Carrie Cabush ’15, India
I chose Hamilton’s India program because I wanted to take a leap of faith, expand my comfort zone and engage a culture different from my own. I’m not the adventurous type, but I knew if I did not travel to India within the confines of a structured program I might never do it. It was a difficult transition to say the least, but the more I engaged with the culture, the more I fell in love and realized that what I thought was chaos was merely life lived vibrantly. I learned that by assigning stereotypes we not only limit that group of people, but we limit our own experience of them. Cultural pluralism was suddenly a lived reality. I gained confidence in my abilities and friends that were crucial to my transition back to Hamilton and I know I will have for a lifetime. Being able to conduct my own research on anti-trafficking NGOs in India not only confirmed that this is the work I want to devote my life to, but that if you are passionate, doors, windows and trap doors will open for you. I have been able to continue this work through the student organization Stop Traffik and my work as a Senior Chapel Fellow.
Monica Gutierrez ’15, Hungary
I wasn’t originally planning on staying in Budapest for two semesters, but it just felt right. As someone who wanted to find her own brand of independence, I couldn’t have picked a better place to find it than there. Through the Bard-CEU program, I was able to take graduate courses within my field and study history in a professional manner. It felt great that I could talk about super geeky humanities concepts in class and then take the conversation to a beer garden for added relaxed discussion with classmates. It was truly an intellectually stimulating experience – with good friends on the side. I loved it so much that I’ve decided to move to Europe permanently by settling in Germany with my significant other. It's inevitable that I will go back to Budapest, perhaps to pursue my master’s degree or maybe even my doctorate. The world is very open from here on out.
Jeff Romano ’16, Scotland
“Try something new.” I told myself these words before I left for Edinburgh, Scotland. At Hamilton, I had gotten into a nice routine of taking classes only related to my major and minors and going to the same activities every week with no change whatsoever. Scotland offered me the first opportunity in a long time to try something new, take a different class, engage in a new club or society. At first, it felt exactly like freshman year, but after a few weeks I had a group of Scottish friends. I joined the University Rifle Team, visited a variety of castles, went to a falconry show, ate haggis, toured distilleries – all while simultaneously learning from professors who were experts in their respected fields. Now that I have returned to campus, I hope to apply the words I told myself a few months ago to this semester and the rest of my time at Hamilton. In this semester already, I have already taken on a number of new opportunities and I do not plan to stop. I have my time abroad in Scotland to thank.
Zoe Lynch ’15, England
I didn’t even know if I wanted to go abroad; I had settled into Hamilton so well and was apprehensive of another culture shock. However, within days of arriving in London to attend University College London for six months, the fears were gone. I thrive in a city, and I learned to navigate and take advantage of all that London has to offer. I was determined to learn from the locals and went out of my way to create long-lasting overseas friendships. It was thanks to them that I went beyond the itinerary of my program and learned things about London that I wouldn’t have otherwise. (For example, did you know that London residences have the right to light? No tall buildings can be constructed that would block residents’ natural light). Additionally, I learned more about myself in six months than I had in 21 years. Studying abroad gave me confidence and drive to succeed beyond Hamilton. Because of my experience in London, I am currently in the long process of fulfilling my dream and moving there. In the meantime, as I approach graduation, I work for the Office of Off-Campus Study to perpetuate Hamilton’s tradition of giving other students the opportunity to change their life through living abroad.
Sandy Rao ’15, Denmark
For someone on the premedical track, it would seem outlandish to take a semester off from Hamilton and go abroad. But isn’t the liberal arts experience all about expanding our horizons and becoming well-rounded students? With that in mind, I set sail (metaphorically speaking of course) to Copenhagen, Denmark, for four months to have one of the unique experiences of my life. I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely new culture. I learned about the social “Jente Laws” of Denmark, where Danes always practice being humble; about the concept of hygge, or coziness during the cold winter months, and how mouth-wateringly delicious Danish pastries are. I lived in an international kollegium, or college dorm, and became friends with Danish, Australian, Dutch, and Spanish college students. We often discussed differences and similarities in our cultures while sharing our cuisines and stories. Not only was I better able to understand different people around the world, but I was still able to take medical-related electives that gave me more experience in clinical medicine than I had before. My medical course taught anatomy, how to take a patient history and the basics of a patient examination. My doctors actually took me to see Danish patients and take their histories, I practiced ultrasounds on myself and my classmates, and I watched an artificial insemination at an in-vitro clinic. Studying abroad my junior year spring semester was one of the best decisions I made. I feel more like a citizen of the world, I can connect with more people thanks to my experiences, and I even feel more prepared to become a physician because of my exposure to clinical medicine.
Victoria Mao ’16, China
I spent six months studying the Chinese language in Beijing with Hamilton's intensive language and culture program. With little English spoken by the locals and a language pledge not to speak any English anyway, I was forced to rely on my basic Chinese to complete daily tasks. I often ran into the dual troubles of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Everywhere I went in China, Chinese people always seemed to ask me, “Where are you from?” In the beginning, this innocent question upset me because I worried that my Chinese language proficiency was embarrassingly inadequate, especially because I have a Chinese face. I wanted to explain, “Even though I have a Chinese face, my Chinese level is just the same as my white peers!” However, I am happy to say that I am no longer so sensitive about this issue. In fact, I am now comfortable enough with strangers to open up about my story of being adopted from China at age 1 and growing up in America. Adjusting to the Chinese culture led to significant personal growth. My perspective on the world was broadened far beyond my American upbringing in suburban Connecticut and beyond Hamilton College. In particular, experiencing the conditions in China made its environmental problems truly visceral. After experiencing it firsthand, two realizations came to me. First, I vowed to never under-appreciate my privileged American life. Second, I decided that to take part in solving China’s pollution problems is a worthy goal to strive for in my future career. I hope to someday contribute to a project that helps make China “greener” and gives Chinese children the opportunity to see the beauty of a blue sky.
