Absence makes the heart grow fonder

by Marie-Capucine Pineau-Valencienne | 1/17/17 2:05am

I forget sometimes. Like many Dartmouth students, I forget that the sun does not orbit diligently around the College on the Hill and that, yes in fact, there is a world beyond this campus. There are mountains to be climbed, salsas to be danced and baguettes to be eaten, and if there is any student body ready to accept such challenges, Dartmouth is surely it. This is not to say that studying abroad is simply a 10-week term of dancing and eating, however fun that might be. Studying abroad enables Dartmouth students to look at the world without our green-colored lenses.

Anna Rowthorn-Apel ’18 went on the earth sciences foreign study program, known as the “Stretch,” which is similar to a 10-week Dartmouth Outing Club trip through the Western U.S. than a typical study abroad program. On the trip, Rowthron-Apel realized just how important solidifying strong friendships was to her. She explained that the culture shock she experienced did not come from the countless nights she camped under the stars or the time spent pondering the formidable size of the Grand Canyon but rather was prompted by her return to her Dartmouth home. She had just finished her sophomore summer when she left for the Stretch and recounted how she grew accustomed to the close knit environment on the Stretch.

“We were with these 21 people every single day,” Rowthorn-Apel said. “Breakfast, lunch, dinner, the entire day out in the field and at night we’re staying in tents close by or hotel rooms near each other.”

Coming back to campus at the end of fall term for a quick hello before winter break was what she described as “quite a shock” because of how full the campus felt to her. She said she “felt like [she] didn’t know anyone on campus,” partly due to the new freshman class she had yet to meet, but also because as a junior, many of her fellow ’18s had also taken off terms post-sophomore summer.

Terren Klein ’17 echoed Rowthorn-Apel’s sense of needing a kind of Dartmouth rehabilitation after studying abroad his freshman summer. Klein chose not to study abroad again because he thought that going abroad for a second time would amount to too much time away from campus during his Dartmouth career.

“I got into Dartmouth to go to Dartmouth,” Klein said.

At the same time, Klein explained how Santander, Spain, a beach town, was not a bad place to spend his freshman summer.

“Where we were was a pretty fantastic place,” Klein said. “Santander, especially during the summer, is absolutely beautiful. [There are] pristine beaches, great restaurants, and also during the summer, it comes alive from people from all over Europe visiting.”

For the senior, going abroad was the perfect opportunity to speak Spanish and have a study abroad experience early on in his college career, leaving him in an optimal position for internships in later years. His study abroad experience not only had a positive impact on his academic career, allowing him to start his sophomore fall with 15 credits, but also on other aspects of his life back at Dartmouth. The senior explained to me that studying at a different university in a different country, made him recognize how much he valued his college experience at Dartmouth.

Matthew Ferguson ’18 also had an impactful language immersion experience. Ferguson studied abroad in Germany, which helped him “learn a thousand times faster.”

“It was incredible,” Ferguson said. “You make a pledge not to speak any other languages, and I stayed with a German family who didn’t speak a word of English. When I came back I was totally conversational.”

Like Klein, Ferguson enjoyed experiencing a really dynamic city.

“Berlin is a very, very ‘hip’ city,” Ferguson said.

Although Dartmouth may be nestled far away in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and although we may have a relatively small student body, the experience of getting a Dartmouth education may trump attempts at worldly independence.

“I feel like any time you spend away from Dartmouth, even if you love it [to begin with], it makes you appreciate Dartmouth more,” Ferguson said. “You realize how special this place is.”

Many students view the prospect of studying abroad as an opportunity to broaden their horizons, but in turn realize that the world they had truly expanded was the one they had left at home in Hanover.