Globe trotters: Students expand their horizons through international programsWORTHINGTON — With high school behind them and the world before them, three 2010 graduates of Worthington High School (WHS) are among those who decided to expand their horizons and further their cultural educations last semester. Traveling to diverse locales — Ghana, Denmark and Hawaii — these students each spent at least four months studying outside their comfort zones, gaining independence, confidence and insight in the process. Here is a brief account of their recent sojourns.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — With high school behind them and the world before them, three 2010 graduates of Worthington High School (WHS) are among those who decided to expand their horizons and further their cultural educations last semester. Traveling to diverse locales — Ghana, Denmark and Hawaii — these students each spent at least four months studying outside their comfort zones, gaining independence, confidence and insight in the process. Here is a brief account of their recent sojourns.
University of Ghanain Accra, Ghana
Kevin Coriolan is a junior at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He is pursuing a double major in corporate communications and digital media.
“Looking far into the future, I would like to maybe work with a non-profit and live a rugged life anywhere in the world where I can meet people who are helping and serving others,” said Coriolan.
Without a burning cause in mind, Coriolan desired to spend time in a “non-traditional” place. Two of his friends had earlier spent time in Ghana, so Coriolan was inspired to apply to the Center for International Exchange, a nationwide program that helped facilitate his time there.
“I lived in Accra, Ghana’s capital, from the beginning of August through mid-December,” said Coriolan. His home-away-from-home was an international student hostel, where he lived among other Americans, Europeans, Africans and Ghanaians. U.S. creature comforts, like hot water, reliable WiFi and guaranteed running water and electricity, were intermittent at best.
“But since I came back to Minnesota in the middle of December, I miss the heat,” reported Coriolan. Temperatures in the Sub-Saharan climate typically ranged from 80 to 100 degrees.
“And it barely ever rained, but when it did rain, it poured,” Coriolan said.
Coriolan took five classes — among them, a couple of political sciences courses, as well as a course on “Twi,” Ghana’s native language — at the University of Ghana, whose student population numbers 40,000.
“It was definitely big for me, having grown up in Worthington and attending college in Storm Lake,” said Coriolan, the son of Carol and Ernst Coriolan. “The cultural education was the most valuable part of my experience.”
Coriolan also spent a lot of time volunteering at a children’s school called the Future Leaders Underprivileged Children’s Centre. There, he worked with 5-to-12 year-old kids and assisted teachers by typing final exams, correcting papers and substituting in classes such as English, citizenship, science and mathematics.
“I hadn’t previously worked with that age group, but now I feel I can work pretty well with children,” he said. “Volunteers were needed on a regular basis, and I felt I created long-lasting memories with the children from a short-term relationship.”
While Coriolan, who had studied Spanish at WHS, did not need to master a new language for his time in Ghana, he believes in the importance of learning languages and marvels at his own boldness.
“I can’t believe, looking back, that I went through this all by myself,” expressed Coriolan. “It was my first time on a plane (and it was a 24-hour flight on three planes to Ghana) by myself, the farthest away from home I’ve ever been, the longest I’ve ever been away from home — but I’m a people person, and now I miss a bunch of people I knew there.
“Ghana has a slower-moving culture than here, and I learned to slow down and not worry about time as much as I did before. This will help shape my whole life.”
Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Denmark
A junior history major at Carleton College in Northfield, Sameera Nalla plans to become a veterinarian.
“DIS has this great catch-phrase, ‘Copenhagen is your home, Europe is your classroom,’” noted Nalla, who signed on for the Danish program via Carleton. “I learned so much about culture and history from all the sites I saw, and now I would really like to travel more.”
In Denmark, Nalla attended five DIS-sponsored classes — a core course on medical practice and policy, a class exploring the biology of marine animals, a neuroscience class called “The Social Brain,” a course on Holocaust and genocide, and “The Enemy Within,” which dealt with the Cold War and espionage in Russia.
“My medical practice and policy class was with two doctors at Bispebjerg Hospital,” Nalla explained. One of her three built-in “travel breaks” over her four months (mid-August through mid-December) was spent in Berlin, Germany, and Potsdam, Poland.
“The purpose was to compare and contrast the very advanced medical centers in Berlin with the post-Communist system in Poland,” said Nalla.
Nalla lived in Virum, about a 25-minute train ride outside of Copenhagen, with a host family and another Carleton student, Jessica. Her host dad, Steen, is a business school professor and her host mom, Karin, is a nurse at a rehabilitation center.
