As the winter holidays came to a close, opportunities for students began to bloom. One amazing course offering, to study abroad in Spain and Morocco, became the talk of the campus. This trip not only provided students with a once in a lifetime experience, it also ensured that they brought back many memories of their travels. The trip was filled with terrific educational aspects that drove the students to thirst for more knowledge. They were able to make cultural comparisons not only between Spain and Morocco but with the United States as well.
“It was humbling to see how privileged we are because Americans don’t see how much we really have,” said freshmen Melissa Argabrite.
The group was able to observe some very exceptional scenes unfold before their eyes. While in Morocco they saw the downside of a public sanitation and stayed with a local family in a rural house.
“In Morocco there were piles and piles of trash in the street because the trash workers were on strike,” said Argabrite.
“We experienced other lifestyles. We stayed in a rural house with a local family where chickens were running around outside and there was no running water. The family cooked for us and we all sang songs and did henna together,” said Dr. Aubrey Westfall, assistant professor of Political Science who helped lead the trip along with Dr. Murrell Brooks.
“My favorite part of the trip was Morocco because it was so different; it was a culture shock. The food and the way people carry themselves was amazing to see,” said senior Ashlee Stinger.
While traveling the students saw first-hand that modern technology was non-existent due to the country’s financial crisis.
“We had to learn to use Turkish toilets, expect the water to be cold, and know that they hand wash and hang dry their clothes; we had to be open-minded,” said Stinger.
Being able to personally see the cultural differences is a great way to grasp a better understanding of the varieties of lifestyles from culture to culture.
“I encourage students to study abroad because you gain a new perspective on life that is intriguing and educational,” said Argabrite.
Engaging in these comparisons beyond the walls of the classroom makes a major impact on the on an individual.
“It was a unique, valuable experience where I learned just as much as the students,” said Westfall.
“I never thought I would have the opportunity to have a wonderful, life-changing experience for just $3,000,” said Stinger.
However, for Stinger in particular, this trip had more in store for her than what she had bargained for. As with any adventure, also came the unexpected. Ashlee Stinger, will never forget her time abroad because the unexpected is exactly what happened; Ashlee’s passport was lost on the day of their departure back to the U.S.
“Unexpected experiences make you stronger because you learn more about yourself and the kind of person you are,” said Stinger.
While it seems unfortunate that this happened to Ashlee it is not uncommon for travelers to find themselves in the same predicament.
“What is important to understand is that this unfortunate event is a risk of travel and there are procedures in place for scenarios like this,” said Westfall.
Fortunately, Ashlee did not have to face this dilemma alone. The Embassy of the United States in Spain ensured she had completed all the documents necessary to return home.
“Since the Embassy closes on weekends, I went to the police station to file a report, called the airport directly and bought a bus ticket for 30 euros,” said Stinger. “I took the bus for six hours to Madrid where I stayed in a hotel for three days and was able to explore the city. I went to a famous art museum in Madrid and got in free.”
One valuable piece of knowledge that is always stressed when traveling abroad is to have all of your documents on your person.
“Without any documents, you are essentially no one,” said Westfall. “You have no identity.”
“Keep your passport in your bag and keep it safe because I had to get an emergency passport for $135,” said Stinger.
Even with the loss of her passport, Stinger still had a great time and wants to continue to travel the world.
“Traveling is the most effective classroom and by studying abroad students will become better global citizens,” said Westfall.
All the travelers agreed that overall the trip was worth their time and money because they gained knowledge that they would never be able to grasp from a textbook. It all becomes more of a reality when you can see it with your own eyes.