After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, study abroad trips resumed for Muskingum University students.
Ten students kicked off the 2022 May Term in Costa Rica for a study abroad trip led by Dr. Kathleen Cunniffe-Peña and Dr. Valerie Smith.
When the group arrived in Costa Rica on May 14, 2022, they were instantly immersed in the country’s culture. During the first few days of the trip, the students took a walking tour of San José, learned how to dance the salsa and merengue, took a cooking class, and completed a cultural treasure hunt in the mountain town of Monteverde.
Students spent two weeks in the vibrant country, and during that time lived with Costa Rican host families and were provided with the opportunity to take immersive Spanish classes. Rising Senior Taylor Shimek described her time living with the host families as an out-of-the-box experience that she will never forget.
“Living with a host family was a different but super helpful experience. Since we stayed at two different locations, one week at each, we had two different host families,” Taylor said. “Staying with these families really forced me to use my Spanish, especially since my first family spoke no English and in my second, only one family member knew some English. My families were amazingly kind and told me I always will have a family in Costa Rica, and I believe them and will always be thankful for them.”
The trip was an extraordinary cultural, educational, and personal experience for all the Muskies in attendance. Upcoming Sophomore Luke Gill feels that this opportunity broadened his career paths and showed him all the different places he could take his future degree in early childhood education.
“This trip added on to my educational experience at Muskingum by showing me the numerous possibilities available for me to pursue a career of some sort working with the Spanish language. There were opportunities to teach Spanish to English speakers, teach English to Spanish speakers, bilingual doctors, translators, etc.,” Luke said. “This trip allowed me to see all the ways I can continue with my desire to learn Spanish.”
Study abroad trips are just one of the many terrific experiences that Muskingum has to offer its students. Experiential learning opportunities not only give students the ability to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to real life experiences, but they also provide the chance to see the world from a whole new perspective. Emerging Senior Paige Stringfellow stressed how important it is to take study abroad opportunities, because the experience can impact you for the rest of your life.
“Students should want to go on a study abroad trip like this because you are seeing a different country and, in some cases, it is as if it is a whole different world. It was by far one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I overcame obstacles, learned, went to the beach, made new friends, and got to travel! I would do it again in a heartbeat!”
In addition to the Costa Rica trip, Dr. Kekoa Kaluhiokalani and Dr. Rob Sharp led a study abroad trip to Italy in which students learned important aspects of their own culture while experiencing another.
The venturous group absorbed the rich history of Italy as they toured the cities of Rome, Florence, Venice, and Pisa. The professors also introduced students to la passegiata, which is an Italian tradition of the evening stroll.
Muskies were encouraged to develop their own passegiata, whether it be by themselves or with a friend, in order to take time and reflect on the day's activities while soaking in the gorgeous atmosphere. Dr. Kaluhiokalani strived to enrich their moments in Italy by making sure their passegiata routes would take them along riverside pathways, through pedestrianized city centers, and across historic piazzas and marketplaces.
“Oftentimes, when I'd ask students about their passegiata, those were the moments you could tell where they'd stretched beyond the familiar and made discoveries on their own: a hole-in-the-wall family-run restaurant, a quiet corner, an artisanal gelato shop, a Roman ruin,” Dr. Kaluhiokalani said. “To me, those were the moments that made the trip.”
Dr. Sharp elaborated on how Muskingum makes it a priority to offer these profound experiences to our students.
“Many of them return to the U.S. only to miss their morning cappuccino and afternoon gelato. Global travel is a transformative experience and one of the best impactful practices that Muskingum can offer our students,” Dr. Sharp said. “I think every student should take a study abroad experience, if able to do so.”