Traveling to learn
SNC students and alumni take advantage of travel abroad opportunities around the world.
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Since the recent election, many citizens have talked about leaving the country, but some Sierra Nevada College students and alumni have already left the U.S. in favor of work, study and travel options abroad.
“I first learned about the opportunity to study abroad in Italy through the wonderful Katie Zanto, who is both my teacher and academic advisor. It has been a lifelong dream to travel to Europe, and Italy was at the top of my list. So here I am,” said Mary Deutsch, an Interdisciplinary Studies major.
Deutsch is taking a semester of classes at Universita di Tuscia in Viterbo, Italy through SNC.
“Study abroad is important for many reasons. One thing that has been important for me has been getting out of my comfort zone by moving to a foreign country for four months without knowing a soul. I feel that I have gained a lot of confidence,” she said.
Travel opportunities do not dissipate upon graduation. SNC currently has at least two alumni students teaching overseas.
“SNC prepared me for this experience by giving me my first move-far-from-home experience, and by offering me an interesting place to grow, and by giving me valuable global perspectives. Traveling abroad grows empathy and shakes you out of stagnation,” said Oliver Di Costanzo, an SNC alumni and International Studies major.
Di Costanzo is currently enjoying teaching overseas in Taiwan.
“The best thing is having normal day to day life never being truly normal, learning and living a different culture and lifestyle,” said Di Costanzo. He stressed that Mary Lewellen, Program Chair of Global Business, and business professor Ted Morse were especially helpful in motivating him to go abroad.
Although traveling is often romanticized, it’s not without difficulties. Rob Defelice, an SNC alumni and English major, moved to Kanazawa, Japan after graduation to teach English.
“Moving to a completely new country where no one speaks your language and you stick out like a tree in a prairie can be both insanely intimidating and also incredibly exhilarating. It’s definitely strange and scary being in this scenario, but it opens the door for you to truly envelop yourself in a new culture if you choose to jump in,” he said.
When Defelice traveled to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, he expected there to be resentment towards Americans due to World War II. Instead, he found that the people of Southeast Asia were more inclined to invite him for a beer and share stories.
Deutsch said that cultural differences are both rewarding and challenging.
“Just recently I learned that I have the nerve to travel on my own, which has really opened up my life to new experiences. Last weekend I went to Venice, and felt as though I was in a trance the entire time because of the richness of the beauty and the art there,” said Deutsch.
“One of the greater difficulties is the language barrier. It is funny because sometimes I will meet a handsome guy, but I have about five talking points with my limited Italian. This can result in some very short conversations,” Deutsch added.
Defelice stated that SNC helped prepare him to go overseas. He formerly worked as an editor for the SNC Eagle’s Eye.
“Working on the newspaper I was able to meet a lot of foreign students and learn about their cultures and experiences with foreign teachers. This is what piqued my interest in teaching overseas,” said Defelice.
While studying and teaching are two ways to travel, just having the itch to travel can get you there as well. Terra Breeden, SNC alumni and English major, is currently traveling through Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia, and then New Zealand for three months.
“I chose to travel because it’s my passion. I love how when I’m abroad, every day is a new adventure,” said Breeden. “I’m learning a lot about myself and gaining confidence and clarity as I see the world and experience new cultures. I started this journey with my legs shaking and now they are made of steel.”
Breeden stresses that traveling alone is a much different experience than being on a group trip or with a friend.
“You learn a lot about yourself when you travel. Distancing yourself from your everyday life helps you gain clarity about who you are and what you want in life,” said Breeden. “Plus, it’s a freaking blast. I’d say that because of traveling I’m a stronger, more interesting, and confident person. It’s changed my life.”