by Kelly Webber, Summer Director
Every January and May, students have the opportunity to see the world on three-week cross-cultural trips around the globe. This May, Senior Peace and Conflict Studies Major Kelli Reinbold experienced her first time traveling out of the U.S. to study religion in Strasbourg and Paris, France led by Madame Heather Dravk.
“I think it was helpful in that I had never been abroad before. It was such a good experience that if I am given the opportunity to go again, either for vocational opportunities or otherwise, I will be much more willing to take the chance and go because I already have some experience under my belt,” Kelli reflected.
The opportunity to travel to France appealed to Kelli due to her background studying French. “I had three years of French in high school and one semester in college before departing. I was able to make it through most conversations, but I struggled sometimes and that was okay because a lot of French people knew enough English to be able to figure out what I needed!”
Students on cross-cultural trips are encouraged to reflect deeply on their cultural, personal, and spiritual growth. “My favorite part of the trip was the day that we spent at Struthof Concentration camp because it really allowed me to reflect on my faith and what my faith would look like in action.”
In addition to noticeable cultural differences such as language, religion, and history, something as simple as going shopping or having a conversation can be a cultural experience when abroad.
“There were so many cultural differences! I think the biggest one was how many things are closed on Sundays (because literally everything is closed on Sundays)! I’m so used to being able to go to the store whenever I need to but in France if it was Sunday and I was out of something, I just had to go the night without it. The most important thing I learned is the importance of listening to people. You can learn a lot about cultures by listening to the people who live in them.”
Kelli noted that the community aspect of traveling with a group of students impacted her overall experience: “Our whole group became very close. We entered the trip almost entirely as strangers and now there isn’t a single one of them that I wouldn’t call friend. I learned so much from every single one of them, whether they know it or not.”
Cross-cultural trips can fill a variety of graduation requirements including general education courses, language requirements, courses in a major or a minor, and the Experiential Learning Initiative (ELI) requirement.
“I would totally recommend a cross cultural, especially for someone who may be uneasy about going abroad or who has never gone abroad before. It’s a great way to ease into it and to become a little more independent without being totally alone and uncomfortable. The support system created through a cross cultural is unbelievable, I would recommend it to anyone,” Kelli stated.