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Central Alumni Newsletter

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hello, friends of Central College Abroad! This newsletter, released the second Friday of every month, is intended to keep you in touch with what’s happening with Central College Abroad’s programs across the globe.

February photo contest winner in the "A New Adventure" category submitted by Liasor
Central College President Mark Putnam visited Vienna, Bangor and London this spring.
From left: Ruth Verweijen, Vienna resident director; Tammy Putnam;
President Mark Putnam; and Lyn Isaacson, associate dean of academic affairs.

Living and Learning in the City of Light
By: Rachel Rixen of Augsburg College. Rixen is studying abroad this spring in Paris, France.

For me, Paris is the scent of just-out-of-the-oven baguettes filling the morning streets, the drone of traffic circling Place de la Bastille, the taste of buttery croissants and creamy tartes aux fraises, the dreamy haze over the pale buildings and the feeling that I'm home even though I'm over 4,000 miles away from home. Of course, it is also much more than that—it is classes, internships, foyers, new friends and the metro (which really does deserve its own mention. It is an event in itself).

I made my decision to study for a semester in France when I took my first French language class at age 15. As a French and cross-cultural studies major with a minor in international relations, I am also required to be here (What a bummer, right?!), and I can completely see why. My language skills have improved enormously, and my cultural awareness and ability to understand our differences has expanded, thanks to taking classes and doing an internship in Paris.

Upon arriving in Paris in late January, my program-mates and I were placed into intensive language courses at l'Ecole l'Etoile, a small French language school for foreigners. For two hours a day, we worked on cleaning up our grammar, learning useful phrases and advancing our oral comprehension in classes of about ten or fewer students from all over the world. The chance to have one-on-one help from a native French speaker who cares enough to fill my homework page with red-pen corrections was indispensable in preparing me for taking classes at the Catholic Institute of Paris.

Rixen explores the Luxembourg Gardens near the Central College
Abroad Center between classes.

Comparing university classes in the United States and in France is like comparing apples with oranges. The Catholic Institute, a private university in the heart of the sixth arrondissement, is probably as close to the American private, liberal arts college experience as one can find in Paris. I'm taking three courses, two of which are electives that meet once a week for three hours at a time. The other, my general language class, meets twice a week for three hours each time. The classes are part of the ILCF (Institut de Langue et de Culture Françaises) and are taught only in French with about twenty or so students. Participation is key in my language class, but in elective classes, the norm is to listen to the professor talk and take notes.

The class atmosphere is much more formal than at home—no eating your lunch during class, no interrupting the professor and don’t be more than a couple of minutes late. There is little to no "busy work" homework. Instead grades are calculated from the two tests that are taken twice a semester. Therefore, studying and taking good notes is absolutely required. It took a while to get used to only communicating in French at school and sitting through three-hour classes, but the progress I'm making is completely worth it.

In addition to my classes, I am doing an internship or stage. I chose to expand my résumé by gaining experience as an intern at French Travel Partners, a tourist agency. I speak and write in French 23 hours a week with real working Parisians—reserving hotels, running errands (I’ve had to pick up tickets at the Eiffel Tower and Louvre!) and helping to organize travel itineraries for incoming tourists to France. At first, I thought I had made a huge mistake ("Me? I don't even really speak French!") but I’ve learned to relax and realize how beneficial it is to push myself (or be pushed) outside of my comfort zone.

I now enjoy the challenges I face as an Anglophone intern in a Francophone office. Life as a student in Paris is not always easy, but every new experience has made me grow as a French speaker and also as a person, and I’ll always be grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Experience Paris, France.

April photo contest open to all CCA alums

The objective: We challenge alumni and students currently abroad to compete against one another to see which program location can submit the most photos for our photo contest this month. Central College Abroad is updating our brochures and other promotional materials this summer so we need your help collecting photos from each location.

The guidelines:

  1. Submit as many photos as you’d like.
  2. There are no categories. Photos can be of any topic, as we are looking to depict all aspects of our study abroad programs.
  3. This photo contest challenge is open to all study abroad alumni as well as students currently abroad.
  4. Photos are accepted until April 21.

The program with the highest number of photo submissions will be named the program winner and announced on Facebook and in the May Odyssey newsletter.

Just as in previous photo contests, we’ll ask you to begin voting on April 23 for your favorite photo. Photos with the most votes will win a prize and be entered into the grand prize contest to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

Show your program spirit! Enter your study abroad photos today to support your program.

From left: Aude's mother, Aude and Williamson at Omaha Beach in Normandy.
March photo contest winner in the My Life Abroad category submitted by
Jordan Geertsema of Central College. Geertsema is studying abroad in Merida.

