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SMC study abroad ranked No. 15

Ashley Charnley | Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The 2010 Open Doors Report, released by the Institute of International Education (IIE), ranked Saint Mary’s College No. 15 among all baccalaureate colleges in the nation for 2008-2009 academic year study abroad programs, according to a press release.

“Before 2002, Saint Mary’s College had only seven study abroad programs and all but one were in Europe,” Elaine Meyer-Lee, director for the Center for Women’s Intercultural Studies (CWIL), said in a press release. “CWIL has expanded study abroad offerings, creating 17 new programs. The portfolio of programs is varied enough to meet individual students’ needs, including geographical location, time frame, disciplinary focus, pedagogical model and specific learning outcomes.”

Recently, the College launched a new program in South Korea, which started with senior and student body president Rachael Chesley. Chesley also spent a semester studying in Rome.

“Taking the independence and confidence I developed in Rome, I was able to travel abroad and learn more about the Korean culture,” Chesley said.

She said she had some apprehensions about going to South Korea, but liked the flexibility of the program.

“Before heading to South Korea, I was nervous about being the first and only student to experience this new program with Saint Mary’s,” Chesley said. “There was not a great deal of information given about the program, and I was not sure about the language barrier, where I was living or what my life would be like there. However, I trusted my gut, branched out, met new people and had an excellent experience.”

According to Chesley, going abroad is a crucial experience not only in education, but also in life.

“There is a quote by St. Augustine that says, ‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.’ I believe this,” Chesley said. “I always grew up doing road trips with my family, so I realized that the world was a big place with lots of different people and so many diverse things.”

Through her time in Rome and South Korea, Chesley said she realized the importance of experiencing different parts of the world.

“Overall, the world is becoming a more global society each and every day,” Chesley said. “Studying abroad offered me the opportunity to develop my intercultural competence, communication skills and independence.”

Chesley is not the only student who has had multiple experiences with Saint Mary’s study abroad programs. Senior Chelsea Crane spent a year in Ireland, a summer in Nicaragua and two weeks traveling in Ecuador.

“I heard somewhere that when you go someplace where no one knows you, you become more yourself than ever,” Crane said. “Now that I’ve experienced traveling and living abroad, I know that to be true and it’s an experience I think every woman, American, human should have.”

Crane said she picked Ireland because she felt she would be able to assimilate there due to the similarities between the U.S. and Ireland.

“One of the reasons I decided on Ireland was because they speak English — it would be an easier transition and I was able to make close friends more easily,” Crane said.

However, Crane said she enjoyed traveling to more exotic places because it gave her an appreciation for the everyday amenities of American life.

“In Nicaragua, I learned to really appreciate things I didn’t realize I should,” Crane said. “For example, having to throw toilet paper into a basket instead of down the loo made me really appreciate the commonality of working toilets in America.”

Traveling in unfamiliar territory can be intimidating, but Crane said it also offers moment that can’t be found anywhere else.

“Hiking around the same islands where the very notion of evolution was born was the experience of a lifetime and I’ll be lucky if I get to experience something like that again,” Crane said.

For both Chesley and Crane, going abroad was a part of their college career they won’t forget.

“Studying abroad has allowed me the distinct opportunity to learn more about myself, my interests, my passions and the world around me,” Chesley said.