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First post-pandemic Lyon College study abroad group makes new waves

It has been over two years since the world first came to a halt in the wake of a global pandemic. For those two years the world was isolated, borders were closed, and travel was heavily restricted. As the world has slowly healed and regained some normalcy, those once-closed borders have given way to the revitalization of going abroad.

Madison Burell, Morrigan Crist, Chloe DeSouza, Trevor Freemire and Aria Switzer are slated for semesters abroad in various countries and will be revitalizing the Nichols study abroad program this year with their respective destinations: University of Poitiers, France: Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland: Andrés Bello National University, Chile: Akita International University, Japan: and Rome.

The excitement amongst the group was practically unanimous. Not all of the students have left the country before, much less alone, but they seemed more than prepared to dive into new experiences.

Burell, a sophomore French and business and economics major, said, “I’m very excited, but also very nervous. It is going to be an entirely new place, and I don’t even know where I am going to live yet. It’s going to be an adventure!”

Rome-bound junior Switzer will be taking part in a plein air art class and will be painting amidst the streets instead of between desks in a university.

She said, “I chose this program because I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to gain more work for my portfolio, and to learn more about painting and drawing techniques that I am not the most familiar with.”

Switzer continued, “This will be such an opportunity to really grow and push my work in ways it hasn't been pushed before.”

Political science major Freemire said, “It’s one of those things where outside of college, you don't exactly have a good opportunity to do it. You can do tourism and things like that, but it isn't easy for you to go and do things within the culture if you don’t necessarily have an ‘in.’”

Crist, a sophomore anthropology and history major, on the other hand said that it just seemed like the smart decision academically.

“My career as an archaeologist is going to take me abroad, so studying methods solely in one area seems like a disservice for me, especially given my field,” said Crist, “I would’ve felt incomplete if I stayed in one place.”

Burell had similar thoughts when it came to why studying abroad makes a difference compared to a standard domestic education.

She said, “I chose to study abroad because I believe it is truly the best way to immerse yourself in a culture, language, or even field of study! Surround yourself with people who live the culture everyday of their life. They know themselves better than anyone, and you have to just put yourself in the middle of them.”

This was a sentiment shared by the other students as well. Culture and immersion seemed like a staple experience and one of the big takeaways from their plans to study abroad.

Crist said, “One thing I am looking forward to is the social aspect of the trip. I haven’t really experienced much culture outside of my own. Being able to learn in a new environment helps cut down on the US-centric ideas that we cultivate here.”

Switzer said, “I am so excited to meet all the other artists and the instructors in the program. I cannot wait to just soak up every bit of knowledge possible, and immerse myself into a new culture.”

Study abroad trips are a phenomenal way to get in touch with the spirit of the community. Freemire had already planned out some of the events and festivities he will attend in Japan over the summer.

He said, “There is an Akita specific festival, Kanto Matsuri or the pole lantern festival, at the very beginning of August, right before I leave, and I am very excited to get to experience that. Another one I am looking forward to is Tanabata.”

Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, is a Japanese festival originating from the Chinese Qixi Festival. It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi. This is something that Freemire said he has been waiting to see for a long time.

Although unlike a few of the other students, Freemire has had much longer to prepare for these festivities.

“I actually applied to go to Akita pre-pandemic. It was spring of 2020 when I put in my first application, and as we all know crap soon hit the fan,” said Freemire.

He continued, “Mr. Macade sat through all two years of it with me, and he did nothing but make sure I was fully prepared for when Japan finally called.”

While Freemire had plenty of time to get things in order, other students, like Crist, had only started their applications this semester!

“I started working on my application around late february/early march this semester,” She said.

Crist continued, “I have wanted to go to Ireland for such a long time. This specific program is one of the main reasons I chose Lyon College to begin with. It was the bigger part of my 5-year-plan.”

Even before heading to newer pastures, the students were more than certain that studying abroad is an opportunity more students should experience.

“I think that everyone should look into study abroad opportunities. If you want to be cultured, studying abroad is something you should do. Being able to learn these vast histories and experience cultures from around the world, that is something amazing that everyone should try,” said Freemire.

Crist explained, “I am a student of color, and so going to a place where I feel safe is important. My culture has a lot of crossover with Irish history, so I feel that it is a great fit for what I am wanting.”

With traveling comes sorting out tickets, lodging, and most importantly travel papers. Burell emphasized that if students were planning on getting a foot in the door with studying abroad, don’t be afraid of paperwork. 

“There is a lot of paperwork, but it is worth every second! It is something that, if you want to do it, you should start on it early and stick with it,” said Burell.

Switzer said, “To be completely honest I didn’t believe I was going to get accepted into this study abroad program, however to my surprise I was.  If I had not applied because of my fear of not getting accepted I would have missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The Lyon College Nichols International Studies Program provides financial assistance to students, offering a more reliable and fulfilling opportunity to travel abroad and earn college credits.