From Bulgaria to London, Knox offers a wide variety of short term study abroad programs that travel during the assigned breaks. This past winter vacation, a group of 11 students and two professors embarked on a journey to Bulgaria where they studied a variety of topics that focused on political science and religious studies.
Seniors Sydney Folger and Colton Denton shared their personal experiences with the first-ever Post-Communist and Religious Studies Bulgaria Study Abroad Program.
“We did a lot of tours of old buildings and old churches. I went into a mosque for the first time, which was a wonderful experience. We also got to see a lot of communist history, a lot of buildings that are still used today and they didn’t take down,” Folger said.
Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations Katie Stewart along with Assistant Professor of Classics Hilary Lehmann were the ones to lead the program, but now that the trip has returned, Monica Corsaro, director of Spiritual Life, has taken on the role of guiding the students in their final research projects that they will present at the end of Winter Term.
Students who aspire to attend this trip are required to take and pass the course Russia and Eastern European Politics, which is taught by Stewart. For Denton, he had planned of enrolling in the course before the trip was offered, making Bulgaria an added bonus at the conclusion of the course.
“I never really considered Bulgaria before, it was really interesting to learn how central it has been in the past and currently is still an important part in the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe. It’s often been viewed as the gate to the Middle East from Europe,” Denton said.
For Denton, who previously studied abroad in Germany for a semester, this ten-day trip—although short—was an interesting crash course of the main topics in Bulgarian politics. For Denton and Folger both, as seniors this was an exciting last minute intensive experience to close out their final year at Knox.
“I didn’t think I would study abroad because I’m doing a research project and it didn’t seem in the wheelhouse, but I was really happy that I went,” Folger said.
Scrolling through the dozens of pre-approved study abroad programs, a CIEE trip to Korea for the semester will appear, a program that senior Sarah Lohmann decided to apply for. For Lohman, going to Korea had been a dream for a long time and with her double majors in Asian Studies and Creative Writing, she felt she needed to study in this country to get the full experience.
“I have wanted to go to Korea for a very long time leading up to that, so the arrival, even just getting there was very surreal to me,” Lohmann said.
From mid-August to late December, Lohmann stayed with a host family in Korea, an hour away from the campus where she studied. Although she had a long commute every day to get to her classes, she still feels that staying with her host family was the easiest decision for her experience abroad.
“I now had a home in this place that was completely foreign to me, and they acted like a really great support system for me the whole time. I still talk to them and they cried when they put me on the bus to the airport. I think those kinds of experiences are kind of ones that students when they go abroad, aren’t thinking about having this whole life of experience, a whole world experience, a whole family experience. They are just thinking of going to school in a new place, and I’m really glad I didn’t do that. I think I would have lost a lot of things and wouldn’t have known,” Lohmann said.
Although she had a close support system and a family during her studies, she still believes she never could have prepared herself for the longing she felt for her family back in the States.
“Even when I’m just at Knox, I don’t think about my family every single day, but you can feel how far apart you are. No matter how much you prepare for going very far away, you can’t make yourself ready for the separation from the people who were your family,” Lohmann said.
Lohmann feels that she prepared for her experience in a selfish way that considered only what she was going to feel while in Korea, rather than how the people around her would feel.
“I was considering what I was going to study there, what I was going to do, me me me, and I wish that I had considered what am I going to contribute to my environment when I was there,” Lohmann said.