Imagine going from the quiet campus of Gettysburg College to a complete immersion into Middle Eastern culture…in just one day! For Ross Nichols ’13, experiencing this change in culture, through the College’s Off Campus Studies Program, was the fulfillment of a dream! He recalls his first few minutes in the Middle East: stepping off the plane into the desert heat, road signs entirely in Arabic, and attire far different from what he usually wore.
Ross has become part of the more than fifty percent of Gettysburg College students who participate in the Off Campus Studies Program. In fact, the Institute of International Education ranks Gettysburg 8th in the nation among leading baccalaureate institutions for study abroad of at least a semester in duration. Every student at the College is given the opportunity to consider studying abroad; there are programs available to students in all majors. In addition, students are eligible for foreign study without regard to their financial status.
As a Gettysburg College student pursuing a double major in Economics and Globalization Studies, Ross chose the Middle East and North Africa as regions of emphasis for his degree. He knew he would someday study there to fulfill his Globalization Studies requirements, but he never imagined the depth of learning that he would experience there.
This learning though immersion is an important part of the Gettysburg experience. As today’s society becomes increasingly global in nature, future leaders benefit from developing skills necessary to communicate and operate in foreign countries. Study abroad helps students to gain a global understanding of issues. Not only do they acquire knowledge of other languages and cultures, these students gain maturity and adaptability which is necessary as they develop careers and live as active citizens of today’s world.
Ross acknowledges that he has grown immeasurably as a result of his time in the Middle East. He considers himself fortunate to have been in Cairo at the historic time when Egypt held its first ever free elections. Talk of this event filled his classes in Cairo and was heard everywhere in the city. Not only did he learn from listening to Egyptians discussing their evolving government, but he was able to engage in conversations about the future of this country. Ross describes these encounters as “mind opening experiences.” He feels he was granted access to these conversations because he had learned the following: respect the people with whom you are talking, be polite and patient in communicating with them, and act as though you represent not just Gettysburg College, but the entire United States.
Ross is grateful for this opportunity as part of his education at Gettysburg College. In fact, when he graduates next year, Ross hopes to become involved with Teach for America as a way to “honor his former teachers by giving back and helping kids.”
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