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Mexico: Summer Service Learning & Language Immersion

Mexico City, Mexico

"Never as Simple as it Seems" – Stories of Surprise, Challenge, and Enlightenment

Published: April 11, 2012

"An off-campus study program is never as simple as it seems on the program brochures," noted Tongji "Phil" Qian, who has studied off-campus in Europe three times as a student at Carleton College. Diving into new cultures and academic areas, he has found, can yield surprises, challenges, and "enlightenment."

Ariel Harris

Ariel Harris in the Bahamas.

"Never as simple as it seems" was certainly the case for Ariel Harris. She went to the Bahamas with no expectation beyond completing her off-campus class, but what she discovered in those few weeks touched her deeply.

"The experience I gained and the project I created from this course truly opened the eyes of my soul and awakened the intellectual within me," wrote Harris, a junior at Cornell College.

On April 13-14, Qian and Harris will join other students from ACM colleges to tell their stories – as vivid and varied as the places they traveled and the people they met – at the 4th Annual ACM Student Symposium on Off-Campus Study in Chicago.

Tongji

Tongji "Phil" Qian

The program's presentations and panel discussions will be shown in a live webcast throughout the afternoon on Friday, April 13 and during the day on Saturday, April 14.

The Symposium showcases off-campus study as an integral part of liberal arts education at ACM colleges. Individually, ACM colleges have programs around the world covering topics across the curriculum. Together, the colleges have offered consortial off-campus opportunities, both international and in the U.S., for nearly 50 years.

The students' presentations will be grouped under four themes: personal connections, research in another culture, broadening horizons, and cross-cultural exchange. Following their talks, the students in each group will engage in discussion, share insights, and take questions from the audience.

The Symposium will include several other events for the participants on Friday evening.

  • An interactive session for students, "Telling Stories to Capture Our Experiences," led by Elizabeth Brewer, Director of Off-Campus Study at Beloit College, will give the students another opportunity to reflect on and share their experiences.
  • Ripon College Interim President Jerry Seaman, who has experienced off-campus study as both a student and professor, will give a talk on "Liberal Education and Off-Campus Study."
  • Chloe Souza, a senior at Macalester College, will be presented with the 2012 Award for Outstanding Research on an ACM Program for her project on childhood obesity in rural Costa Rica. Souza participated in the Costa Rica: Field Research in the Environment, Social Sciences, & Humanities program last spring.
  • Grinnell College sophomore Clare Boerigter will be honored for winning the 40th Annual Nick Adams Short Story Contest. Chicago novelist, editor, and teacher Gina Frangello, who served as this year’s final judge for the contest, will present the award to Boerigter.

Students presenting at the Symposium went on study programs in 19 different countries. They were nominated to take part in the event by the Director of Off-Campus Study at each college, and will be joined at the Symposium by faculty and administrators.

Here's a sampling of some other presenters and their topics.


Emily Sheeks

Emily Sheeks

>> For Emily Sheeks from Ripon College, a semester on the London & Florence: Arts in Context program brought home to her that personal connections are "one of life's treasures." At the Symposium, she will talk about lessons she learned "when one's comfort zone vanishes as it does while studying abroad."

Sheeks' conclusion: "Through studying abroad I learned to appreciate the relationships I already had even more and gained confidence that I can cultivate equally meaningful connections with anyone in any culture, if I only try."


Susie Smela

Susie Smela

>> Beloit College student Susie Smela studied in Japan twice, first on her college's exchange program  and then the following summer with funding from a grant. Her fascination with the comic industry led her to join a half million other attendees at Comiket, a comics convention in Tokyo.

In addition to her research on comics in Japan, Smela wrote, "there is another story to tell here: how a language-motivated, seemingly run-of-the-mill study abroad semester morphed into a project involving an additional three months of study in Japan, a college professor who refused to grow up, students from six different countries, and the borderless, unbound community of creativity that united us, the other 540,000 Comiket attendees, and fans throughout the world."


Grace Robia

Grace Robia

"Interning and studying for nearly a full year in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Spain, my unique study abroad journey left me with a lasting obsession for learning new languages and experiencing new cultures," wrote Grace Robia.

A history major at St. Olaf College, she went to Costa Rica on a January term course, took a semester-length program in Spain, and studied in Mexico City on ACM's Mexico Summer Program: Service Learning & Language Immersion.

As Robia steadily improved her Spanish and developed strong friendships, she learned firsthand that "language cannot be truly understood nor spoken without diving first into the culture from which it came."


For the complete Symposium schedule, along with profiles of the presenters and descriptions of their presentation topics, visit the 2012 Student Symposium webpage.

Presentations and discussions at the Symposium will be streamed live on the ACM website on:

  • Friday, April 13 at 1:30-5:00 p.m. (Central Daylight Time), and
  • Saturday, April 14 at 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 12:30-2:30 p.m. (Central Daylight Time).


Note: All photos are courtesy of the students pictured.


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Grace Robia My experience in Mexico was incredible and I’ve been missing it since I stepped foot on the airplane back to the U.S. Watching the World Cup games with 35-50 soccer-obsessed Mexicans was of the most unforgettable things I’ve ever done. All of the Mexicans that I met were enthusiastic, fun-loving, open, and kind. I’d take the first chance that arose and fly right back to Mexico City. ¡Viva México!

—Grace Robia, Mexico, Summer 2010

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