“They’re really big on rye bread — it’s grainier, seedier and healthier than most breads here — and I really miss it now,” said Nalla. “Karin and Steen were a little surprised we liked it.
“They use the bread a lot for open-faced sandwiches — smorrebrod — and I also like the aebleskiver, a traditional Danish Christmas pastry. All the pastries in Denmark are really good, and I tried a variety of them.”
While Nalla loved Copenhagen, and calls it her “favorite European city,” she found much beauty in other stops on her travels, as well.
“I went to Tivoli Gardens (a famed Copenhagen amusement park) four times, and we saw the ‘Little Mermaid’ our first or second weekend there,” said Nalla.
“During my first travel break, we spent about five days each in Dublin and London,” she said. “We took a train to Howth, a beautiful little fishing village on the Irish coast, to see all the green and cliffs, and in London, we saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and rode on the London Eye for a really fantastic view of the city from above.”
Vienna and Salzburg also made Nalla’s list.
“I went to my first opera — a Verdi — in Vienna, and I loved it, and we also took a day trip to Salzburg where we went on the ‘Sound of Music’ tour and saw Mozart’s birth house,” she said.
Though Sameera has studied Spanish and not Danish, language was not a worry in Denmark, where she said “everyone knows English because they start learning it at a very young age.”
Other than four previous trips to India and one to Zimbabwe with her parents (Sundara and Manjula Nalla) to visit family, Nalla had not traveled on her own until last fall.
“Being in Copenhagen and other large European cities — so much bigger than Worthington and Northfield — was a good cultural experience, and I had wonderful travel opportunities,” assured Nalla. “I gained a lot more confidence doing all these things by myself.
“I’m really grateful for the experience, and I think studying abroad was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
National Student Exchange at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu
Because Angela Bui earned her associate’s degree from Minnesota West Community and Technical College concurrently with her WHS diploma in 2010, she recently completed her bachelor’s degree requirements at South Dakota State University, Brookings, and is poised to carry her psychology major onward toward an ultimate Ph.D. in counseling.
“I’m living at home right now, waiting to hear about grad school acceptances and applying for jobs in the Twin Cities,” said Bui of her current status.
But from Aug. 19 through Dec. 17, Bui lived and studied in some people’s idea of paradise.
“My family had vacationed in Hawaii four times over the years, and my brother Anthony and I used to dream of going to the University of Hawaii for school,” explained Bui, whose parents are Coleen and Khanh Bui. “So this was kind of like a dream come true for me.
“I only needed three more credits to graduate, and I wanted to do something fun before I started graduate school.”
So Bui applied for the National Student Exchange (NSE), which gives U.S. students the chance to experience other schools and their cultures.
“It’s different than study abroad — I could have gone to the University of Minnesota as an exchange student from SDSU, for instance — but it costs about the same as going to your ‘home’ school.”
Bui lived in a residence hall with a view of the ocean and shared a suite with roommates from Seattle, Wash., California and Colorado, all of whom were also NSE students. She admittedly had “easy classes”—a Hawaiian culture class, a Pacific Islands course, a psychology class addressing sexual differences and a weight-lifting class — with plenty of leisure time to explore the beach, water and hiking trails.
“The culture is kind of laid-back — maybe too laid-back at times — but we had University of Hawaii bus passes that could take us anywhere around the island of Oahu,” said Bui.
And despite the sun, surf and new friends, Bui discovered that her one-time idea of living in Hawaii might not be a long-term goal after all.
“Now I realize that Hawaii is very expensive, and even though the sun was always out, I realize how much I love the seasons here — I really missed the fall,” said Bui. “Living there, I learned that it’s not perfect, and that ‘it’s not where you’re at but who’s with you,’” she said.
Bui said, in small ways, “Every day was challenging, and being so far from home and family made me grow up and learn more about life.” She ended up joining a church group for support, and said she grew spiritually during her time away, too.
“I have happy memories of Hawaii, being at the beach and learning about the culture,” said Bui. “To be honest, it was a life-changing experience.
“Taking my PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Option) classes during high school enabled me to do this, and I got to step out of my boundaries and take a leap of faith.”
Bui advocates a study-away option for other students, and is sure her academic efforts will ultimately pay off in many ways.
“Education is a top priority for me,” said Bui. “I know the sacrifices I make now will be worth it