Students take college experience abroad


Leor Rosen (’16) relaxes in the Dead Sea in Israel after doing the waterfall hike Ein Gedi. Rosen spent her gap year following a trend of students studying abroad after high school or in college. Photo courtesy Leor Rosen.

By Elyssa Seltzer

When Nick Battan (‘16) decided to enroll at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, he never imagined he’d be studying at Cambridge University in England. Yet a study abroad program allowed him to learn economics at the British University for a semester, and he’s loved every moment of it.

After graduating high school, students move on to their next journey. For most Whitman graduates, that means college—and with college comes opportunities to study abroad. Students have different motives for wanting to study abroad, whether it be for language learning, a cultural adventure, an exciting chance to travel without it being too expensive or to develop their studies.

For Leor Rosen (‘16), her study abroad period came before she began college: she took a gap year to explore Israel with Young Judaea. Both of her parents took a gap year in Israel, too, so to her this trip was a special family tradition.

“We live in a world that’s so fast paced and so structured,” Rosen said. “Because of that, everyone feels like they have to follow the exact path that everyone else is doing. It’s important to do things that are meaningful to you and not just because everyone else is doing them.”

Spanish teacher Laura Brewer took a semester abroad in Santiago, Chile when she was in college to develop her language skills. At this point in her life, she didn’t know that she wanted to be a Spanish teacher, but after consolidating her Spanish language skills, it clicked.

“There’s no better way to improve your language skills,” Brewer said. “Being immersed in the culture and the language is all that really helps you build your fluency.”

Students are also fascinated with experiencing new cultures firsthand. Catharine Wills (‘16) is currently in Rabat, Morocco.

“I’ve been studying Islam through a sociological lens within the U.S.,” Wills said. “I wanted to find a place that is a Muslim majority country to compare the ways in which Islam functions within a completely different society and how the media [and] politics in the U.S. shape our perceptions of Islam.”

Students who travel often come back from their abroad programs more enlightened about ways of life beyond the American style of life. The new knowledge has, as it helped conceptualize the various ways of living, beyond what was learned back at home.

“I think it’s important to study abroad because it really makes you realize how insignificant you really are in this world,” Wills said. “It allows you to expand your world view of other places and it teaches you that there are so many ways to live.”