Learning beyond the classroom is nothing new for Swarthmore students, even if that means traveling 10,000 miles to the other side of the globe.
That was case for Ben Marks '16, a computer science major from Chapel Hill, N.C., who traveled to Melbourne, Australia, this December with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Kevin Webb to present research at an international computer science conference.
Marks' story is not unique, as numerous students are taking advantage of College resources and programs – such as those available from the Off-Campus Study Office, the Provost’s Office, the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, and the Dean’s Office – to enhance their learning opportunities.
Below, hear from five Swarthmore students who discuss their recent travels and what they found most valuable about the experience.
Emma Eppley '17
Biology major from Orinda, Calif.
"During the fall semester, I designed and carried out a qualitative study of social stigma of schizophrenia in urban Chile. After three months of public health and research design classes with the SIT program in various parts of Chile and Perú, I made my way to the coastal city of Valparaíso, Chile, to begin my study. In the last month of my abroad experience, I addressed the possible causes of social stigma of schizophrenia and the most effective methods of confronting it.
"With help from professors and contacts I had made during my time in South America, I was able to interview psychologists, psychiatrists, and other health professionals working at daily centers for people with schizophrenia. Through these interviews and careful observations of workshops and interpersonal interactions, I was able to determine how the effects of social stigma from family, friends, and the public negatively impact the progression of the disorder.
"Perhaps the most meaningful period of my time abroad were the weeks after I wrapped up my research, when I was able to reflect on how conscious and unconscious biases play a role in everyday life in every corner of the world. It is important to think about how our world perceives health and illness, and how we as individuals can promoting health education and awareness."
Ben Marks '16
Computer science major from Chapel Hill, N.C.
"In December, I was fortunate to attend the 21st annual International Conference on Parallel and Distributed Systems (ICPADS) in Melbourne, Australia, thanks to funding from Sigma Xi, the Dean's Office, the Student Budgeting Committee, and the Provost's Office. At the conference, I presented work done at Swarthmore with Riley Collins ‘16, a computer science and linguistics major from Ridgeline, Miss., and our professor, Kevin Webb. This work built on a final project for Cloud Computing, in which Riley and I developed a framework for easily parallelizing simulated annealing algorithms.
"While attending ICPADS, I had the opportunity to attend a variety of interesting talks given by other experts in the field. It was intriguing to hear about a broad array of research topics in distributed computing, from BitTorrent fairness mechanisms to mobile phone authentication and power consumption reduction. ICPADS both broadened my exposure to and deepened my knowledge of computer science.
"I was also fortunate to spend a few days after the conference exploring Melbourne’s numerous public gardens, zoos, galleries, and memorials. Melbourne is quite accessible, with extensive public transit and steep student discounts. If you travel there, don’t forget Melbourne is in the southern hemisphere, meaning the seasons are opposite ours. As odd as it felt to pack shorts for winter break, I was grateful when the temperature topped 105 degrees in December!"
Rebecca Mayeda '17
"This past semester, I went abroad to study in Tel Aviv, Israel. As part of the program, I participated in an amazing undergraduate medical program at Assaf HaRofeh Medical Center, affiliated with Tel Aviv University. It was such a great experience because of the unique extracurricular opportunities. For example, a typical morning might include learning about transfusion medicine or the medical challenges of pediatric oncology, followed by an afternoon shadowing robotic surgery, touring the hematology lab, and volunteering in the neonatal department.
"I loved volunteering in the neonatal department because I was able to practice my newly acquired Hebrew with the doctors and nurses, and also help take care of the adorable newborn babies. I was paired with one of the sweetest nurses, and together we cleaned, dressed, and fed the babies, and I learned how to properly "swaddle."
"Before studying abroad in Israel, I knew I was fascinated with medicine from shadowing doctors. However, this program allowed me to experience a hands-on side of medicine I hadn't been exposed to. I'm so glad I went abroad because I learned how great it felt to be a part of a medical team."
Killian McGinnis '19
"No reading or research project compares to listening in person to people’s testimonies, meeting their families and friends, and breaking bread with them in their homes. The profoundly humanizing nature of these simple actions remains one of the most salient aspects of the trip for me. It is also notably something I would not have had access to in the classroom. In many ways, the study trip has rekindled my passion for storytelling and building understanding between peoples."
McGinnis traveled to the Middle East in January as part of a class on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies Sa'ed Atshan '06.
Jack O’Connor '17
Economics major from Winter Park, Fla.
"This past summer, I was fortunate enough to be one of 12 Swarthmore students who traveled to China and Taiwan to continue a study of tea. The trip was an extension of Professor of Chinese Alan Berkowitz and Professor of Chinese Haili Kong's class, Tea in China: Cultural and Environmental Perspectives, and it provided our group the special opportunity to take what was taught in the classroom and experience it first-hand. For myself, the trip allowed me to further my research and understanding of tea pests and diseases, along with the possible economic advantages that could be gained from combating such issues. In the end, I came back from the trip with a true understanding and appreciation for tea and its cultural significance. It also gave me time to connect with my classmates and professors, as well as make long lasting connections for the future. It was an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity, so I have to thank the Luce Foundation, whose support helped fund the trip, and Swarthmore for the incredible opportunity."