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Davidson sends students abroad to discover new cultures

By Hilary Sayre
On August 28, 2013

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Almost 65 percent of the student body study abroad sometime during their Davidson careers, whether it be for a semester or summer program. This past summer, Davidson offered students the opportunity to study abroad in one of four different countries-Spain, England, Ghana, and Zambia. Academically rigorous and immersive, each trip enabled students to experience life in another country firsthand and to explore the different facets of the area's culture.

Though each trip exposes students to different languages or dialects, only the Cadiz program requires a language prerequisite and specifically targets Spanish majors and minors. Sponsored by the English and history departments at Davidson, the Cambridge program just offers classes in these subject areas (intended for majors), while the Ghana and Zambia programs cover a variety of classes in society and culture, performing arts, health care, political science, and economics.

While students in Zambia stay in similar guest accommodations near the hospital in which they work, the Cadiz program places students with host families for the duration of the trip. "Living with a host family definitely enriched my summer study abroad experience," said Caroline Vrana '14. "Since none of my host family members spoke English, it allowed me to be truly immersed in the culture and improve my Spanish.  I also gained an appreciation for the myriad of differences that exist between how we live in the United States and how people live in Spain."

Both the Ghana and Cambridge programs provide on-campus housing, allowing students to mingle with locals, full-time students, and other study abroad programs. However, living with their Davidson peers helped students foster close friendships with one another that strengthened as the trip progressed, as Matthew Schlerf '16 can attest. "I was really surprised at how well our group got along. We all lived together in a dorm above the River Cam and our cramped proximity and quick assimilation to the country and to one another sped the bonding process."

In fact, having a group of peers to travel with proved to be a relief for the Cambridge group. "As a family, we traveled in packs," said Schlerf. "We shopped at the grocery store, fought off punters and tourists, toiled in the Cambridge University library, hit up every Revolution in England, and worshipped sublimity, gloomth, and the dynamic duo of Carol Moore and Vivien Dietz." For many students, being able to explore new surroundings with familiar faces allows them to more readily try something that they wouldn't be brave enough to do on their own.

For more information on the Dean Rusk International Studies programs, visit or stop by the study abroad office in Duke. 

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