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Emersonians Abroad: The Power of International Travel

To wrap up International Education Week 2022, we asked a dozen or so Emersonians one question: What international experience most transformed you, and why?

We got answers that ranged from poignant to funny to inspirational, but all of them made one thing clear: once you experience another culture, another landscape, another way of life, you are, in ways tiny and profound, forever changed.   

Embracing other cultures, celebrating her own

From an early age, my mom emphasized the importance of travel and took me to different places. In particular, when I was 8 years old, we went to England and France. I remember being in awe of the culture of these two countries, which was very different from that of Trinidad and Tobago (my home). I was fascinated as I saw places, which I had read about in books and seen on television, coming to life. It was that trip that cemented the importance of embracing my culture and identity, while simultaneously understanding and celebrating the culture of other places.

Sharifa Simon-Roberts
Assistant Professor, Communication Studies

group of students takes selfie in green field, stone formations in background
Beyonce Stringer Martinez ’24, second row, second from right, is surrounded by classmates while in the Orkney Islands, Scotland for the Kristin Linklater Voice Centre Workshop, a Global Pathways program. Photo courtesy of Education Abroad & Domestic Programs

Finding her voice

When I studied abroad at the Kristin Linklater Voice Center in Orkney, Scotland, I was able to get a glimpse into an unfamiliar way of life. In Orkney, you are surrounded by endless beauty and kind people, and there is truly no other place like it on this earth. During the three-week [Global Pathways] program, I was able to grow strong connections with the other students who I now call forever friends. I also was able to strengthen my voice as an actor, something I had struggled doing in our voice classes. I left that program a better student and person.

Beyonce Stringer Martinez ‘24
Theatre and Performance major

Discovering heritage

My father was a refugee from the Spanish Civil War. After many twists and turns, our family landed in El Paso, Texas, which is where I grew up. El Paso, of course, is on the border with Juarez, Mexico, and so the international experience that transformed me the most was going to the bull ring in Juarez with my father to attend the bullfights. This was a way for my father to reclaim his Spanish heritage, and a way for him to transmit some aspects of that heritage to me. I now have my Spanish citizenship, something that might not have happened without this international experience, even if it was only a 30-minute drive away.  

Rob Sabal
Dean, School of the Arts

two elephants, mother and child, drink at a watering hole in Kenya
Kenya, which Associate Professor Jaime Tanner said “opened my senses to new worlds.” Photo/Alexia Ellesse for Unsplash

A whole new world

I think my first experience traveling to Kenya on a study abroad program in my junior year of college was most transformative for me. Being in a completely different environmental and cultural landscape – one with spectacularly exciting plants, animals, and people – opened my senses to new worlds that far exceeded anything that I could have imagined. 

Jaime Tanner
Associate Professor, Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies

students sit on cliffs overlooking the ocean
Students in the Writing Place and Distance: Art & Environment in the West of Ireland Global Pathways program visit the Cliffs of Moher. Photo courtesy of Education Abroad & Domestic Programs

Finding creative inspiration

The Writing Place and Distance [Global Pathways] program [in Ireland] transformed me entirely. It gave me space to realize how I want to work and what I want to do, when I was really struggling to find answers. It inspired me to write a piece of fiction I’m really proud of, and the Irish landscape was, of course, a huge part of that, as well as the campus where we studied and the people we interacted with. Plus, I fell in love with a group of friends whom I never plan to lose touch with. I miss it every day.

Althea Champion ‘23
Journalism major

Fostering a sense of belonging

So, in the winter of 1987, I arrived in Ecuador, South America, as the ONLY African American [Peace Corps volunteer] out of over 54 volunteers. Peace Corps was the first firm step I took towards global and intercultural competence. Such background has enabled me to facilitate, with intentionality, climates of belonging for diverse students, and create greater awareness of how their intersectional identities impact their experiences on campus.

Tony Pinder
Vice Provost, Internationalization and Equity

An origin story

In 1993, I visited a tiny southern Japanese island called Oshima with my grandfather to see the home where he grew up. It was a ramshackle medieval farmhouse with rotting timbers and a basket that hung in the doorway where his mother would put potatoes to remind the children to eat potatoes because they were too poor to eat rice. We saw an empty field where a stand of pines had been cut down to finance his solo voyage to Hawai`i in 1924 as a 16-year-old, right before the Asian Exclusion Act passed by the U.S. Congress took effect. Seeing the physical site (it’s gone now) where my family’s diasporic journey began gave me a profound appreciation for the distances we have all travelled and the distances we have yet to travel. It made me think of how heroic immigrants, migrants, and refugees truly are.

