By Kelsey Siegler
On the night of February 1, Sewanee students gathered for coffee and conversation at the Community Engagement House to hear the many remarkable stories from several students that went abroad in the past year. The students on the panel were Stewart Roddey, Jr. (C’17), MC Murphy (C’17), Molly Mansfield (C’17), Molly Rogers (C’16), and Armonté Butler (C’17). All of these students came back to Sewanee with a new perspective on their American identity and with an educational experience that truly impacted them.
Stewart Roddey studied in Sydney, Australia with an IFSA-Butler program, where he studied religion and ethnography of Southeast Asia. Stewart went to class with 200 other people in a lecture hall at the University of Sydney; he could have potentially skipped class and gone to the beach, since attendance was not recorded (which was very different from his experiences at Sewanee). He was surrounded by other American students and he “stood out with his boots, jeans, and American flag hats.” Although he was in a culture similar to the United States, Stewart went out of his way to immerse himself in the other aspects of Australian culture. He went to many sporting events, like rugby, and would cover his face with paint in excitement for the game. If Stewart could give one piece of advice to a student going abroad, he would say to do everything possible and make memories that will last a lifetime.
MC Murphy went to Tanzania, where she immersed herself in the safaris of Africa. She only wanted to be in the classroom for three weeks, where she studied Swahili, and then she camped in a tent for the remainder of her time abroad. She enjoyed observing the safari animals in a personal way that she would never be able to do again. She is an Ecology Biodiversity major, and felt that this experience was perfect for what she has always been interested in. Her favorite memory is when her professor let her and other students explore the rainforest for themselves; so, they could “be free” and experience nature individually. MC came back to the United States to see the American consumerism of Christmas, and gradually experience culture shock, much different from the poverty that she saw and the natural environment that she lived in.
Molly Mansfield went to India, where she lived in a Buddhist monastery for a semester. She meditated throughout the day and lived with her professors and fellow classmates. She explained how she would get out of the shower in her bath robe, and see one of her professors standing right in front of her, as she was living with her professors at all times. One could even take notice of Molly’s calm meditative sitting position as she spoke about her experience, representing the influence her meditative experience had on her life. She had dreamt about going to India since she was a child and said that she missed India already. Her words of wisdom to a student going abroad would be to live in the moment and that the best experiences happen when you appreciate where you are and the peace that you feel in that moment.
Molly Rogers went to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland with an IFSA-Butler program. She majors in English, and in Scotland was able to take many Shakespearean classes for her major. She said that the educational system was much more rigid and direct in comparison to Sewanee, and that it was harder to reach out to her professors, but she still did. Molly also mentioned that her university was full of traditions, like the wearing of gowns, that were very similar to Sewanee traditions. She also said that people from all over the world go to this ancient university. She was able to get to know Scottish culture as well as cultures from around the world. Molly mentioned that her best memories happened when she least expected them to and in between the planning and arriving at scheduled destinations.
Lastly, Armonté Butler went to Argentina, where he studied human rights. He had a slightly different experience from the other students because he had the language barrier of speaking Spanish in and outside of the classroom. He enjoyed his experience and felt eager to branch out and try new things while abroad. Armonté mentioned a story where he was on a bus and asked a local where he got his haircut. He then followed this man to get a haircut, and the man turned out to be a barber, and Armonté became close friends with both him and the man’s girlfriend. Armonté said that if he did not get out of his comfort zone that day, he would have never met his new friends. He advises Sewanee students to not be fearful of being uncomfortable because those awkward moments may lead to the most remarkable experiences.
Photos by Kelsey Siegler