Discourse / Editorials / January 13, 2010

Thoughts from the Embers: Returning from abroad

Traveling abroad is usually a wonderful experience. Traveling back to Galesburg for winter term usually is not.

For one, there’s the climate change. Returning from environments that have a moderate temperature to a midwestern snowstorm is never ideal. Then there’s the culture shock. When traveling abroad, everything is new and exciting and seems prime for adventure. Galesburg, while great for many things, is a small town that has an even smaller college in it. The letdown from such a trip can be quite overwhelming and becoming again acclimated to the Knox environment is an emotionally draining task.

For some current Knox students, and most probably future study-abroad participants, having a bed when they return is also a worry, and it shouldn’t be.

As the student body has grown over the past four years, reserving space for students who travel abroad for a portion of the year has become a big problem. Beginning in 2006, freshmen came to Knox in overwhelming number and the only beds left on campus happened to be the spaces vacated by upperclassmen traveling abroad. When those students returned to Knox, the freshmen were again moved to any open spot on campus. Such a process has happened again at the start of this past term.

As beds are quickly disappearing on campus to the vast quantity of students, upperclassmen originally denied the opportunity to move off campus are now being asked to do so. Other upperclassmen are also now more likely to be allowed to move off campus than they were a year ago, perhaps to alleviate the space problem.

Even as we grapple with these space problems, the recruitment effort for next year’s students is in full swing. The always prolific efforts of the advancement and admissions departments have been pushing hard this year and reaching out to students, asking them to recruit their younger friends. Current students could win an iPod for their efforts. Economic times are hard, but we here at TKS were under the impression that Knox was full, and since the summer melt didn’t happen, a bit overflowing.

So, what does this mean for the future of travel-abroad programs and leaves of absence? This is a problem that must now be tackled by the student development forces on campus, to no easy answer. In the future, the college may not be able to promise an on-campus bed to those returning from a semester away. This is an unfortunate predicament indeed.

Either students need to travel abroad for an entire year (a costly experience, both financially and in terms of credits), never travel abroad in order to ensure that they will be able to live with their friends, or travel abroad for one semester and risk not having a bed on campus, or at least not having a bed where they want it.

While it is recognized that other ACM schools don’t necessarily save places for those who take a semester abroad, Knox is different and special, since it does. In the past several years, the school has prided itself on the many things it does well, including its welcoming nature, vast array of abroad opportunities and ability to provide a close-knit atmosphere between students and faculty. As the numbers rise, it seems difficult to maintain such an environment.

This is why the editors ask those who are in charge of the college’s growth to consider Knox’s unique appeal and recent recruitment success as they crunch their number goals for next year. We like our opportunities and small community. Many of us on staff have traveled abroad to programs inside and out of the ACM, including Barcelona, Nepal and Greece. And when we returned, even though so much else was feeling different and wrong, at least we had our bed on campus and our friends’ support within our living space. We want the same for future Knox students.

TKS Staff

Tags:  off-campus study study abroad thoughts from the embers

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