci and Giacomo Puccini in depth,” said Allison. “As an art history major and a lover of European history, I found that studying objects and places in person was inspiring. My level of understanding and interest was elevated as I was able to nearly touch my subjects to find meaning and judgment just as others had centuries ago.
“It was surreal,” recalls Allison.? “I ended my stay in Leipzig, Germany, visiting German friends whom I had known from high school. One of my personal highlights of the whole stay was to be able to experience the 2006 World Cup in both Italy and Germany. I was enthused when Italy won over Germany in the final while sitting amongst crying Germans in Berlin. Of course I kept my happiness to myself, but as a fan of Italian futbol, I could not help but sneak a smile.
“Because I had such an inspiring experience abroad in 2006, I decided to return to Florence, Italy in the spring of 2007 to finish my BA,” said Allison. “?I always strive to experience something a little different, thus I decided to go abroad with Broome Community College’s (Binghamton, NY) Study Abroad Program to obtain my education from La Scoula de Lorenzo de Medici.
“One class that I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot from was museum exhibitions. This course taught me how to coordinate exhibitions at a variety of levels,” explained Allison. “I obtained hands-on experience managing an exhibition throughout the streets of Florence that highlighted artwork created by international students. This experience was the forefront of my journey into designing my own art coordination business, ARTe (established 2011 after the completion of my MS in August 2010).
“Aside from learning vast amounts of information and ideas about my field of study, it was during this experience that I became near fluent in Italian. I will always remember the moment when I realized that I had become fluent; I was on a train heading to Rome and was gazing out the window while over hearing two Italian gentlemen conversing. Near the end of their conversation, I stopped myself to realize that I had understood their entire conversation, which followed with a long conversation with the two men. I wanted to cry in bliss as years before I had would have never thought it possible that I would be able to understand and converse in a foreign language.
“Traveling to Spain and Greece with my newly acquired friends was another great experience,” Allison remembers. “I come from a Greek and Italian background so being able to travel throughout the Mediterranean, experiencing something my ancestors had, touched me emotionally. ??Words will never truly fulfill what I felt and still feel from having my Study Abroad experience. I grew up a lot and became a stronger person from it. I think about my stay each day, and long to return. I left a piece of my heart in Italy, and will return some day to find it.”
RYAN C. ELLIOTT ’03 writes: “I was interested in going abroad for many reasons,” says Ryan. “I wanted to learn another language, experience a different culture and cuisine, and broaden my educational experience.”
The experience went according to plan.
“The program started with an eight-week intensive language course that immersed me directly into the German language and allowed me to learn rapidly. I then moved to Erlangen to attend the university. I lived with seven Germans in a large apartment, and my friendship with some of them lasts even today, nearly 10 years later.
“I went to class three days a week to complete my undergraduate course requirements. The other days were spent in the lab working on my bachelor’s thesis. Weekends were spent travelling around Germany and Europe in general and meeting new people. By the end of the program I had completed the coursework for my two degrees and my bachelor’s thesis was written and presented in German and English.
“Preparation was fairly easily as I recall. I was able to communicate with my thesis adviser in Germany who set me up with my class schedule and even found me my place to live. I also made sure to pack as light as possible so I could accumulate clothes and things in country … just remember, Europeans do laundry too! You don't need one month’s worth of clothes.
“This experience did in fact drastically change the way I went about my career. I dedicated myself to finding a job that was internationally focused, with travel abroad, and taking advantage of my new language skills. And now today I have become the manager of Solar Energy projects with my company since my German language is used very frequently in this industry.”
BART KILINSKI ’84, ’88 writes he “was in the 1983 Study Abroad group of Ceramic Engineers in Erlangen, Germany. I've always enjoyed history and geography and wanted to see another part of the world. This was my first trip to Europe. My mother is from a German background, which added a note of personal interest.
“The other choices that year for ceramics were England and Spain. Several things made this program attractive. The cost was manageable since we paid the usual Alfred tuition, plus we had Work-Study positions in Germany to help cover living expenses (apartment, food, etc). We earned credit hours towards our diploma so we did not have to delay our graduation date. We got to work alongside some of the professional staff in their labs, which not even the “natives” get to do. And,” he added, “little did I know beforehand, we would be well cared-for by the local staff, almost like an adopted child.
