Since Bonaire is considered one of the world’s best locations for snorkeling and diving, it’s easy to see why Megan Hoag ’15 (Caledonia, N.Y.) selected the small Caribbean island for an education abroad experience in the fall.
She admits to enjoying the tropical setting in a locale with a similar population as the city of Marietta, and her most memorable experience does involve an underwater exploration. However, it’s not exactly what you may be thinking.
When the local dive shop sponsored a cleanup dive, like most Marietta College students, Hoag was there to help.
“I wasn't really expecting that much junk in the water; what we found was somewhat shocking,” says Hoag, who was studying with the Council on International Education Exchange program. “The reef was completely degraded and the creatures that were left were living in garbage. That day, all of the volunteers collected over a Dumpster load of trash. The worst part about this was that there had been a cleanup dive three months beforehand. This experience, along with my conservation class, was what made me decide to become an Environmental Studies major.”
Hoag was one of 11 Marietta students studying in a foreign locale in the fall, and six more students are in places like Peru this semester.
Ashley Thomas ’14 (Garfield Heights, Ohio) spent the fall studying on the Gold Coast of Australia. She had some reservations before leaving the U.S. for such an extended stretch.
“Taking the pre-study abroad course (at Marietta) played a big part in this emotion. The course prepared me for everything that I could possibly face while abroad, including finances, culture shock and even medical help,” says the Sports Management major. “I ended up helping a lot of the other students in my program with the information that I was given. The experience was a once in a lifetime experience, and I am happy I got the opportunity to travel during my undergraduate career.”
Christy Burke, Director of Education Abroad at Marietta, says because there are many study abroad program options available to Marietta College students, the Office of Education Abroad is seeing an increased interest in research based coursework, internship components and intensive language study.
“We are excited that students continue to branch out and explore different parts of the world. Students choose to spend their time abroad in populated urban cities such as Berlin, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Beijing, but also in less populated locations such as Limerick, Ireland, Paros Island, Greece and Reading, England,” Burke says. “We have seen an increase in science focused programs that take students to amazing locations with ecosystems unique to that part of the world. Most recently Megan Hoag traveled to Bonaire in the Caribbean for a semester and regularly was in the ocean scuba diving for class.”
Hoag utilized her time in Bonaire to become a licensed Advanced Open Water diver, a rescue diver, and she earned multiple other certifications.
“My experience studying abroad equaled my expectations,” Hoag says. “I was looking forward to being immersed in the local culture and having a more interactive class experience. Both of these experiences were exceeded by the island culture and underwater class.”
While Thomas was living in a larger city, her experiences mirrored that of Hoag’s. Her life-changing experience was getting the opportunity to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
“It's something that you see pictures of and never imagine being there. Climbing the bridge and getting to the top was a very important moment for me, it was the beginning of my journey abroad,” she says.
Thomas also went scuba diving near the Great Barrier Reef.
“To actually be on the world’s largest reef was amazing. It was even more amazing to touch the reef and see the variety of fishes,” Thomas says. “Along with that experience, touring the Whitsunday Islands was also a really good experience. It was my first time ever on an island as well as my first time scuba diving.”
Burke says the students studying abroad this spring are also enjoying some different perspectives to education.
• Katie Anderson ’14 (Northville, Mich.) is in Shanghai, China
• Michael Fahy ’15 (Washington, Pa.) is in Beijing, China
• Sydney Maltese ’14 (Massillon, Ohio) rotates among four Italian cities: Venice, Tuscania, Rome and Florence.
• Maggie Pike’14 (Bethel Park, Pa.) lives with a Spanish family in Brussels, Belgium, and experiences trilingual conversations (French, Spanish and English) at every meal.
• Mary Roberts ’14 (Circleville, Ohio) writes about her experiences for the student newspaper, The Marcolian, from Peru.
Both Hoag and Thomas would encourage any student considering studying abroad to make the plunge.
“It is a true test of who you are, and if you think it’ll be easy, it won’t,” Thomas says. “I went abroad thinking that it would be easy and that I would have no problems. The things that I experienced my time abroad made me a better person and forced me to evaluate myself, my culture and my values.”
Hoag learned what it was like to be the “foreigner.”
“I wouldn't say that I approach class in a different way — unless you count that I have to remember not to take off my shoes after entering a building — but, I do view the Americans and foreigners different way,” Hoag says. “While living in Bonaire I was seen as the stereotypical American. Returning to America I try not to be stereotypical and learn about a person without judgment.”
Students interested in studying abroad should set up an appointment with the Education Abroad office on-line at its website.