International

EXPERIENCES ABROAD

Wesleyan students are encouraged to learn about other countries, cultures and languages not only on campus, but also by pursuing opportunities to study outside the U.S. Nearly half of all undergraduates choose to study abroad for a semester or a full year during their time at Wesleyan, not including those who use the summer to study, research, work or volunteer in another country.

Each year, more than 300 students study abroad in about 45 different countries. Wesleyan currently sponsors four programs in Paris, FranceRegensburg, GermanyBologna, Italy; and Madrid, Spain. Additionally, students may choose to participate in one of about 150 other approved programs in countries all over the world. Information about programs, procedures, preparing to study abroad, and more is available on the Office of International Studies (OIS) website.

Students Abroad

Browse recent photos and posts from Wesleyan students studying abroad.

Venice gondola

SEEING VENICE BY GONDOLA

Julianne Green '14

One of the most wonderful aspects of studying abroad in Europe was how easy it was to travel to neighboring countries. I was studying in Madrid and within an hour or two you could be landing in Paris or Portugal, exploring places of which you had only ever dreamed. During our Spring Break we took a 10-day trip to Italy, traveling to Rome, Venice and Florence. Nothing could have prepared us for our arrival in Venice.

It had been raining all that week in the city but miraculously when we arrived it was sunny and blue skies all day. This change in weather added a somewhat mystical sense to our time there, as if the weather had somehow allowed and wanted us to have this perfect day in the city. 

I thought the views of Venice were incredible from the bridges but it was nothing compared to what we saw when in the gondola gently passing through the canals. The sun seemed to sneak into every corner of the city, bringing to life the colors of the flags and houses. Even the water glowed with a golden hue. The city echoed with the singing of gondoliers and we just sat in the gondola beaming so brightly, astounded that we were actually living this. The gondolier told us about the history of the city, of the historic people who lived there and the importance of certain houses. He would occasionally break from his tour to shout to a fellow gondolier or burst into song. 

Years ago my parents had spent part of their honeymoon in Venice. I tried to imagine them experiencing the same things I was, sitting in a gondola, perusing the chocolate shops, eating gelato along the waterfront. I then thought of the countless other people who had been in the exact same spot as me and wondered if they were left as speechless as I was. There was a great sense of sadness getting out of the gondola at the end as I just wanted to continue weaving through the canals but I knew I would come back one day, that I would see the city bathed in sunshine and hear the singing of the gondoliers once more.

--Studying in Madrid, Spain through the Vassar-Wesleyan Program, Spring 2013

zip lining

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH NATURE

Amelia Mettler '15

Now that I have been in Costa Rica for close to three weeks, I can finally feel myself begin to settle into a routine. Riding the bus doesn't terrify me quite as much anymore (as long as you hold on to the seat with a death grip you should survive), and I'm getting used to the rain that comes through everyday from around 1 to 3 p.m. (AKA exactly the time I am traveling from class back home. Convenient.) Despite the fact that it has rained every single day since I've been here, my host mom still reminds me to bring an umbrella every morning when I leave for school (Lleva sombrilla nina!). A true mother after having 25 exchange students and two kids of her own over the past twenty years.

This past weekend we organized our first weekend trip and all went to Monteverde, Guanacaste for three days. It may have been one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in my life. Because it is so high up in the mountains, it is technically a cloud forest rather than a rain forest, because it is literally in the clouds. Between bouts of sunshine, clouds will move in and completely fog over the entire forest, leaving it looking very mysterious and vaguely reminiscent of various scenes from Avatar.

Although we didn’t end up seeing any blue aliens, we did see a wide variety of animals both on nature walks as well as on a tour on which we hiked through the forest for two hours in the middle of the night, and tried to spot wildlife. We ended up seeing a family of sloths, a couple porcupines, a grey fox, colorful tree frogs, a tarantula (a little closer than was comfortable), giant walking sticks (the bug, not the actual stick) that grew to be a foot long, and a bunch of other birds, insects and mammals that I didn’t recognize and which probably don’t have English names.

Apart from becoming one with nature, we also went on a canopy tour on the longest zip line in Central America. Although I’ve been zip lining before, this was a whole different experience. We were up in the clouds for close to four hours, zip lining, rappelling, crossing rope bridges, and doing what was called a “Tarzan swing,” in which you’re literally attached to a giant tree branch by a rope and have to jump from a high up platform and swing until you stopped. Because the platform was so high up, there was some slack on the rope, so you end up free falling for a couple seconds before it catches you. It was terrifying. It was awesome. I’m inspired to bungee jump. The other cool thing was on the last zip line, which was the longest because it took you all the way back to where you started, they turned our harnesses around so we were facing the ground and hooked our feet up to the line too, so when they let go it was somewhat like what Superman would look like except with much more terrified facial expressions and a much less stylish costume. It was the closest I have ever felt to flying, and was amazing except for the end when you reach the tunnel of trees, realize how fast you’re going, and have a brief panic moment until a giant spring catches you.

