They began their Centre College careers with impressive stats, and now, nearly four years later, the Class of 2012 is departing with even more.
Among their top accomplishments is a remarkable percentage for participation in international study—84.75 percent of the class studied abroad at least once during their four years at Centre. But what is even more impressive is the number of current seniors who studied internationally two, three, even four times. Twenty-two percent spent two terms abroad; six percent were abroad for three terms; and one student was even able to spend four of her terms abroad.
“When people ask me why I chose Centre or why I love it so much now, my first answer is always the study abroad programs,” senior Patty Cowley says. “They are without a doubt the highlight of my college experience.”
Cowley, who spent time abroad in Bali, Cameroon and China, says she was inspired to take part in so many trips because she knew she may never again have the opportunity to visit such extraordinary locations.
“All three trips have taken me to unusual travel destinations while also allowing me to experience these places in a very intimate way,” she says. “Centre students are incredibly lucky to have trips to such exotic places available to them.”
“The breadth of programs offered at Centre is wonderful,” three-time abroad participant Paige Farris ’12 says. “You only have to see the flags hanging in Cowan to realize that there are so many options.”
Like Cowley, Farris says that her “memories from abroad are some of the best that I’ve had at Centre. I think that if I’d gone to any of the public universities I was looking at, I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities I did here. Centre holds world travel in high regard and really strives to have everyone go abroad at least once.”
A Spanish major, Farris studied in Merida, Mexico, twice and Spain once, experiences that were invaluable to her college education.
“I think the only way for someone to really learn a language is being immersed in it,” she says. “When I was in Merida for the semester, I was living with a Mexican host family, riding the buses, asking for directions and eating in restaurants. I had to speak Spanish in almost every aspect of my life for three months.”
Later, in Spain for three weeks and then back to Merida for three weeks during CentreTerm, she further developed her Spanish-speaking skills.
Senior John Blair also wanted to fully immerse himself in a foreign language by studying abroad, and he chose to do so in France. And though he studied there during all three of his abroad experiences, he says he doesn’t “feel as though my overall experience abroad has been narrowed. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I have only now made a minor dent on the surface of truly understanding the French people.”
When he arrived in France for the first time during his sophomore year, Blair says he was “full of preconceived notions and a certain degree of idealism. The most important part of that semester in Strasbourg was my shedding of naïveté. And this building of genuine rapport culminated last summer in Paris; when I landed for the third time in France, I felt as if I were welcomed by a knowing nod from an old friend with whom I had seen the good and the bad.”
Four-time study abroad participant Jenny Umana ’12 also believes that studying abroad opens one’s eyes to the world in immeasurable ways. Although she at first felt slightly anxious about leaving her home country, her travels in Mexico, Costa Rica, Israel and Strasbourg proved to be some of her favorite experiences.
“I think that stepping out of my comfort zone and coming to Danville from Boston inspired me to be a bit adventurous,” she says. “I’d never been away from my family for so long, and knowing that I survived a year without them made me want to go other places, too.”
Among her favorite aspects of the study abroad experiences was becoming part of other families.
“In Costa Rica, we stayed with such a loving family, and I had great friends to share this experience with. Later, before leaving for France, I felt completely out of my comfort zone because I knew I’d be living with a family I’d struggle to communicate with. But challenging myself was the most rewarding thing, and by the end of my experience, I had another new family!”
Having now seen so much of the world, the Class of 2012 feels that their lives have been forever changed by their experience abroad.
“Although it may seem scary to go somewhere you’ve never been before, in the end it’s all worth it,” Umana says. “When you come back to Centre, you’ll remember standing on the edge of some rock after walking through the rainforest; or sitting underneath that Eifel Tower with some good people and champagne; or chasing Professor McCullough up and down Jerusalem, the Mt. of Temptation and Jordan; or taking pictures of amazing Mayan temples. These are memories you’ll have for life.”
And, like Blair and Farris, most of the seniors are grateful to their school for the opportunities they have been given to travel the globe.
“The fact that Centre encourages students to be intrepid enough to travel into what is sometimes the unknown—and for long periods of time—does more for the building of character than traditional education can instill alone,” Blair says.
Farris agrees. “This emphasis on studying abroad helps to produce well-rounded and culturally aware graduates who go on to do great things in their lives, no matter which path they choose.”