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Challenges, Self-Awareness, and the Perfect Stepping Stone

Challenges, Self-Awareness, and the Perfect Stepping Stone April 6, 2014

Adventurous. Enriching. Luminescent. Inspiring. Unforgettable.

Those are a few of the descriptions given by 18 students from across the ACM when they were asked to sum up their off-campus study experience in a word or phrase.

Anna MarquezAnna Marquez from Knox College studied off-campus in Buenos Aires.

They went in search of challenges and self-awareness, to immerse themselves in different places and cultures, and to take their academic work beyond the classroom.

They traveled to places around the globe – Chicago to Buenos Aires, India to Belgium, South Africa to Japan – to conduct research, learn languages, engage in internships, and study topics ranging from ecology to art history to entrepreneurship.

On April 11-12, the group of students will tell the stories behind those one-word descriptions when they gather in Chicago to share their experiences at the ACM Student Symposium on Off-Campus Study.

The Symposium is ACM’s celebration of off-campus study as a vital part of a liberal arts and sciences education. Together, the ACM colleges have offered consortial off-campus opportunities, both international and in the U.S., for nearly 50 years.

Participants in the two-day event were nominated by the Off-Campus Study offices on their campuses. The students will give presentations about their off-campus experiences and engage in panel discussions moderated by faculty and staff from the colleges. The Student Symposium webpage has links to videos of presentations from past years.

The Symposium dinner will feature Dr. Sandra Wong, Dean of the College and Faculty at Colorado College, as guest speaker. In addition, awards will be presented to three students who were winners in ACM-sponsored contests:

Here’s more about several of the Symposium participants and their presentation topics.

Dissolving comfort zones

Hannah Black in TanzaniaHannah Black (Knox College) in Tanzania

Knox College senior Hannah Black, an anthropology and sociology major, parlayed two semester-length programs – Tanzania: Ecology & Human Origins and London & Florence: Arts in Context – into a junior year off-campus that, in her words, “almost completely dissolved my comfort zone.”

The programs certainly provided contrasts, as she went from living in a tent and conducting fieldwork on the plains of eastern Africa to attending theatre in London and studying Renaissance art in Italy.

“I had experiences that I will never forget, like dancing with the Maasai under the stars and losing my breath at the feet of the Pietá, that have changed me permanently and for the better,” Black noted. “Going to Tanzania made me stronger in nearly every way, and going to Europe revived my love of art and re-inspired my spirituality.”

Community building, from Europe to Iowa

Jeremy WilesJeremy Wiles (Grinnell College)

Actively looking for diversity and seeking friends from many backgrounds were keys to making Jeremy Wiles‘ semester in Copenhagen an enlightening experience – one that gave him insights into the importance of social responsibility in creating sustainable communities.

“Most of the time Denmark, much like my Grinnell [College] education, was relentless at convincing me why everyone’s wellbeing matters, rather than just people I identify with,” wrote Wiles, a senior majoring in economics. “Whether we are talking about a city of 10,000 like Grinnell, Iowa, or half a million people like Copenhagen, community building is always significant.”

Professional and personal growth

Caryn ShebowichCaryn Shebowich (Cornell College)

“The perfect stepping stone” is how Caryn Shebowich, a junior at Cornell College, described her internship last summer with Project Transitions, a nonprofit transitional housing/hospice program for people living with HIV/AIDS in Austin, TX. Her placement was sponsored by the Cornell Fellows program, which is designed to help students apply their liberal arts education to the world of work.

“Personal growth is a necessary part of professional development,” wrote Shebowich, who is majoring in Psychological Well Being in the Arts. “I gained skills, clarity in career path and the confidence that I can successfully live on my own after college…. In a thriving city perfect for my first time out on my own, this internship was full of more professional and personal growth than I can express.”

Kit PavlekovskyKit Pavlekovsky (Carleton College)

Gaining confidence as a leader

Sailing thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, Kit Pavlekovsky from Carleton College stepped far outside her everyday world to become part of a self-contained community, conducting scientific research, doing tasks around the ship, and “reflecting and simply existing with the ship.”

“I gained confidence as a leader, directing my shipmates in everything from setting the table to stopping the boat and deploying scientific equipment 500m deep,” wrote Pavlekovsky, a junior majoring in chemistry and math. “Back at Carleton, I’ve noticed a change – I’ve retained the ability to be reflective and a willingness to take charge and have attention focused on me. I have the courage to speak up and have an opinion where before I quietly watched.”


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