One of the best things about Northwestern is its Global Education program. Students have the opportunity to visit beautiful new countries and experience culture in a new and exciting place. Those who traveled abroad last semester have returned to NW’s campus to find things looking just a bit different now.
Senior psychology major Elissa O’Dell traveled to Romania last semester, staying in a smaller town called Lupeni. Throughout her journey in Romania, she met some amazing people. One 15-year-old girl, Alee, made a lasting impact on her. O’Dell met Alee at a youth rock climbing gym that she was working at during her time in Romania, she learned a lot from Alee including how to climb and more about the daily life of a Romanian teenager.
“The grace she had for me as a foreigner who could hardly speak the native language was such a blessing and I hope to stay in touch with her for many years to come”, she recalled.
O’Dell’s favorite memory was celebrating her 21st birthday in Romania. “On my birthday, we decided to take a hiking trip up one of the mountains, which turned out to be an extremely challenging hike, and then slept in a cave looking over the valley.” She said it was incredibly beautiful and couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate.
As O’Dell said, adjusting back to life in the States has had its “ups and downs.” She says it’s been difficult reconnecting with friends after being away from campus and having such different fall semester experiences. However, she was excited to get back and begin building these bridges again. Perhaps even more drastic of a change for O’Dell was in the impact on her world view since her time in Romania.
“There have been some changes in the way that I view the world.” said O’Dell. “I can no longer sit back and be oblivious to what is going on around the world. Now that I’ve experienced new perspectives, I will never be satisfied with ignorance in these subjects again; these places have a face now and I care too much”.
She said that she notices now just how much we all have left to learn about the world.
Senior political science major Emma Van Drie spent her fall semester in Amman, Jordan. Van Drie traveled all over during her semester, visiting places like Palestine, Israel, Tunisia and Egypt. Van Drie said her favorite memory was working at a church in Jordan that employs refugees who cannot get work permits, she worked copy editing the stories of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. “Hearing their stories everyday was so powerful,” she reflected. She also had the opportunity to get to know people within the church and a child from Iraq that attended school there.
Van Drie has been adjusting to life in the States pretty well. Although there are a lot of thing she misses about her time abroad, she says her experience in the Middle East has given her more direction in what she wants to do with her life.
One thing she notices now that she didn’t before is just how much of life is outside our control. She said, “One of the most significant parts of Arab culture is the role of fate and faith in a greater power that controls our circumstances. ‘Inshallah’ (God-willing) was a phrase I heard often.” She is now constantly reminded of just how much is outside her own hands and recognizes much more of God’s sovereignty.
Van Drie says if she could bring anything from her time in the Middle East back with her, it would be the Arab sense of hospitality, as she says it was “unmatched.” “It was a beautifully loving and welcoming place, and people were always generously inviting you into their home and giving you endless cups of tea and coffee. I strive to offer people tea as much as my Jordanian friends and make people feel honored and welcomed.”