Thursday, June 7, 2012
You know how Robert Frost took the road less traveled by? He had two options in front of him, and he went for the one most other people hadn't. Most roads people have to choose between aren't usually just two-pronged forks. As soon as you pick one road another fork shows itself and so on, until rather than a fork your road looks like those old-timey rakes you sometimes see in movies that are made of craggly sticks branching out into tons of fingers.
In a recent conversation with Sarah, she showed me a website of IES students blogging about their study abroad experiences from the perspective of a year later. A lot of these were touching remembrances of how studying abroad changed their lives and their worlds. So it got us wondering if we could do something similar with the London Center. We celebrated our 40th anniversary this year (not sure if we'd mentioned that here before!) and had a lot of positive feedback from students spanning 4 decades, as well as feedback from our current students about what they were learning from London.
This project of asking students to write from the perspective of a year onward is fascinating because that's possibly one of the hardest times. One year later the muscle memory of packing luggage and sweating over visa applications is still there. Perhaps it's something about the weather or a specific smell in the air that makes causes a flash of panic that you don't have the right converter plug, or maybe the smell of something burning is still a fresh reminder of the first few nights you cooked in your flat. For me, even a decade on, the things that take me back to studying abroad are the smells of particular teas and this one Kylie Minogue song that was really big. They may not be the classiest memories, and may not be life-changing in themselves, but a theme that I noticed in the IES blogs was that people were talking about the subtle changes in day to day life. I think those are the differences that we notice most. When something is taken for granted, the first time it's different sticks with you. Like the girl who studied in Paris and recalled that she had traded her stale cereal for croissants and pastries in the morning.
|Getting ready to fly out of Newark Airport, August 2002|
On the London Center's website we have a section of testimonials that students wrote at the end of their semester in London. Hoping to expand this, we would love it if our dear readers would contribute their own version of a blog post that we could publish there. We want to hear how studying abroad has affected your life. Did it help you to choose a fork in the road that you hadn't known was there? ICLC students, parents of students and visiting faculty alike, we would love to hear from you all. The only parameters are that we would like you to try and remember your reflections from one year on. You're welcome to include your current reflections on studying abroad as well, as long as you're willing to say how long ago it was. Please email your posts to firstname.lastname@example.org. We aren't able to publish everything that is sent to us, but we thank you in advance for all submissions.
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