Bears go global- students reflect on summer study abroad trips

No Dracula here! Students throw up their best Sic’em while hiking in Transylvania. Photo courtesy of Lizzie Darwin

By Tyler Bui | Staff Writer

This summer, Baylor students had the opportunity to study abroad in 26 different countries and on six continents. While experiencing diverse cultures and environments around the world, students were simultaneously able to focus on their academics and major.

Baylor in Australia is a 24-day trip where students travel to 11 destinations. The program focuses on the environmental conservation and natural history of North Queensland, Australia.

Along with spending time inside a classroom, Baylor in Australia provides a more interactive curriculum where students can develop a better understanding of the environment by experiencing it firsthand.

Boerne junior Josh Bell, an environmental science major who partook in the program, said that its immersive nature helped him gain more knowledge about his field of study.

“We spent 75% of our time outside, so most of our trip was hands-on with a lot of visual experiences,” Bell said. “Our lectures ranged from being on a boat to a classroom in the middle of the rainforest. It really just depended on finding a place where our professors could teach us.”

During the program, a typical day for students involved both studying and experiencing Australian culture. The itinerary was filled with different experiences involving environmental science including snorkeling, hiking, wildlife viewing and camping.

“Usually, the first half of the day was spent listening to a lecture or doing school work, but the information was so interesting that it never felt like work,” Bell said. “Afternoons were spent traveling around town and experiencing the local culture.”

Bell said he had many favorite parts of the trip but the Great Barrier Reef stood out in particular.

“I’d say the winning moment was spending two days on the Great Barrier Reef,” Bell said. “We visited six different sites and did studies on two of the sites. The diversity of the reef was similar to the stars—you can’t even begin to count all the different types of fish and coral. It’s pretty crazy.”

Houston senior Lizzie Darwin, a journalism, public relations and new media major, studied abroad through Baylor in Budapest.

Students began their trip spending five days in Prague, Czech Republic before traveling to Budapest, their main destination. There, students spent their time studying, exploring and contributing to The Bundle Magazine, a student-run multimedia magazine backed by the Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor.

During the students’ time in Budapest, they worked on a special edition of The Bundle that documented their experiences while abroad.

“You really had to understand the culture to do your work,” Darwin said. “What was so cool about working for The Bundle was that we were writing about how we experienced life in Budapest. We were able to document how we lived our lives to the fullest in those short five weeks.”

In addition to working on The Bundle, students attended class Monday through Friday in the mornings and were given free time in the afternoons to explore the city and local attractions. After two weeks in Budapest, students traveled to Romania for three days where they stayed with host families.

“It was so cool to be in such a different environment— there was minimal electricity in Romania and it was really nice to get away from the big city and transition into the countryside,” Darwin said.

The students returned to Budapest where they stayed for the remainder of their trip before traveling home. Reflecting on her trip, Darwin thought it was amazing how she was able to fully immerse herself in European culture.

“Being able to go somewhere and really live in the reality of the culture, not just from a tourist perspective, was amazing,” Darwin said. “We got to experience what it’s really like to live in Hungary.”

Gretna, Neb., junior Kacie Scharf, an international business and finance major, studied abroad through Baylor in Denia.

The program is five weeks long and focuses on immersing students in the culture and language of Spain. Students were encouraged to take advantage of their environment and speak Spanish as often as possible.

“We spoke Spanish at all our mealtimes, which really helped me to improve my speaking abilities,” Scharf said. “It was definitely a big change and I still have a lot to learn, but I think being surrounded by Spanish speakers has helped me improve a lot faster than I thought.”

Scharf said one of her favorite aspects of studying abroad was the differences in culture that she noticed.

“One big difference between Spain and the United States is during lunchtime—in Spain, you take a siesta every day. You are expected to take a few hours and enjoy your meal. It’s really different from the United States where you’re rushed out as soon as possible. We were able to enjoy our meal and each other’s company each day,” Scharf said.

On a typical day, students finished class around 12:15 p.m. and had the afternoon to go into town and experience the culture in Denia.

“It was really amazing to be able to experience the culture in Spain because most of the cities are so much older than the United States,” Scharf said. “The country has so much history to offer and I loved being able to see how it has changed over time.”

To learn more about the BearsAbroad programs, visit their website.