Last but not least, we went exploring in between activities and found what the townspeople called a Ficus Tree. This type of tree has roots that grow in a spiral, so they form a tunnel within the tree through which we could climb all the way to the top and pop out in the canopy super high up for an amazing view.

Overall, it was an amazing trip to a beautiful place, and it was definitely worth getting out of the city to see. It was the Costa Rica that I pictured before coming here--green, lush and gorgeous. Our hostel was also amazing, and the woman who ran it was basically our mother for the weekend, making sure we were all wearing sunscreen, kissing our cheeks before we left, and making us banana pancakes each morning. The best part was probably the existence of a sloth sighting alert call between her hostel, her brother's hostel next door, and her mom's soda, or small restaurant up the road. Whenever there was a sloth sighted (which happened three times at all hours of the day and night), the phone would ring and our hostel mom would run around banging on doors and yelling "Perezoso, perezoso!" and usher everyone out into the street to admire the animal the hostel was named after. Talk about appreciation of nature. 

--Studying in Costa Rica through the University of Kansas, Fall 2013

South Africa

A View of Urban Issues Abroad

Millie Dent '15

Our second home stay in South Africa was in Langa, a township about a 25-minute taxi ride from the center of Cape Town. Some days we had breakfast; other days we had fiber bars. We rotated between hot and cold showers, never knowing when the hot water might work. We were not allowed to leave the house after dark due to safety issues. As much of a change as it was, it has been my favorite home stay so far.

Members of the family I lived with always invited me on walks around the neighborhood or to a weekend braai (barbecue), constantly asking me questions and making me feel welcome in their home. I became football buddies with my six-year-old brother, Kanyeso. He taught me how to finish a pack of gum in just one morning, and I taught him how to play Hacky Sack. He would creep into my room while I was doing homework, pleading to play because he was bored. I taught him some boxing moves and he would practice while I wrote my papers.

Although Apartheid officially ended in 1994, it is still very prevalent today. Racism runs rampant throughout the city, and the inequality was clear once I stepped outside of the city center. We walked through cardboard shack communities and saw the public bathrooms that the government is supposed to maintain looted of the actual toilets, which thieves sell. Doors are ripped off of the restrooms, making it dangerous for people to use them at night, so people have to keep buckets in their homes.

The major issue facing the city is housing. The government is slowly working to provide 800,000 people with houses, but they only have the funding to aid 8,000 a year. Housing is a right guaranteed in the South African Constitution, but the government is failing the people. Food security is also promised in the Constitution, but many people are starving and others lack the funds for healthy food, causing an obesity epidemic around the country. Furthermore, South Africa has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world. Once you dig deeper into Cape Town, past the usual tourist attractions of wine tours and Table Mountain, you discover the heartbreaking reality of the city.

One thing I know for sure is that I am only getting a surface view of urban issues facing this cities and others I visit through the program, and that there is a wealth of information I still have yet to understand or come in contact with. I came into the program expecting answers, but I am going to come away with even more questions, as well as the drive and passion to pursue these issues in the future.

--Studying in South Africa, Brazil, and Vietnam through the Cities in the 21st Century program, part of the International Honors Program within the School For International Training (SIT), Fall 2013.

Bodegas Baigorri

A Trip to Basque Country

Talia Baurer '15

On our final organized, full group trip, the program took us to País Vasco (Basque Country) in the north of Spain on a wine tour. We took a bus up from Madrid into the north, where we visited no less than four bodegas (wineries) over the course of the weekend - and saw incredibly lush, green land and interesting architecture absolutely everywhere we turned.

Apparently País Vasco is perpetually rainy, but some sort of abroad magic must have been on our side because we had perfect weather all weekend that let us truly appreciate the beauty of the land around us. I remember being giddy not from the wine, but from the excitement of all being together as a group and from the beauty of the scenery. It didn't hurt that País Vasco is one of the autonomous communities of Spain that most fascinates me: Its language, Euskara, is thought to be one of the oldest languages spoken today because linguists cannot link it to any other language; and it has had one of the strongest nationalist movements in Spain, which produced the terrorist group ETA in the '60s (which has been in ceasefire for the past few years). Bodegas, the beach in San Sebastián, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao gave us just a glimpse of the region's culture and history.

