Knox Celebrates the Return of Off-Campus Students

Students share their experiences from study abroad and other programs

February 07, 2014

by Ashley Wolfgang '14

Knox College students who have returned to campus after studying abroad or participating in other off-campus programs gathered at a special dinner on January 15 to share their stories with fellow students and Knox faculty members.

More than 110 Knox students studied abroad -- in 25 countries across six continents -- during the 2012-2013 academic year. A similar number are studying abroad in the 2013-14 academic year. The countries where they study and become immersed in the culture include Botswana, Jordan, England, Denmark, Spain, and Argentina. In addition, some Knox students study in off-campus programs in the United States, including in Washington D.C. and Chicago, Illinois.

A tradition at Knox, the "welcome back dinner" aims to help returning students make a smooth transition back into the Knox environment by creating a community where people share life-changing experiences.

Ariana Lisefski '14, who studied abroad in London, explained, "Although I've talked with friends who also studied abroad, the dinner was a nice opportunity to connect with other students that I might not have talked to otherwise." (Photo above: Ariana Lisefski in London.)

The director of the Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies, Knox faculty member Robin Ragan, opened the night by welcoming each student back and talking about her own experiences abroad.

"I am like you, back from abroad. I was away for two whole years to Barcelona, Spain, in conjunction with the Knox program in Barcelona. Nights like tonight make my job so fun and enriching," she said.

"Avoid the temptation to shoebox this experience," added Ragan, who also is associate professor of modern languages (Spanish). "Don't say, ‘That was last year. Now, we switch gears, full-speed ahead. Nothing's changed.' Don't forget that perhaps you learned to slow down, learned to enjoy meals, learned to love long conversations. Perhaps you have a more nuanced understanding of what community means now."

Dean Laura Behling also delivered remarks before joining one of the tables of students.

Later, visiting speaker Stacie Berdan advised students on how they can tailor their experiences abroad to help them succeed in the global market.

"You've already made this leap," said Berdan, a writer, speaker, and consultant who focuses on global careers, cross-cultural awareness, and international experiences. "You're a step ahead and have already had this experience, which will help make you successful in the global market."