Interning in Yucatan
By: Cynthia Walker of Central College. Walker is studying abroad for the ’11-’12 academic year in Merida, Yucatan.

Going into my study abroad experience, I knew I wanted to complete an internship because it is good experience for my résumé and would help me get involved at a local level. Working with Telchac Education as their Sponsor Communication Coordinator and Web Development Liaison Intern has done just that! At first I felt overwhelmed with the internship application process, but then Valerie Grimsley, the Merida resident director, put me in contact with Judy Abbott de Mier y Terán.

Abbott de Mier y Terán is an alumna of the Merida program and enjoyed it so much she decided to stay. Abbott de Mier y Terán and her husband created the tourist guide Yucatan Today 24 years ago and it is now the most popular tourist guide for this part of the world. About four years ago Abbott de Mier y Terán saw that children in Telchac Puerto, a village 45 miles outside of Merida, did not have access to education due to a lack of money. Together with her friend Susan Stewart, Abbott de Mier y Terán created a nonprofit organization called Telchac Education that uses sponsorships to assist more than 65 students from all grade levels to cover the cost of uniforms and school supplies. Telchac Education’s mission is to “relieve the pressure caused by constant poverty that hinders the students and teachers from receiving and providing an education, by providing the tangible things they need: books, uniforms, shoes, teaching materials and aids.” This is of great assistance to many families in this small fishing community.

Working with this organization has allowed me to use aspects of both of my communication studies and Spanish majors as well as get to know some great people in the Merida area. Last semester I helped translate thank-you notes from the students to their sponsors and worked with the web developer to bring their website up to date. The most interesting thing I have done was assist with Telchac Education’s annual fundraiser sponsored by Villas Wayak.

Villas Wayak is a luxury apartment and villa complex along the Gulf of Mexico that is run and managed by cousins and developers Emilio Correa and Israel Correa. Every year during the full moon in February, Villas Wayak hosts the Full Moon Jazz Festival, a night full of live jazz music, food and drink, and donates the proceeds to Telchac Education. This year the event was held on February 11. There were almost 600 people in attendance and nearly $5400 was raised! This money will pay for one year of school for eighteen students with a little left over to help with transportation costs.

For the event, I was in charge of a Greyhound bus with 50 guests. I was responsible for making sure the guests arrived on time, solving ticket issues, answering questions and making sure the same 50 people got on the bus to go home. I was the guests’ first person of contact representing both Telchac Education and Villas Wayak. During the event, I worked the “bank” selling meal and drink vouchers. I had to communicate in Spanish and English and work with people I had never met before. It was a blast!

Understand Mexican healthcare services through site visits
Guests arriving at the Full Moon Jazz Festival.

I am very happy that I had the opportunity to work with Abbott de Mier y Terán, Stewart, Mitchell Keenan, Emilio Correa and Israel Correa on the 2012 Full Moon Jazz Festival. They have taught me a lot by allowing me to attend their planning meetings, welcoming my input and trusting me with the bus of 50 guests.

My next assignment is to assist with the ’12-’13 student selection process. To learn more about my internship and keep up with my adventures in Merida, follow my Blog from Abroad.

Gain real-world experience in Merida, Yucatan.

Community in London
By: Carolyn Dundas of Northwestern College. Dundas is studying abroad this spring in London, England.

When I decided to study abroad this semester through Central College Abroad, I thought it would be challenging to get to know people. After spending three-and-a-half years building relationships with my peers at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, living down the hall from my friends, and sharing our struggles through Bible studies on the wing of our dorm, I would now be on my own to make new friendships. Being in London, I did not foresee the opportunity to get to know local people well; after all, I would be living with other American students, and there are many more people here than in the friendly, small-town Midwest.

That said, I have discovered an important life lesson while studying abroad: Be proactive to get involved in areas in which you are passionate because people with shared values make instant friends. Taking the initiative to meet others is definitely worth it.

The first Sunday morning after I arrived in London I visited Hillsong Church and asked about joining a small group. Now Sundays are the highlight of my week in London; after attending church, I join my Connect Group at a coffee shop. These women and I share our life joys and struggles as we discuss topics in the Bible together. Afterwards, at least some of us eat lunch together, occasionally accompanied by guys from another Connect Group. Even after that first Sunday, I felt at home with these ladies, many of whom are several years older than I; this is the Christian community that I had hoped to find. Plus, my new London friends are from all over the world—Kenya, Romania, Malaysia, Germany and Brazil—so I can learn about fascinating cultures beyond Britain.

Bangor students prepare for an Outdoor Pursuits high ropes course.
Dundas (second on left) and her Connect Group out for lunch.

