In Morocco, senior Alexander Green ventured into a small rug and scarf shop. Sitting behind the loom, a man waved to him, and Green walked over.
“He started speaking very broken English with me,” Green said, before remembering that Moroccans speak many languages. “I tried speaking Spanish with him even though Arabic was his native language. His eyes widened and he said he knew Spanish much better than English.”
The man was happy Green was learning Spanish and thought that Arabic should be his next language. “He then gave me a little rope bracelet made from the same material as his rug. It hasn’t fallen off yet, and I’ll wear it until it does.”
Green spent his summer studying abroad in Seville, Spain. “Every day we took a walk into the city as part of the class to see the things we were studying about. I loved getting to see the hundreds of years of history right in between and beneath the modern buildings.”
Part of Seville’s beauty lies in the way people got around, Green said. “The public transit is much closer and easier, but pretty much everyone walks everywhere in Seville. I was able to finish a good chunk of my summer reading on audiobook walking to and from class. Huge perk.”
The variety of food also proved different than the average American meal. “They eat tons of fish, and french fries with everything. There was a churro and chocolate stand on the bridge to my neighborhood,” he said. “Hillsdale needs a churro and chocolate stand.”
Green spent a weekend in Switzerland with junior Christa Lavoie, who plans to major in German and psychology. Lavoie spent most of her summer in Germany, participating in Hillsdale’s study abroad program in Wurzburg, Germany, after working with kindergarteners for a month. While Lavoie was there, she described some initial difficulty in immersing herself in the language, culture, and lifestyle.
“We signed a pact that we would only speak German with each other,” said Lavoie.
After classes, the group often explored the city of Wurzburg together. “One of my favorite ones was the white wine factory,” she explained. Wurzburg is known within Germany as a wine town. “We had wine tasting. That was a unique opportunity, getting to drink four glasses of wine in the span of one hour when it’s your professors giving you the wine,” she laughed.
This wasn’t Lavoie’s first time in Germany. She’s a dual citizen of Germany and the U.S., and has family there, but said that figuring it out herself was a totally different experience.
LaVoie described “fluchtlinge teezeit,” which translates to refugee teatime, as one of her favorite experiences. “There was a camp of 275 people who are refugees. We’d go and play soccer with them, and bring tea, cakes, and chocolate,” she said. “That was probably a highlight for most people who went on the trip, just because it was the most meaningful.”
Senior Jessica Skoudis studied in Seville alongside Green and worked as an assistant at an English school, teaching children ranging from 4 to 18 years old.
“One of the students in my class was constantly picked on. I ended up staying by him most of the time and just talking with him,” she said. “I thought, maybe I’m bothering him or maybe this is annoying him. But at the end, he came up to me, gave me a big hug, and said, ‘thank you so much for being my friend and staying by me.’”
In Seville, Skoudis experienced a friendly and affectionate culture, which she contrasted to large American cities like New York. “A couple times I got lost and I was really nervous,” she said. “I would ask for directions and people would tell me exactly where to go. Or, they’d walk to the place with me. I really liked that aspect of it.”
Skoudis described her experience as a mixture of touristry and engagement with local culture. “The first three weeks, I was a tourist. I was going around taking pictures, and everybody knew I was a tourist,” she explained. “After that, I started to get a feel for the city. I started going to places that weren’t as touristy and just felt more integrated into the culture. People started talking to me in Spanish thinking that I was a Spaniard.”
Skoudis, majoring in English with minors in classical education and Spanish, studied at the Center for Cross-Cultural Study in conjunction with Hillsdale College. The immersion in the language helped her long term goal of gaining fluency.
Other students, like senior Madeline Bragg, got the chance to study at Oxford University.
“We had tutorials, in which I met with my professor and one other student,” she said. “The professor would lecture and then give us opportunities to ask questions… Although I was initially intimidated by the format, I was able to get to know my professor very well and I appreciated receiving such in-depth feedback on my work.”
English eating culture is much more relaxed than America’s, according to Bragg. “People generally take a longer time to eat and have drinks, and waiters usually wouldn’t bring your check until you asked for it,” she said. “I also learned that the British really do take their tea seriously.”
Each of these students felt they shared special moments with locals or professors that they would never forget. For Lavoie, it happened while visiting the refugee camp. “The most meaningful ten minutes of my time in Germany was teaching a little 5-year-old boy, who was from Syria, how to ride a bike,” she said. “It was meaningful because I felt like I was there in Germany not to just take from the culture, and to not be the tourist. It was meaningful to give back.”