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Discovery and Transformation Are at the Center of Students’ Off-Campus Experiences

Discovery and Transformation Are at the Center of Students’ Off-Campus Experiences April 9, 2013

“I became a global citizen where education enabled me to understand more about my personal journey – who I was and who I am becoming – and how I am connected to the world.”
– Johnny Reed, Colorado College

“My research experience in the Costa Rica program is an excellent example of how conducting research in a new culture cultivates both cultural awareness and personal growth.”
– Carliann Pentz, Lake Forest College

“This experience changed my view of traditional medicine and its ability to treat diseases, but I think I learned as much as I did because of the personal connections I made with people around me.”
– Elizabeth Laferriere, Luther College

Discovery and transformation are often at the center of the stories that students tell about their off-campus study experiences, as is the case with Reed, Laferriere, and Pentz.

At the 5th annual Student Symposium on Off-Campus Study on April 12-13, 29 students from across the ACM will share their stories of experiences studying in places as near as the city where they will gather – Chicago – and as far away as China, Madagascar, and Peru.

Johnny ReedJohnny Reed at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Together, the ACM colleges have offered consortial off-campus opportunities, both international and in the U.S., for nearly 50 years. The Symposium celebrates that history, as well as the commitment by each ACM college to make off-campus study an important aspect of a liberal arts education.

The students’ presentations will be grouped under four themes: Exploring New Places & Perspectives, Research & the Cultural Context, Awareness, Connections, & Action, and Journeys & Evolving Mindsets.

Following their individual talks, a panel of the students in each group will engage in discussion, share insights, and take questions from the audience. Videos of the presentations and discussions will be available on the 2013 Symposium webpage following the event.

The Symposium participants were nominated by the colleges’ Off-Campus Study Directors, and each campus delegation will include a faculty or staff member. The students selected studied in a more than 20 different countries on programs sponsored by the ACM, their own colleges, and other off-campus study providers.

“Couscous” by Xavier Al-Mateen.

The Symposium will include several other events for the participants on Friday evening, April 12:

  • The winner of the 2013 Nick Adams Short Story Contest, Sarah Olson from Carleton College, will receive her award and read excerpts from her prize-winning story “Truth in Lies.”
  • Lawrence University student Xavier Al-Mateen will be honored for his photo, titled “Couscous,” that was awarded the Grand Prize in the 2012-13 ACM Off-Campus Study Photo Contest.
  • Mary Scott-Boria, a long-time faculty member of the ACM Urban Studies Program and the Chicago Program, will give a talk about her experiences of engaging students in the city of Chicago.

In previewing their Symposium presentations, the students show the varied aspects of their off-campus study – courses, independent study, home stays, travel, and immersion in other cultures – all contribute to experiences that can be life-changing. Here’s more about the three students quoted at the beginning of the article.

Johnny ReedJohnny Reed with his host family.

A senior majoring in French and international law at Colorado College, Johnny Reed went to Senegal and France last spring on a semester program and tour sponsored by the college’s French department.

“The key features of the program that led to my personal, educational and societal discoveries were living with a host family who barely spoke English, traveling throughout Europe to various castles, and studying African Philosophy and French Colonial History,” he noted.

“Interestingly, studying African Philosophy led me to discover a variety of historical movements and events — those that seem to be nonexistent and omitted from the history books I have ever read — that is essential to understanding African-American culture,” he continued. “Thus, this academic discovery fostered my personal growth because I became knowledgeable of history’s missing links.”

Carliann PentzCarliann Pentz in Costa Rica.

Carliann Pentz from Lake Forest College wanted, she said, to go off-campus to “place myself in a situation outside of my comfort zone.” A double major in psychology and Spanish, she chose the ACM Costa Rica: Field Research in the Environment, Social Sciences, & Humanities program, where she found that her research into Costa Ricans’ levels of happiness and satisfaction with life “became a gateway to understanding and connecting with Costa Ricans.”

“Overall, my experience furthered my knowledge in research, cultural, and personal growth,” Pentz wrote, “which shows the importance and wonderful results of pushing outside one’s comfort zone to study in a completely different culture for a semester.”

Elizabeth LaferriereElizabeth Laferriere in Madagascar.

To complete the language immersion requirement for her French major at Luther College – she’s also majoring in biology – Elizabeth Laferriere traveled to Madagascar last summer on an SIT Study Abroad program focused on traditional medicine and healthcare systems.

The program and her project on integrating traditional medicine and Western medicine “was particularly interesting to me because I was able to connect my love of biology and French into one subject matter; I also used this concept for my senior paper,” she wrote.

Living with a host family was also an important aspect of the experience. “I truly felt like a member of their family,” according to Laferriere, “and we always had a wonderful time whether we were going to the market or simply cooking dinner.”


Symposium participants, including photos and information about each student and descriptions of their presentation topics

Symposium schedule

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