In addition to my friends from church, I decided to look into joining a club through the University of London Student Union. The Christian “club” which I contacted is highly informal; we merely get together to eat supper each Friday night in a true London home owned by an American man and his Finnish wife who met when they were missionaries in Africa. After a homemade meal, we sit around and play games much like a family. Through these meetings, I have met an equally diverse group of people, including other students, and shared many laughs, learned some new card games, had the chance to bake chocolate chip cookies and even made a true British friend who invited me to her flat to make pancakes on Pancake Day!

While living in a big city is much different than my college campus in rural Iowa, I am encouraged to see opportunities to be a part of a community. Because of the two Christian groups I have joined, I feel at home in London. Plus, I have experienced firsthand the most diverse city in the world—and how beautiful other cultures are. I look forward to these last few months with my new friends!

Find your community in London.

Visit us in Houston at NAFSA booth #1040

Central College Abroad will be attending the NAFSA Annual Conference and Expo in Houston, Texas, May 27 - June 1. You can visit us in the expo hall at booth #1040. The following staff members will be in attendance:

  • Valerie Grimsley, Merida, Yucatan resident director
  • Maria Rohach, Coordinator of institutional relations
  • Lisa Ellor Smith, Territory representative
  • Tecwyn Vaughan Jones, Bangor, Wales resident director

Rohach, Vaughan Jones and Bangor University’s International Officer Maggie Parke will be presenting a poster presentation titled “Student Learning Enhanced Through Study Abroad Program Integration Requirement” as part of the Enhancing Learning Before, During and After Education Abroad fair on Wednesday, May 30. Ellor Smith and Grimsley will be presenting a poster presentation “Connecting Career Skills and Study Abroad Through Ex-Patriot Networks” during the Work, Internship, and Volunteer Abroad fair also on May 30.

Contact if you would like to meet with a Central College Abroad representative at the conference. We are excited to be a part of NAFSA’s conference on international education.

Friendships with Flatmates
By: Gina Digiantonio of Drake University. Digiantonio is studying abroad this spring in Bangor, Wales.

Central College Abroad Bangor students are housed in residence halls with one CCA student per flat. The housing setup in Bangor is really unique, and in my opinion, it is the best way to meet new friends who are connected to Wales.

In every flat there are eight rooms and a common kitchen. I love my room because it is a single, so I have my own bathroom! In addition, the buildings where we are housed are only a couple of years old so all the appliances are updated and really well looked-after. I had a problem with my shower (it kept overflowing and flooding my room) but it was fixed the day after I filled out a maintenance request form. The Hall’s office staff also came with a special machine to clean and dry the carpet.

The greatest advantage that I have seen from the flat system is that it forces us to interact with other students outside of the Central program. I didn’t come all the way to Wales to talk to people from Iowa; I came here to immerse myself in a new culture and to learn new things! I made dinner for my flatmates the first Sunday that I was in the dorms, and it was a great opportunity to meet everyone. I get to hear about what their lives are like in Bangor and also about their origins, which range from Manchester to China! I’ve also gotten close with the flatmates of other CCA students. Often times at night we get a group of people together in the kitchen of someone’s flat so that we can talk, watch movies and have fun.

Weekend travel to London. From left: Sara Anderson of Central College, flatmate Dan,
Digiantonio and flatmate James.

Sara Anderson of Central College, two of her flatmates named Dan and James, and I took a weekend trip to London. We had such a great time on the trip. Dan and James are from England, and I loved traveling with them because they shared English traditions with Sara and me. My favorite part of the trip was seeing Les Misérables; the talent was breathtaking. Even more breathtaking was the mad dash that Dan began after the show. The Wales vs. England rugby match was on, and we had to get to the nearest pub to watch the match as soon as the musical was over! Despite being surrounded by England fans in the pub, we had a good time, and Sara and I cheered really loudly when Wales scored the winning try. When we got back the boys cooked us a traditional, English “fry-up” of toast, eggs, sausages, bacon, tomatoes, and hash browns.

There is no denying that Wales is a beautiful country, but the thing I am going to miss the most when I go home are the beautiful people that I have meet here. (That was really cheesy, but it’s true.) They are so diverse, but I’ve learned that you can have a lot in common with people from all backgrounds, and some things you don’t have in common can be shared. When the semester is over, I will be leaving some friends, but we will stay in touch and I can forever keep memories of the hugs and laughs we had together.

Meet new friends and immerse yourself in local student culture in Bangor, Wales. Keep up with Digiantonio as she finishes her semester in Bangor on her Blog from Abroad.

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812 University Box 0140
Pella, IA 50219
Fax: 641-628-5375

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