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The mission of the Honors College at East Carolina University is to
prepare tomorrow's leaders through the recruitment, engagement, and
retention of exceptionally talented students of character in a diverse
intellectual living-learning community and to challenge them to attain
high levels of academic achievement.
“I will never forget the stars in the Sahara desert. It looked like a glitter jar exploded on a huge body of ink. I relive that moment as often as I can. Another one of those moments was getting to the top of the Great Wall. It was more than breathtaking. Words cheapen what it meant to me.” Although Jules Verne might have considered traveling the world in eighty days impressive, Carly Judd believes that taking the time to smell the roses is better practice. Otherwise, what kind of meaning can you get seeing the world from a narrow airplane window? Like us, Carly finds the value of a study abroad in seeing the world from a wider window.
It might’ve not been in the renowned eighty days, but senior EC Scholar Carly Judd got to sail the world in 116 days with the Semester at Sea study abroad program. From January 5th to May 1st, Carly continued her Neuroscience and Art History double majors aboard a cruise ship, stopping along the way to travel from ports dotting the globe. Semester at Sea’s mission is “To educate individuals with the global understanding necessary to address the challenges of our interdependent world,” aligning with the Honors College’s philosophy to call the world your classroom. Carly’s whirlwind adventure began in San Diego before setting off for Hawaii and sailing around Asia to Japan, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, and India. Her program didn’t stop there, continuing to Africa at Mauritius, South Africa, and Ghana before working her way up through Morocco to Europe. Portugal, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic were last but not least on her itinerary.
With so much to do and see, it’s hard to imagine what any particular day during her study abroad could have looked like, let alone become the usual. “On the ship, we would wake up, have classes, hang with friends, and have a movie or something at night. Without internet, we played A LOT of card games. But I miss having no social media/internet and what came with it: stargazing on the end of the ship, deep conversations with my friends, and exploring. When we landed in country, it was go-go-go—not a moment of rest. The travel was independent so we had to plan everything with people on the ship who we met. It was such a growth experience to travel this way—sometimes we would just pack a bag and explore.”
These experiences served as opportunities for your abilities to develop outside your comfort zone. Since Carly had to adapt to vastly different cultures on a regular basis, being lost in translation gave countless stories to see herself through new lenses. “One moment I will never forget was in a train station in Japan. My friends and I had just bought some gyoza (a type of wonton dish) and we were looking everywhere for somewhere to sit down and eat, but we couldn’t find any chairs or tables. We finally settled for the corner of a department store-type joint and ate our food standing up. As we finished up eating, we realized that the store had closed and all the employees were awkwardly staring at us, politely waiting on us to leave. We hustled and threw our garbage in what we thought was a trashcan before we left. When I turned around, I saw a wet umbrella symbol on the side of the “trashcan.” To make the situation even more hilarious, all of the employees were laughing as we dug out our trash and hurried out!”
If you ask anyone who’s done a bit of traveling, they’ll tell you that improvising and rolling with the changes are key to growing with the journey. What we think we can translate from our own background into global impact changes with the new tides we’re swept away in, and what impact we bring home is sometimes molded by cultures that refined our goals. “I went in thinking I could make an impact but quickly learned that the world was to be my classroom, its beautiful people my teachers, and its lessons crashed upon me like the waves that hit the ship day after day—comforting and never-ending,” Carly said. “My study abroad was one big perspective shift. It would teach me every day how little I knew about the world I lived in and how small the window of things I had been exposed to was, even though I considered myself open-minded. It humbled me in so many ways.”
“ECU prepared me with the tools and the self-confidence to feel I could do something so different than anything I had ever done before. It built my wings up so that I truly felt and feel I can go anywhere and do anything I want to do. I have brought back with me a renewed passion for what I love, an appreciation for our amazing campus and faculty, and an excitement for the global perspective in how I operate on campus and with my fellow students.” ECU and the Honors College give students wide-ranging financial support opportunities to pursue their dream experience abroad. Carly received funding through the EC Scholars award and the program’s study abroad stipend, as well as scholarship funding through the Semester at Sea program. I asked Carly for some parting words about what the lasting positive change a study abroad experience can mean for prospective students. “It will change you and broaden you. It will provide you with the discomfort to allow yourself to truly grow into more than you knew you could be.”
To learn more about study abroad opportunities, you can contact us at 252.328.6373, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on ECU’s campus at the Mamie Jenkins Building. To keep up to date on Honors College events and student stories like Carly’s, follow us on social media.