“The first hurdle was to complete the junior year Alfred academic requirements over the previous summer and fall terms. This was possible, partly since I was ahead of schedule due to AP (Advanced Placement) credits. Highschoolers, make the most of those AP classes!
“During the prior summer, I took a beginner's class in German, but didn't use it at all before the trip (big mistake!). I saved to pay for plane tickets and traveler's checks. When we went to the airport in January, I had a large suitcase and a small day pack for the next eight months. Of course, you learn to buy locally what you need, and to make do with repairs or borrowing.
“The second hurdle was to learn enough German to be functional. We had an eight-week “total immersion” class in a small village in the Black Forest. That was awesome! The scenery was lovely and the folks were delightful and very helpful. After a short break, it was off to Erlangen to begin work as a lab assistant and to begin exploring wider Germany.
“Around town, we used rented, one-speed bikes. It was possible to hitchhike to some places, but not reliably. The trains were very efficient but sometimes above our budgets. We spent a lot of weekends and holidays travelling to memorable destinations, but some of the most precious things were learned from the locals — going to the city summer festival, hanging out with international friends, shopping the neighborhood stores, etc.
“The Summer Semester classes ran from April through July, and it was sometimes difficult to make sure you got to classes on those warm summer days. But go we did, dutifully, and developed love and respect for our professors and co-students. In August, there were a few spare weeks for tourism, and I decided to see how far I could go on a train pass. Although I visited with several friends in various cities, there were many nights spent riding trains with little sleep. That is not the recommended way to go.
“I’m not sure how Study Abroad changed my approach to the academic world. It was a valuable lesson to stay focused and self-motivated, because most students there do not have regular exams or homework. They have to pass a qualifying exam, which is quite a big thing. I learned it DOES matter, Who you know. Introductions and connections are helpful — they call it networking, now.
“I found it easier to relate to multinationals, since we all have some of the same basic needs and concerns. It is good to learn what it feels like to be a (cultural) minority. I’ve learned to get by with much less stuff in my life. And maybe I’ve learned to have less stress about the destination and enjoy the journey more.”
ROBERT KONIAK ’62 says Study Abroad “was a wonderful experience with everlasting results.” He writes: “While studying abroad in Belgium, a friend and I encountered some police officers (socially) who were being trained as scuba divers. They wanted to learn English and they invited us to meet their team. We eventually brokered a deal whereby we’d only speak English while they allowed us to train with them – if we could physically keep up with their regimen.
“As tough as the course was, we were tougher. Eight months later, their mastery of the language was exemplary and my friend and I were on our way to explore the Mediterranean seacoast of Spain. This led to a lifelong love of scuba diving in various places around the world. It also provided us with a tremendous respect for the environment and many of the life forms with which we share our planet …
“I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”
“I had an amazing experience studying abroad in Israel when I was at Alfred,” begins NOMI MANON ’00. “I wrote my honors thesis on it and some of the experiences that I had there as well as at Alfred made me decide to become a rabbi.
“I studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for the spring semester of the 1998-99 school year” participating “in a program where students were housed together in apartments in a variety of Jerusalem neighborhoods to better experience Israeli society and culture.
“This was a major plus for me,” says Nomi, “because we had our own kitchen and regular Israeli neighbors. I often went to the Shuk (outdoor market) to buy my produce and use my Hebrew skills. Living in an apartment was a much better way for me to immerse myself in Israeli culture and hone my Hebrew skills.
“While in Israel I did do a fair amount of travelling around the country to experience different cities and towns. I also went to Egypt and Turkey with a few friends from my program. I have a lot of family in Israel so I also spent a fair amount of time with them, which was a wonderful addition to my studies.
“Being in Israel surrounded by Jewish college students from all over the world was a very eye-opening experience for me,” maintains Nomi. “At Alfred I was very involved with Hillel (I was the student president) and I loved our little Jewish community, but in Israel I saw what it was like to be surrounded by lots of Jews my own age. It was such a different experience.
“When I returned to Alfred for my senior year I was happy to be back and found that my Study Abroad experience gave me a new perspective in my studies and in student life. As I thought about my plans post-college I realized that I wanted to work with young Jews to get them excited about Israel and about their Judaism. The way that I wanted to go about that was by studying to be a rabbi. At Alfred I was a comparative cultures major and I had been really energized in Jerusalem to continue studying religion after college.
“For the past three years I have been the Hillel director at the Statue University of New York at Albany where there are over 5,000 Jewish students whom I get to work with every day!”