Hideko Nara ’15, Italy
I studied abroad at the Tyler School of Art with the Temple University Rome program. Rome was a no-brainer for me: amazing food, incredible art, an established art program.) Did I mention the fantastic food?) I am an art and art history double major so it took some work to figure out if I could even study abroad in the first place. However, if you think you are being held back by your coursework, sit down with your advisor, and I bet you can figure it out! Rome is an incredible city and the ability to walk around the block and see the actual artwork you’ve been learning about for the past hour is so incredible that I could write about it for pages. I walked through St. Peter’s Square eating the best gelato I’ve had in my life, I walked around Pompeii, I sat in front of Boticelli’s Primavera for a half hour (much to the consternation of the museum guards), and I ate lunch on the banks of the Tiber. Life in Rome, and in the easily accessible Italian countryside, is beyond words. Italy has a great railroad system, and you can travel across the country easily. I ate, drank and slowly made my way through museums in Rome, and I loved every minute of it. Studying abroad helped me appreciate both my majors and inspired me to take a variety of classes when I was back on campus. Take every opportunity you can to make it abroad!
Kate Bickmore ’15, England
My experience at the Slade School of Fine Art in London was unique in that it offered me an opportunity not only to have my own studio and independent studio art practice, but because it gave me the chance to meet and work alongside some of the most talented and inspiring art students in London. They were passionate about making art and wanting to engage in dialogue about contemporary art. The program is relatively small, which fostered quick relationships with the British and international students living in London, many of whom I still keep in contact with a year later. In addition to painting and the conversations I was having about art in the studio each week, I was able to participate in seminars and critiques about student work and many lectures by visiting artists. I immersed myself in my art practice and the art scene in London. When I was not at Slade I was usually splitting my time between meditating in the Rothko room at the Tate Modern, getting lost in the landscapes of the JMW Turner Collection, going to art shows put on by Slade students in Pekham and dancing and taking in London’s thriving music scene. Or when it was a particularly beautiful day, I was soaking up the sun on long walks through the overgrown cemeteries and London’s breathtaking parks. I truly cannot imagine my life without my study-abroad experience at Slade and without the incredible people I met along the way. While the program significantly prepared me for my senior art thesis and ultimately strengthened my portfolio for future applications, studying abroad most importantly left me with a greater thirst and curiosity for exploring the world around me and with abetter understanding my place in it.
Crystal Vilchez ’16, Argentina
I wanted to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for many reasons: to explore, to discover myself, but especially to see my family after not having seen them for almost ten years. Hamilton College has given me many things to be grateful for over the years, like the Higher Education Opportunities Program family, but I never expected Hamilton to be able to give me my actual family back. I arrived in Buenos Aires to become acquainted before the program started, and I stayed a month after it was over to explore. I was able to travel across Argentina in search of any and all Vilchez relatives to bond with, to create memories with and to hear their incredible stories of the past, present and future. Aside from making an unforgettable connection with my family, I was able to fall in love with the country, the people, the food and the culture. I am fortunate: I am able to say that I have had a unique experience abroad because I was able to fall in love with the majestic country, like others who travel there, but I was also able to learn about myself by learning about my familial history. I look forward to going back to Argentina in the (hopefully) near future.
Candice McCardle ’15, Vietnam, South Africa and Brazil
I was one of 30 students from a wide variety of U.S. institutions who embarked on the IHP/Comparative: Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care program in the spring semester of 2014. Because this program does not appear on the list of Hamilton approved study-abroad opportunities, I was required to petition the school’s academic council to gain admittance. The petition process requires students to convince the committee why the program they want offers a unique benefit that cannot be found on a Hamilton-approved program. For me, this task was easy. My IHP experience allowed me to study public health in Hanoi, Vietnam; Cape Town, South Africa; and Saõ Paulo and to learnthrough interviews, site visits and guest lectures. It was experiential learning at its finest. My fondest memories are of times spent with my host families, especially my twin bhutis (meaning brother in Xhosa, a South African language), who are pictured here. As someone who aspires to work in the public-health field, I would recommend this program to anyone with that interest. Or more simply, I would recommend it to anyone interested in gaining amazing cross-cultural experiences and having incredible learning and growing experiences across the globe.
Kevin Welsh ’15, France
Last year I studied in Paris with the Hamilton in France program. When I first got to Hamilton I took some French classes because I had studied it in high school but never seriously considered going to France. I was very lucky to have had strong insistences from my professors. From going abroad I improved my fluency dramatically and learned a lot about the country, but moreover, I would say that I developed a lot of confidence. Every day in Paris was a new opportunity to get lost physically or linguistically, and I just had to learn to face it head on. I’ll always remember being out at dinner with my friends during the first weekend in the city and how all of us struggled to remember the word for the check. Five relatively smart college students, and it took a good guess to get the bill after a tense 15 minutes of avoiding the waiter. These little moments of fear and courage defined my whole year abroad, and hopefully the latter will stick with me longer than the former. France was definitely culturally and linguistically enriching, but I think what I took away from it were these “petits moments” where I was challenged personally and learned to — at the very least — be okay with just trying my best every day.