Written by EC Scholar alumna Sarah Lisson (’16)
I cannot believe it’s been over two years since I graduated from the Honors College and the EC Scholars program. The time has absolutely flown by, and I have certainly kept busy! I am currently in my final year of graduate school at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where I am pursuing dual master’s degrees in nutrition and public health and will also be completing my dietetic internship in the spring of 2019. Though this chapter of my life has taken me approximately 450 miles away from Greenville, I’m happy to report that I’ve found a few fellow Pirates who proudly bleed purple and gold out here in Big Orange Country.
Graduate school has been very different from my undergraduate experience. Though I have taken plenty of exams and quizzes, most of my assignments have been papers and projects that have encouraged me to think critically and apply what I have learned (much like the assignments given in Honors seminars and colloquia). I have also had plenty of opportunities to use my new knowledge and skills to serve the community. Like ECU, UTK promotes service-learning and facilitates partnerships that will mutually benefit students and communities. My favorite service-learning experiences have been leading after-school programs in local elementary and middle schools. As I watched students handle chef’s knives in Culinary Club and advocate for anti-smoking legislation in Teens Working for Reform (ToWeR)- activities I certainly was not doing at their age- I was amazed by their capability, passion, and confidence.
My love of after-school programs led me back home to Raleigh this summer for a field placement with the YMCA of the Triangle. For nearly two months, I put everything I have learned about community assessment and program evaluation into practice while examining facilitators and barriers affecting the implementation of the YMCA’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards in after-school programs throughout Wake County. When I was not making site visits or analyzing data, my preceptor helped me arrange additional experiences based on my interests in policy and communications. We attended a variety of committee meetings at the North Carolina General Assembly during my first two weeks, and she entrusted me with the task of writing a series of articles and tweets promoting the North Carolina Healthy Out-of-School Time (NC HOST) recognition program (which can be found here: https://www.ncymcaalliance.org/). I felt completely “in my element” during my time with the YMCA, and I returned to Knoxville with a clearer sense of how I want my career to look.
I gratefully credit the Honors College and the EC Scholars program with much of my post-graduate success. Though my graduate program is equipping me with the technical skills and knowledge to excel in my field, the opportunities that I was given at ECU helped me to lay a firm foundation. It was at ECU that I began learning how to be a leader, a researcher, and a mentor. I learned why networking is so important and how to do it effectively, and I gained experience collaborating with peers and colleagues in other disciplines. My time at UTK has made me a proud Volunteer, but as I prepare to graduate and look back on my academic journey, I am proud to say that I will always be, first and foremost, a loyal and bold Pirate.
Weaving through the medieval streets of Krosno, Poland, ECU Honors student Lillie Rhodes and her classmates beamed ear-to-ear in stark contrast to the fourteenth century gothic architecture. “Our homework was to go around and smile at everyone. It isn’t typical for the locals we would see in Poland and the Czech Republic to smile at strangers and wear their emotions on their sleeves like we do in America. Many of the locals thought we were weird, but it was normal in our culture!” After a while, the smiles that spread from person to person warmed entire city streets—showing Lillie the most impactful but basic key to communicating across cultures: the power of a smile.
Knowing the importance of these kinds of intercultural connections, the East Carolina University Honors College fosters a “global mindset” in Honors students early on. Lillie, now a senior Political Science major and Communications minor, wanted to study abroad in order to push herself outside of her comfort zone and to see the world—and her own culture—from a new lens. “I chose Poland and the Czech Republic because I never thought of seeing them on my own, and I knew I might not get that experience again outside of a study abroad experience. I also was really interested in the classes that I took!”
The Communications Across Borders program allowed Lillie to engage with Czech and Polish students and faculty across three historic Central European cities: Krosno, Krakow, and Prague. Over three weeks from May 19th to June 9th, Dr. Lida Cope and Dr. Deborah Thomson brought the study of culture to life with Lillie and her peers through immersive historic experiences across centuries of global culture. Classes in intercultural communication and English as a world language made cross-cultural interaction a personal experience for Lillie and fellow Pirates as they learned with students at Krosno State College.
During their time in Krosno and Krakow, Lillie’s group had a morning lecture by one of their ECU professors or a Polish guest professor. “We focused on the differences between Polish and Czech cultures compared to American culture. This included things such as power distance, individualistic/collectivistic cultures, and culture shock,” Lillie says. Like anyone living abroad, Lillie felt her own fair share of culture shock. “It was definitely intimidating the first week because we were in a smaller town (Krosno) and not many people spoke fluent English. I was able to learn a few words or phrases in Polish, but Czech is way harder! In Krakow and Prague, it wasn’t too hard to communicate because a vast majority spoke English very well,” Lillie says.
