Returning students share reflections from time abroad

Alyssa Bryan ‘17

Major: Political Science

Hometown: Chagrin Falls, OH

Tours, France

While we were in France, some of us from the Davidson group spent an evening drinking wine and eating cheese and chocolate on the Seine, a river right next to Notre Dame. The view was absolutely stunning, and such a fantastic opportunity to bond, especially so early in our time in France. Maybe a week later, we went to see Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” (“A Little Night Music”) performed in the Sainte Chapelle, this absolutely beautiful, medieval Gothic chapel right next to the Palais de Justice. The sun setting in the stained glass while the classical music filled the space is a moment I will never forget. Probably the week after that or so, we visited Vaux-le-Vicomte, an estate a bit north of Paris. On weekends during the summer and fall, they light the entire building and gardens with thousands of candles, and there’s an orchestral presentation followed by fireworks at the end of the night. A couple other students and I ended up at the very last point where they had put candles and sang Disney songs while we were looking out over the estate. The whole experience was an absolutely unprecedented opportunity.

Joshua Attias ‘17

Major: Biology

Hometown: Naples, FL

Quito, Ecuador 

Some of my favorite memories during my study abroad trip in Ecuador were usually made when I was traveling. I loved to travel, and I had the chance to go to the Galapagos. I had never seen so much wildlife that close to me, and I was able to get close to most of the animals. I also had the chance to snorkel and got to really get up close to the aquatic life. The water was such a beautiful color, and it was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. While I was in Quito, Ecuador, I was also able to go horseback riding on one of the mountains. I took the cable car up the mountain and still recall how beautiful it was to see the whole city from there. Once we got up a good distance on the mountain we rented some horses and went the rest of the way up. It was such a beautiful sight to see, and the horses just added to the beauty of the trip. It was such an unforgettable experience, and I can’t wait to be able to travel again someday.

Will Weisgerber ‘16

Major: Biology

Hometown: Westminster, MD

Mwandi, Zambia

Although there were many eye-opening moments in the Mwandi Mission hospital, one of the most significant moments for me occurred around a campfire in Botswana. We had just finished our first day of a three day safari, and a few of us from the trip were sitting around a post-dinner fire chatting with a man from South Africa. In the middle of our conversation three wailing hyenas came bounding up to the watering hole about 50 feet away from us. We all stood up and got ready to run back to our tents. Thankfully there was a fence between us and the hyenas, but it wasn’t very high and it seemed like they could definitely jump over it. I remember thinking that they were so much bigger than I anticipated, while the man from South Africa told us that they have the strongest jaws of any mammal in the world (very reassuring). We stood there, underneath the expansive Milky Way, staring at the hyenas as they stared back at us for what must have been three minutes. I’ve never been so scared in my life, and it was the first time that I felt truly small and insignificant in the world. It was the most unexpectedly humbling experience I’ve ever had.

Hayley Atkins ‘18

Major: English

Hometown: Greensboro, NC

Cadiz, Spain

A group of maybe 10 of us branched out one weekend and traveled to the southern-most part of Spain for the day. We took a bus to Tarifa and explored the town and the beach for the entire day. For a few of us, it was the first time we’d ever seen an ocean that clear and sand that white. It was a great experience to travel apart from professors and explore on our own, especially since navigating had to all be done in Spanish.

Cameron Causey ‘17

Major: Psychology 

Hometown: St. Paul, MN 

Melbourne, Australia 

One of my favorite memories from abroad was renting a camper van and road tripping up the east coast of Australia with a few of my friends. We spent about seven days making our way up the coast, stopping in different places every day. We did a few amazing hikes, camped in some really unique places, but the best part was scuba diving and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. At one point, my friends and I encountered a shark that did not hesitate to come up close and check us out. It was my first encounter swimming with a shark, and it’s something I’ll never forget. Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef has always been on my bucket list, and I feel very fortunate that going abroad allowed me to cross it off my list at a young age.

Mary Beth Moore ‘17

Major: French & GSS

Hometown: New Orleans, LA

Tours, France

There were definitely a very few great moments. So when you’re abroad you want to cling to the things that you know, like at first we stayed in our group of 15 Davidson students. We were definitely hesitant to explore and meet new people because you have to take this step and go into another language to express yourself and make new friends. However, one of our friends was in university classes and had met a few actual French students. One night, there was this moment when we were just sitting around speaking French with them and having a great time, and I realized we wouldn’t have met them if we hadn’t taken this step to venture out our comfort zones and actually talk to people to understand what they do and how their daily life is. Overcoming the language barrier as a shy person was a really big step for me. There was a really exciting moment, where one day I took a nap around three, and I woke up and my head hurt so badly. I was trying to figure out what was going on when I realized that I had just dreamed in French for the first time. We were so immersed in speaking French for three hours a day and with our host families, so it was such an amazing experience that I got to have. I immediately ran out and told my host mom, and she gave me a big hug and was like, “I’m so proud of you. That’s such a big step, and it doesn’t usually happen that quickly.” That was really exciting for me – definitely a big moment.

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