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Christa LaVoie studied abroad this past summer in Europe. Christa LaVoie | Courtesy

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.”