Miriam Clayton ’15 in Copenhagen

A glimpse in the rearview mirror

Studying in another country can influence your choices, your direction, and your outlook long after returning home, in ways large and small.

Lisa Grant ’88 spent her third year in Tokyo, Japan, because she wanted to learn Japanese. “The skills I learned in communicating across cultures — resiliency and perseverance — continue to serve me well.”

Miriam Clayton ’15 had originally planned to find a Spanish immersion program, but thanks to her interest in social science, she was encouraged to look into the DIS Copenhagen program. “I liked it and honestly was more challenged by differences in culture than I had anticipated when imagining Western Europe. The biggest changes in my life came from the freedom and responsibility to plan and execute travel — I visited 12 different countries over the course of the semester, which did a lot to boost my sense of confidence and self-efficacy.”

Laurie Kauffman ’99 studied in Costa Rica on the Associated Colleges of the Midwest Tropical Field Studies Program. “I chose it because my Grinnell financial aid covered it, because it was Spanish-speaking, and because I could study monkeys. It was hugely influential for me. I made my research into a book chapter, I’m currently a biology professor and primatologist, and I’ve led several study abroad trips with my own students back to Costa Rica.” 

Kirk Karver ’83 spent a year in Seville, Spain. “[It] changed my personal and professional life in profound ways. To start, I was a history major when I arrived in Spain, but ended up at Grinnell as a Spanish major. More significantly, I met my future wife during my year abroad, and we’re still facing life’s challenges together 37 years later! And professionally, as a career Air Force officer, I have used my Spanish for the bulk of my 30-year career, which has included multiyear assignments in Panama, Spain, and Uruguay, not to mention shorter work trips to another dozen Spanish-speaking countries. I think no other year has changed my life in so many meaningful ways!”

Élen Rhoades Kidd ’03 studied in Stockholm with The Swedish Program in the spring of 2002. “It was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made. I chose the program because I wanted to study in English, but not be limited to an English-speaking country, and wanted to take courses in a range of subjects. I also have Swedish roots (maternal grandfather) and loved the idea of studying anywhere in Scandinavia. I wanted a small program and didn’t want to be surrounded by Grinnellians. I credit that semester with so much personal growth. 

“In 2005, I returned to study on my own and ended up reconnecting with The Swedish Program. As luck would have it, they were creating a new position for a recruiter, set to start right when I would be returning to the U.S. They offered it to me, and I accepted. I’ve now been working for The Swedish Program for almost 12 years and love my job. I visit colleges and talk with students about studying in Stockholm, travel to our site twice a year for orientation week with our new students, and now work in alumni relations as well. I love that I have been able to make Stockholm my second home and keep my Swedish skills (more or less) fluent.” 

Share your story

Did you study off campus? Where, when, and why? What did you get out of it? Any advice for students considering off-campus study? If you didn’t study off campus, why not? Please tell us about it at magazine[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

Current students

Read about Thomas Aldrich's study abroad experience in his words. 

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