Knox is known for their study abroad programs. Roughly 100 Knox students study off-campus for at least a term every year.
Even though it seems like everyone goes abroad, that isn’t the case. About 50% of the student body has studied off-campus or had a course with a travel abroad component. Senior, Kate Moon, is a basketball player at Knox. The basketball season at Knox begins during fall term and doesn’t end until the middle of winter term. Moon has never gone abroad because the basketball season is between two terms. “I only have four years to play basketball, but I have my whole life to travel,” Moon says. For senior Megan Molinaro, “it was more an issue of cost. I also didn’t want to go to a foreign country and have to spend it in school.”
With the United States in a recession one might think that the number of students going abroad, would have gone down. “Not in our estimations. Our numbers have been consistent,” said Robin Ragan, Co-Director of The Center for Global Studies. In fact, in more recent years Ragan has seen more students going abroad, but for less time. It used to be very common for students to go abroad for a full-year. She has also seen a change in, “programming moving away from thinking about study abroad as language and cultural immersion and more toward discipline or theme based programming.”
Senior Rita Lanham went abroad to get out of classroom experience. Lanham, an environment major, went to the School for International Training, in Madagascar. Since Knox did not offer a program in Madagascar, Lanham had to be approved by Knox in order to go. One of the reasons Lanham was so interested in this program was because she never stayed in a classroom. Everything was real life, hands on experience. She was able to see how deforestation affected the people of Madagascar. Another reason was because they spoke French, although they mostly spoke English to Lanham. “I ended up speaking mostly English,” said Lanham. “Most of the people there wanted to work on there English.”
Lanham was gone for winter and spring term. Therefore, when she came back to the United States she had the whole summer to transition back to American life. It was far more difficult transitioning to life in Madagascar. The main thing was everything takes long there, “you have to purify water for minutes before you can use, or drink it,” Lanham said. Of course she spent a great deal of time learning about the dry/rain forests. “Nine out of ten types of lemurs are only in Madagascar,” she said.
For three and half months, Lanham and twelve other students were always together. “We ate, lived, and traveled together,” Lanham said. So, when she came back to the states it was weird for her not being with the group; she had become so accustomed to living with. The first month back to the United States was very busy seeing friends, family, and getting used to the American life. It really didn’t set in until a month later. When she wasn’t busy and had time to think about the change in lifestyles. It was the first time she had felt alone since leaving.
When Lanham didn’t have any problem transitioning back into the Knox bubble. She did go to an ice-cream social, held just for student who went abroad. Ragan said, “the Center for Global Studies holds a welcome back dinner or similar event for returning students once or twice a year. This way, students have a chance to talk about their reverse culture shock.
Senior, Ben Ramsey, also an environmental major who studied abroad in Thailand. Similar Lanham, Ramsey felt a bigger transition going there. While this was a new lifestyle, he still wanted to maintain his American identify. One thing that shocked Ramsey when he went to Thailand was the openness of the people. In Thailand if one were to ask someone if they had dinner, and they said no, then they would be obligated to invite the to dinner, even if they were a complete stranger. The same thing happens at Knox. Normally only takes you ten minutes to walk from CFA to the on campus apartments. Yet, it could easily take twenty minutes because you stop to talk to some many people along the way.
Ramsey who went abroad winter and spring term also didn’t have a hard time transition back to American life. He realized a small switch when he was coming home. “China kept giving me the wrong flight times, and I wasn’t charged for their mistakes. Yet, when flying back to America you had to pay for everything on the plane.”
Over the summer he worked at a summer camp called Camp Spring Creek. There wasn’t a TV at the camp so Ramsey didn’t feel a huge culture shock. “It was just my brother, twelve boys, and I sleeping in a cabin,” he said.
Since coming back to Knox he has a, “fresher look on education.” Ramsey wanted to know what he could get out of it; which has made him more engaged. “I’m now singing in jazz combo,” he said, something he always wanted to do, but never tried.