The faculty in the Religious Studies Department is well-traveled. We teach about religious traditions throughout the world, and some of our members conduct their scholarly research in various foreign countries. For that reason, we encourage our students to enrich their study of religion by means of college-sponsored study abroad programs. In the recent past our students have studied on six of the seven continents of the world-North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The religious studies courses that our students take in foreign institutions count toward their religious studies major or minor at Gettysburg. Although most of our students study abroad for a single semester, students are permitted to study for two semesters in two different locations. Therefore, we encourage students to study abroad during the sophomore year, so that they can go abroad again during one of the two semesters of their junior year or during the first semester of their senior year. As you will see from the testimonials that some of our majors and minors have written, study abroad adds an important dimension to one's educational experience at Gettysburg College.
Spending a year in Ferrara, Italy (2014-2015) was beyond anything I could imagine. I thought I had grasped the concept of history from classes but . . . there is nothing to describe the experience of walking down the same cobbled streets as Giuseppe Garibaldi or hugging the inside of the dome that Filippo Brunelleshi built. And the language and culture? Completely baffling and chaotic at times but it all fit together somehow – staying with a host family explained so much. I took the less international route and traveled throughout Italy rather than to different countries, spending time in touristy cities like Naples, Rome, and Florence but also to lesser-travelled spots like Trieste, MonteCassino, and Arcevia (where I met my Italian family!). These experiences have only made me want to travel and learn more, trying to understand other cultures and people. You can read about my experiences on my blogs (first semester & second semester).
The first four weeks of the abroad program were mostly spent in London studying sustainability and the Olympics. We also had short trips to Bath, Plymouth, Dungeness, and Cambridge. Following the first month, we had a two week travel break, which my friends and I used to go to Barcelona, Florence, Munich, and Prague. Those two weeks were some of the best times of my life. Finally, upon arrival at Lancaster University, I joined the American football and lacrosse teams in addition to my course studies at the school. Joining the two teams was probably my best decision abroad, as I was able to pass the time doing something I love in a place I never expected to be able to play. I still talk to most of my teammates and friends from abroad, and I am absolutely thrilled with the experience.
I studied abroad in Florence, Italy this past fall. I had an incredible time exploring the city during the week, and traveling around Europe on the weekends. I stayed with the sweetest host family and spent a lot of time eating incredible food. I was fortunate enough to take two religion classes while I was abroad, along with painting and Italian. It was very cool to learn about religion in another culture while living there.
I spent the fall semester in Sevilla, Spain. While I am a Religious Studies major, I chose Sevilla because of my second major, Spanish. Even though my classes focused on learning Spanish, I was lucky enough to continue learning about Religion and the importance of its influence on Spanish culture. Not only was I able to see churches more beautiful than anything I had ever seen, but also learning the history of each and every church was fascinating. Overall, I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to experience the importance of religion in Spanish society.
Before going to Greece I was very unsure of what to expect. I had a very ancient view of the country and a part of me really wished that I would be able to step into a time capsule and see Greece as it once was without the modern buildings see the Parthenon in its splendor the same way Plato and Aristotle would have. To walk the same roads that Paul did as he made one of his famous missionary journeys. I realize now that this was very selfish of me since the Greeks have mastered the art of living in the present yet always remembering the past. Athens still has an ancient vibe about it and the Acropolis is still the highest point in the city. I was both able to experience the hustle and bustle of Greek daily life coupled with reflection of a time that has long since passed.
My experience of studying abroad in Japan for two semesters was amazing and enriching. Being afforded the experience of living in my ethnic homeland helped me find my own identity as an Asian-American. I learned a tremendous amount about the culture, customs, as well as the religion in the country. Already being born in a Japanese speaking household, I thought that my advances in the languages would be negligible but I was mistaken. There are many subtle intricacies with any language that one can only grasp when immersed in that culture. Going abroad to Japan was the best decision I made at Gettysburg College.
Nantes is a city steeped in its history, identity, and culture bumping up headlong against modern nationalism and centralization. Traveling there gave me a glimpse into this border between cultures, the France of Paris and the government, and the France of the provinces. Living there with a host family gave me a sense of the rhythms of their life, their traditions, and their delicious food. Studying there at the local university gave me a sense of how the French view themselves, how their popular culture is visibly similar yet deeply different from our own. Most of all, studying abroad in France for a year encouraged me to meet many new people, learn about them, and, through exploring our differences and similarities, learn surprising things about myself. You will too, if you go abroad!
During the spring semester I spent four months living in Rabat, Morocco enrolled in the School for International Training (SIT)’s program focusing on Multiculturalism and Human Rights. During this time period I lived with a Moroccan host family within the Old Medina (Old City) of Rabat. One of the highlights of my semester was being able to travel to the Sahara Desert. During the last month of the semester, I was able to conduct independent research on interfaith relations in Morocco. I interviewed community members and leaders from the Moroccan Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities in order to explore the complex dynamics of interfaith and intercultural interactions within Morocco.
For my abroad experience I spent a semester in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I studied Gender and Sexuality within the Dutch context, both in terms of native Dutch communities and immigrant communities. We also traveled to Morocco for three weeks to focus on issues of gender and sexuality within an Islamic country and how post-migrant Dutch-Moroccans, one of the largest immigrant groups in the Netherlands, navigate these different perspectives. My semester finished with a month-long independent research project on the role of feminism in submissive BDSM practices.
I spent my spring semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, which is located in the southeast section of France. I took classes at the Institute of American Universities and lived with a wonderful host family. While in France, I got to travel to different towns in my region as well as Paris, and other surrounding countries such as Ireland and Germany. Study abroad was easily the best experience I've had during my time at Gettysburg. I learned so much living in another culture, with people who didn't speak my language, and got to learn about life in another part of the world.