Despite the adjustments, Lillie took a few points from her classes to ease into the local culture and share her own with Krosno State College students.
“We once sat in on a class while they watched rap battle videos on YouTube in order to learn English and understand the different meanings behind words. It was cool to be able to help them learn as well as answer any questions they had. They helped us too by letting us in on certain cultural differences we were not aware of yet!” Even once students get a hang of their surroundings, it’s always comforting to get a taste of home every now and then in a foreign environment. Lillie laughs. “The amount of McDonalds I ate while in Krakow was crazy. It was funny to all of us because we were Americans abroad and we were eating McDonalds! But we promise it was only when we needed a super quick meal or a late-night snack. The local food is different—and way better!”
However, once their classes finished for the afternoon, there was so much to do and see that adjusting was second fiddle to throwing themselves into the new and exciting. They embarked a guided tour or other program in the afternoons. “While we were in Prague, we had a lot of nice free time! Most afternoons were free for us to explore the city on our own. There were a few guided tours during the trip, like to the salt mines in Krakow and to Auschwitz.” These opportunities to travel are key for students to look inwards and reflect and refine their own perspective. Lillie describes the impact one of these moments can have to even enrich prior experiences. “Touring the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps were indescribable. The experience was a mix of emotions but heartbreaking overall. It’s one thing to remember read and learn about the Holocaust, but you can’t really imagine what it was like until you’re really there. It was especially emotional because a girl on my trip was Jewish, and hearing her perspective was illuminating,” Lillie says.
Being far from home also brought unique beauty and adventure that Lillie remembers vividly, even half a world away. “My favorite place in Poland was ‘Zamek w Krasiczynie,’ which is a castle about an hour away from Krosno. It was just so beautiful, something totally different than I could see in America! The John Lennon wall in Prague was amazing as well!” Once Lillie got started, she smiles and everything welled to the surface. “I also now have a newfound love for Ice Pubs. We went to one in Prague, and though it was very cold, it was an experience I’ll never forget. My new bucket list item is to travel to all the Ice Pubs around Europe!”
Now that she’s back on campus, Lillie is looking forward to translating her experience with intercultural communication into opportunities to broaden her horizons. The impact her experience will bring on campus and the community will be especially effective since she got to share her time in Central Europe with fellow ECU students. Whether it be shared experiences like summer camp, training, or classes, those close bonds can last for years—or even a lifetime. “It was nice to be able to explore Prague with the group of friends I made on my trip—we still talk almost every day!”
Studying abroad is an entirely unique and perspective-shifting experience, and although ECU’s International House and the Honors College offer plentiful support resources, friends and others that have lived abroad are often the tight-knit community that allow homecoming students to reflect and readjust. “I felt a bit of reverse culture shock when I originally came back but I quickly jumped into SGA activities and studying for the LSAT. Since I studied abroad with an ECU program, it’s been nice to still have friends from my group once I got back to joke around about our shared experience. It also helped that ECU did a great job of preparing us for culture shock and reverse culture shock. We received many emails and an orientation session before we left about travel tips and what it may be like while we were there!”
Although there are many things that Lillie misses from her time in the Czech Republic and Poland (“THE FOOD! I came to love pierogis, but the boxed ones from the grocery store just aren’t the same”), Central Europe and the rest of the globe certainly hasn’t seen the last of her. “I definitely plan on going back to Prague because I still missed exploring somethings while I was there! It would be nice to take family and friends to Krakow and to explore Warsaw in Poland next time. I loved the feeling of adventure that I had while abroad, and I really do miss that. Although this was my first study abroad experience, I would love to go somewhere again! I am looking at traveling to Australia after graduation but hopefully still through ECU,” Lillie says.
The ECU Honors College’s ability to afford students plenty of opportunity to discover profound experiences abroad makes it a special kind of support network where students returning from abroad and those booking their next flight to reach out for encouragement and advice from students like Lillie. “I think doing a program in a field that I was interested in—and related to my minor—helped me enjoy the experience more! I suggest doing your research on not only the place you are visiting but also learn more about your professors since you will be with them during the trip!”
To learn more about study abroad opportunities, you can contact us at 252.328.6373, email us at email@example.com or visit us on ECU’s campus at the Mamie Jenkins Building. To keep up to date on Honors College events and student stories like Lillie’s, follow us on social media.