Students recieve culture, language enhancement overseas

Walker Rutledge, a WKU English professor and the Cuban Literature and Culture program sponsor, leads a discussion with 10 students about Ernest Hemingway’s years in Cuba at Hemingway’s Cuban home, Finca Vigía, outside of Havana on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. Prior to the trip, students were required to read Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea” and Cuban author Leonardo Padura Fuentes’s “Adiós Hemingway,” as well as other readings to prepare for specific site visits. 

Kristina Burton

While many WKU students spent their winter breaks relaxing, working, getting some classes out of the way, or doing a combination of all three, some students took their winter break as an opportunity to indulge their wanderlust.

Bowling Green senior Emily Gott studied abroad in Australia over winter break on a trip entitled “Economics Down Under. “

Gott said she and other students on the trip met city planners, members of sports teams and others who were involved in what they were studying in each class.

“Class was over by noon, and we had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted in whichever city we were in that day,” Gott said.

Gott said getting to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef was a highlight of the trip for her.

Ryan and Scott Vennell, seniors from Chatham, Ill., visited Cuba with Walker Rutledge during the “Cuban Culture and Literature” program.

“Many Americans either don’t have an opinion on Cuba or think negatively of it because of how our governments have interacted in the past,” Scott said. “Our professor wanted us to see the true side of Cuban culture, which was really cool.

Ryan said that because of the United States’ commercial, economic and financial embargo on Cuba, his visit felt like going back in time.

“The cars that citizens own can’t be newer than 1960,” Ryan said. “No new buildings have been built since the revolution in 1960. You would walk down the streets and see 1950s Fords and Chevys.”

Ryan said there was also no available Wi-Fi or cell service.

“That was actually one of my favorite parts — to just get off the grid for two weeks,” Ryan said. “It was quite relaxing to wake up every day and not have to check my phone for emails or feel the need to check social media throughout the day. We got closer as a group because there were no outside distractions.”

Alex Hezik, a Campbellsville junior, studied abroad in China over winter break with the Chinese Language and Culture Odyssey program.

Hezik, who is in her second semester as a student in the Chinese Flagship Program, said that along with gaining a deeper understanding of the Chinese language, she learned more about Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

Hezik said besides seeing the Great Wall, which she never would have imagined as a child, one of the most interesting things about China to her was seeing how people reacted to seeing Americans.

“You’d be walking down the street, and they’d take pictures of you,” Hezik said. “Sometimes they would ask permission, but most of the time they weren’t inconspicuous about it. They’d snap a picture, run off and giggle.”

Hezik said she encourages students to look into study abroad.

“Talk to other people who have gone,” Hezik said. “Put your name on a list. Go to a meeting. Don’t assume you won’t enjoy it. You don’t know until you try.”

Scott said it’s difficult to put the study abroad experience into words.

“It’s hard to describe to someone until you experience it for yourself,” Scott said. “You need to get out there and experience it.”

Ryan said studying abroad isn’t all about earning course credit.

“It’s what you learn outside of coursework about yourself, people in the world, and the people you’re with — it’s life-changing,” Ryan said.