--Studying in Madrid, Spain through the Vassar-Wesleyan Program, Spring 2013

Chili and downed bikes

STORMS, CHILI AND HYGGE

Penina Kessler '15

Nearly every semester I've been at Wesleyan, there has been some sort of massive natural disaster that's disrupted campus for a couple days: a freak October blizzard freshman year, Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Nemo sophomore year. So the other day, when one of my classmates in my Kierkegaard class through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad program leaned over during a break and said, "Did you hear? There's supposed to be a major storm today," I couldn't help but feel a sense of continuity. What would a semester abroad be without a natural disaster?

Copenhagen residents were told to stay indoors between the hours of 4 and 7, the worst parts of the storm. I got home at 3.45, and, in fighting the hurricane strength winds during my minute walk from the S-Tog, immediately knew what needed to be done. I messaged my friends in my kollegium: Anyone down for a hurricane dinner? Then I started looking up chili recipes. 

We've talked a lot in my Cross Cultural Psychology class at DIS about how food is one of the easiest way to transmit cultures. Few people know who the Medici family was, but nearly everyone can spend hours telling you about their favorite pizza. In my family, offering food is a gesture of welcome, protection. I still laugh remembering the times in high school when my friends would come over and tried to fend off my mother's offers of split pea soup. 

The primary Danish defense against the long, dark winter is a concept called "hygge" which roughly translates to "coziness." It's an ineffable feeling that emanates from gathering with your loved ones, a good meal, and perhaps some chocolate and coffee; a feeling of comfort, stability, and warmth in the face of the harsh outdoors. 

My friends and I gathered in our common room. We lit candles, played Iron & Wine and The National, and chatted while the chili bubbled happily in the background. We told storm stories and travel break stories and commiserated with the people who were stuck downtown. We wondered if we could order a pizza (spoiler: we couldn't). The chili came off the stove, and it was delicious. I stared around the room and realized, this was hygge.  

--Studying in Copenhagen, Denmark through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, Fall 2013

Granada

UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF BEAUTY

Katherine Lu '15

My study abroad experience in Madrid, Spain through the Vassar-Wesleyan program began with a two-week orientation in Granada. Even though Granada is a small town in the south province of Andalucia, it coalesces old Spanish traditions with intricate Moorish architecture to create a place unlike any other. I was most impressed by the Alhambra, a fortress built in the 1st century by the Muslims.

The photo on the left is of the exterior of the Alhambra, which sits on a mountain and can be seen from all parts of the town. Beautiful in the day and at night, it looks formidable with its sturdy stone exterior. After a week of passing to and from the Alhambra but never visiting it, we were finally led on an excursion inside the Alhambra, a trek that tested my physical capabilities.

However, upon entering the queen's quarters, depicted in the photo on the right, I was shocked into a serious case of Stendhal syndrome, my body numbing from the immensity of the beauty that encapsulated me with its humble grandeur.  I have never been in the presence of such beauty, let alone been in an environment that was the embodiment of beauty itself. To this day, the Alhambra is still my favorite sight, and site, and I firmly believe it will remain forever as the closest I have been to understanding the nature of beauty.

--Studying in Madrid, Spain through the Vassar-Wesleyan Program, Spring 2013

beach

SUNRISE, SUNSET IN HOLBOX

Willa Beckman '15

One Thursday night, five of the girls in the program and I boarded an overnight bus heading to Holbox for the weekend.  Holbox is a tiny little isla located off the state of Quintana Roo, home to flamingos, pelicans, el tiburón ballena, and about twenty trillion mosquitos, most of which are now filled with some portion of my blood.

Friday morning we transferred from bus to boat to watch the sunrise over the water and the thin strip of island approach.  We walked the five blocks across the island to our hostel, where we slept outside in hammocks until the office opened and we were able to check our things into our room, throw on bathing suits, grab a delicious mess of tortilla-egg-and-cheese goodness, and walk across the street to the beach.  Where we swam, tanned, read, and slept all day.

It’s hard not to feel like the luckiest person alive when you’re lying in a hammock, watching the shadows from the leaves above you dance across your leg and the clear turquoise water glimmer beyond the pages of your book, listening to the waves crash and the breeze through your hair, swaying gently with your toes trailing through the sand…

By evening, all of us were ready to explore the island and half of us were horribly sunburned so we headed back to the hostel to change and walk around the island. Our wandering took us to dinner, where most people shared Holbox’s famous fresh lobster pizza and I had my usual (delicious) quesadilla dinner. After dinner was helado de arroz and after helado de arroz we went back to the hostel where we watched the sunset from the roof.  Thus marking the first day I ever watched the sun both rise and set.

--Studying in Mérida, México through the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University, Fall 2013