November 22, 2010
Basil A. Panton '11
It was an experiment, but it worked. In October, students and faculty gathered in Parents & Friends Lounge to listen to the spontanious stories of Hampden-Sydney students who had studied abroad and faculty who have taught and studied overseas. The attendees were also there to hear the adventures of some of the current international students. Nine students and two professors, Alexander Werth and William Anderson, took the microphone and shared their adventures, amusements, and drama with the audience.
After everyone had mingled and consumed a variety of food, the stories began just before 5 PM. Justin Smith '11, who studied at Buenos Aires, Argentina, during fall semester of his junior year, told how staying with a host family, whose originality and knowledge of the lifestyles of the city, enhanced his understanding of Buenos Aires and its people. Justin told of visiting night clubs and street events and actively partaking in the night-life. Based on his total immersion into the traditions of Buenos Aires and the lifetime benefits gained, Justin strongly encouraged any student who has the opportunity to study abroad to do so.
Dr. Anderson went to China to teach for a year. He believes that his experience was no different from any student's. Using a five-minute video that captured most of his visits, trips, and undertakings in China, Dr. Anderson stressed the importance of participation in study abroad. He stated that interactions with his students and the people of China taught him invaluable and life-long lessons.
Dr. Werth, who took a number of Hampden-Sydney students to the renowned Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, where Charles Darwin studied the endemic species on which his theory of evolution and natural selection is based, approved of Dr. Anderson's reflections. Dr. Werth went further to point out that travelling to other countries allows one to learn much more about his or her own native land. In his case, Dr. Werth admitted that he learned and appreciated so much about the United States from his expereince abroad.
Almost all students echoed the remarks and comments of each other. The consensus by all who related their stories was that every student should make an aggressive effort to study abroad because such an experience improves and strengthens a student's college expereince and knowledge of the world. The students who stayed with host families agreed that it made the experience more worthwhile.
As we move forward into the 21st Century, Hampden-Sydney is doing just what the speakers agreed upon: encouraging more students to study abroad. Each semester since the beginning of 2000, the College has sent an average of 12 students to study in countries as diverse as Australia, England, the Czech Republic, Israel, Morocco, and South Africa. The number increases for May and Summer Terms. During these periods, each year more than 20 students study in countries such as China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, India, and Spain. Over the last five years, a growing number of H-SC students have shown an increased interest a study abroad experience.
The event was put on by the Office of Global Education and Study Abroad and co-sponsored by the International Club. Mrs. Mary Cooper, who is the director of the offfice, and her assistant, Katie Stratton, played a significant role in planning the event. This format replaced the usual PowerPoint presentation in previous years, which saw low turn-outs and lack of participation from students. Based on the attendance at the first "Open Mic Reception," there is momentum to continue this approach in future years.