Roy Kamada
Associate Professor and Chair, Writing, Literature and Publishing

young woman on balcony looks over shoulder, gardens, lake, and Austrian mountains in background
Trinitee Stokes ’25 said participating in the Creativity, Media, and Global Change Global Pathways program in Salzburg, Austria, left her with “friends on every continent.” Photo courtesy of Trinitee Stokes

Gaining broader perspectives

Traveling to Austria [for the Creativity, Media & Global Change Global Pathways program] really changed my worldview. Being from the U.S., our perspective on what is happening in the world is often skewed. So when I went to study abroad, I was able to learn about what was happening abroad and learn more about representing the U.S. in an academic capacity. I also enjoyed making friends internationally. Thanks to my study abroad experience, I now have friends in each continent! 

Trinitee Stokes ‘25

A deep dive into another culture

In 2010, while I was Dean of Students at Macalester College, I spent four weeks with a group of 10 faculty at a seminar in The Hague, Netherlands, where we studied class, race, and immigration issues in Dutch society. It was a fantastic experience that allowed me to learn so much more about Dutch history and culture than if I had just been there for a holiday. From that point on, I view every trip abroad through a slightly different lens, and find I seek out and pay attention to a much broader array of experiences.

Jim Hoppe
Vice President and Dean for Campus Life

cristina adjusting camera in field at dusk
Professor Cristina Kotz Cornejo shoots her 360-degree documentary, the root is more important than the flower, in the Cuyo region of what is now Argentina. Photo courtesy of Cristina Kotz Cornejo

Tracing roots, making new friends

Making a 360-degree documentary film with the Huarpe (Indigenous) people of my ancestral homeland of the Cuyo region of what is now Argentina, of which I am a descendant, was and continues to be life-changing and transformative. This project, which took several years to realize, changed the course of my personal life, creative career, and relationship to my roots. I continue to go back to visit my new friends and to plan new projects. 

Cristina Kotz Cornejo
Professor, Visual and Media Arts

seven students pose in room bathed in purple/pink light, a banner with an image of a peacock behind them
Nepal native Pranit Chand ’24, center wearing sunglasses, said having a proper Diwali experience at Emerson helped him find a home here. Photo courtesy of Pranit Chand

Sharing a piece of home

I would definitely say celebrating Diwali on campus this year was the best experience I had at Emerson. As an international student from Nepal, Diwali is a huge festival for me, and most students who come from that region. Up until last year, we didn’t really have a Diwali celebration at Emerson. But since last year, with initiatives from a lot of student leaders, we have been able to celebrate our version of a Diwali here. This year we really had a huge celebration with good food and music, and a lot of people attended that event. It’s really transformed my Emerson experience because I really have found a home for me here and built a community of individuals who wish to share that experience. It also allows solidarity for students like me to be able to bring that experience here and promote my culture. 

Pranit Chand ‘23
Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies

President, Student Government Association

We’re all in the same boat

Fortunately, I have had many personally transformative international experiences. Some years ago, I had a great bonding experience with my graduate students. We shared a wild, thrilling, and fun raft, speeding down Chile’s Maipu River rapids. At times, I pulled one of them in from the water and they reciprocated. Water has a way of bringing people together on the same level.

Brent Smith
Interim Dean, School of Communication

professor and four students give thumbs up in front of white stone building in Quito, Ecuador
Marketing Communication Interim Chair Nejem Raheem, far left, leads a Global Pathways program to Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands called Integrating Marketing and Sustainable Tourism. He said struggling with Portuguese while a PhD candidate in Brazil was the most transformation international experience he’s had. Photo courtesy of Education Abroad & Domestic Programs

Learning from failure

I worked in Brazil during my PhD. Even though I had studied Portuguese for several years in grad school, and had a Brazilian tutor who swore my language skills were excellent, I was thrown out of at least one office for simply not having the language chops. It really cleared up for me how challenging it is to work outside your own comfort zone. 

Nejem Raheem
Associate Professor and Interim Chair, Marketing Communication

Finding a purpose

For two summers, I have volunteered in Malawi and taught menstrual health workshops to village girls. This experience made me especially passionate about feminism and girls’ education, interests I have brought with me to the Emerson Flows club. I’m working with Unite 2030 currently to launch a website that would provide free access to information and educational tools regarding periods.

Anne Bennett ‘23
Journalism major

Falling into a rhythm

One of the greatest experiences of traveling internationally is when you explore a new location and it goes from overwhelming, to becoming familiar, to feeling like a second home. As I’ve spent more and more time in Paris or Amsterdam, I’ve become familiar with how to get around, where to find food or how to interact with people. Eventually, you begin to feel the rhythm of the cities and start to observe the day-to-day life of people who live there. If you stay long enough, you get to become part of that day-to-day life yourself!

Daniel Gaucher
Professor and Global BFA in Film Art Director

To help make study abroad more accessible to more students, to lift up voices of marginalized students and faculty and infuse a global perspective into curriculum, and to assist international students facing financial hardship, Emerson has created three funds focused on internationalization and equity. To learn more or to help out, visit this web page.

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