Around the world in one semester: OCS students return to campus

Alexa Grechishkin, Campus Life Reporter

For many seniors, this semester marks the first term back after leaving campus for another country during the spring semester of last year. The OCS Welcome Back Bonanza, hosted on Sep. 13, acted as a space for students to reflect on their study abroad experiences, reconnect with friends and share what they learned with their peers.

The experience of studying abroad draws students from all backgrounds with a broad range of motivations. For senior environmental studies and economics major Kali Natarajan, her program in Denmark gave her unique opportunities to engage with the environment in a hands-on field.

“My classes in Denmark were more focused on taking me out of the classroom,” Natarajan said. “We visited windmills and we were right there learning about them, seeing them and touching them. I also had an agriculture class where instead of seeing pictures on a slide, we got to go out to farms.”

Cormac Li, a senior politics major, mentioned that interning with the Israeli parliament while attending the Yeshiva religious school contributed to his personal growth. Being the first from his family to return to Jerusalem in a thousand years while also taking a broad array of political courses presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him.

“Going to Israel with the professors that just came back from some government agencies and research centers [means] they bring in a whole different dimension to the class material,” Li said.

Photo by Sofia Del Fiol.

For senior rhetoric major Caitlin Barnes, studying in Granada was a chance to bring her Spanish language skills to a new level through complete immersion.

“I had never taken that many classes where the lectures were in Spanish,” Barnes said. “The emails professors sent were in Spanish and my papers had to be in Spanish. That was challenging and pushed me to better my understanding of reading and writing in Spanish and overall fluency.”

The personal growth students undergo abroad enriches the campus life for all students when they return, as they bring valuable perspectives and lessons back to campus.

“I really came outside my shell a lot. I think being in Denmark forced me to get out a little more and do things a little more,” Natarajan said. “I want to bring that to Whitman and realize that yes, [Whitman] is about school and academics, but also it is about personal growth, independence and learning.”

Photo by Sofia Del Fiol.

Li agreed, mentioning how his experience abroad has allowed him to see his interactions at Whitman in a different light.

“[In Israel] you meet with people with all different kinds of ideas, which will make you feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable at times. There, the environment, the openness and directness will push you to sit there and listen to other people’s opinions and voice yours,” Li said.

The stories of the experiences Whitman students have abroad demonstrate the rich value held in experiencing the OCS program.

“You had this experience of being in a whole different part of the world… no one else knows what it was like to take classes at this place, live somewhere new, meet all new people and explore new restaurants and coffee shops,” Barnes said. “Words can’t really explain to people what the experience was like; you just had to be there.”

As OCS information sessions for this year’s sophomores begin, a new generation of students get ready to travel, learn and grow globally, preparing to enrich campus with their new perspectives when they return.