“Got Your Back," a sculpture in honor of the 50th anniversary of A.B.L.E. by Fay Stevenson-Smith M.D. '64, wa...
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Galesburg, IL 61401-4999
Majors in Economics and Environmental Studies
Describe your study abroad program.
Studying abroad was not something I had on my radar, but I quickly reconsidered that upon finding out a wide range of programs that fit my interests after I visited Bren Tooley at the Stellyes Center. I participated in the Environmental Studies and Sustainability program through IES in Germany. My program took part in the young, southwest German city of Freiburg. Located in the foothills of the Black Forest, the location was ideal for an environmental studies program. Our classes ranged from learning about the climate and vegetation in the Black Forest and the Swiss Alps, to learning about the multi-sector strategies for sustainability, the technology behind renewable resources, and even more about our host city. Much of our work was hands-on, with multiple field visits in places ranging from the mountains to hotels and advanced renewable technology centers in and around Freiburg. This wide range of opportunities within the program is not something many programs offer. We quickly got accustomed to the beautiful scenery, the fast-paced German college student life, and all the other joys that come with studying abroad.
How do you see your experience abroad having an impact on your education/your research/your career plans?
Growing up, I was always reminded that I have to be conscious of my surroundings at all times—if I was ever the smartest person in the room, I was in the wrong room. While studying abroad, I was never that person, and I never had to worry about it either. All of my professors, peers, and flatmates always had something constructive to add to discussions and help me understand the depths of our conversations better. I remember a particular lecture during my time there, after which I texted my father about knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life there on out. For a confused almost-graduate, that brief moment of clarity was pivotal. Upon coming back to Knox, I decided to bump up my Environmental Studies minor into a second major, and that’s how things have taken off since.
What were some highlights while your were abroad?
I don't think I would ever be able to put my experiences into words and have it do justice to my experiences. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be waking up in the Swiss Alps for a class with people I now consider such an important part of my life. Neither would I have thought that I would have enjoyed going on early morning hikes to watch the sunrise, that I would have loved shivering on top a bike bridge while the sun set over the city, or that I would have had great stories to tell about the difficulties of having to pay a toll in Hungary. I guess the greatest highlight of my study-abroad experience was not the food, not the trips, not the late nights and the early mornings, but having been able to share those with friends I would have never met had I not gone abroad.
What surprised you about study abroad?
Studying abroad was brief, so it wasn’t something I imagined having as big of an impact on me as I now know it did. I think what surprised me most was the amount of knowledge, love, and perspective I gained during my time in Freiburg.
Why do you think study abroad is so important?
Studying abroad is important, all the more now than ever, because there is so much to do and even more to learn! You could educate yourself to the greatest limit possible, but nothing will ever compare to being able to experience things raw and first-hand.
Photo Above: Shresha Lötschental in the Swiss Alps, where she went for a field visit.