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7 Great Reasons to Study Off Campus

Given that over 60 percent of Grinnell’s students participate in study-abroad programs, it’s no wonder Grinnell has a reputation for being globally focused. Not only is off-campus study an awesome opportunity to expand your international education, it’s also an unforgettable life experience. Third-year Grinnellians share their favorite parts of the study-abroad experience:

  1. Your perspective will broaden like you wouldn’t believe.

Joseph Galaske ’17 says his home-stay in rural South Africa has changed his outlook: “It was one of the most incredibly enlightening experiences of my life. There were definitely experiences that pushed my boundaries, like the living conditions.” Experiencing daily life in such a vastly different culture opened Galaske’s mind to a whole new way of living.

  1. You’ll finally lose that feeling of panic when speaking another language.

For Jinna Kim ’17, a sociology and Spanish major, studying abroad in Argentina has been an awesome way to improve her skills in Spanish. “I never felt entirely comfortable speaking Spanish, despite having taken many classes, and always broke out in a cold sweat when I had to speak it,” says Kim. “I can already feel myself becoming more confident, and I’m more eager to jump into conversations!”

  1. You can travel with your program for a one-of-a-kind research experience.

Emily Adam ’17 enrolled in a public health course while studying in Denmark and got to visit public health organizations and clinics in Denmark, Estonia, and Finland as part of her class. “Getting an inside look at how public health policies work in other countries has been really valuable,” Adam says. “There are differences in culture that I wouldn’t have expected, and it’s been interesting to learn about the challenges of their systems.”

  1. International foods will become your bread and butter.

“Sometimes my friends and I just walk around and find random restaurants,” says Trang Nguyen ’17, an international student from Vietnam who is currently studying in South Korea. “What’s special about my daily experience in Korea is eating ramen at the convenience store, ordering street food while listening to the live music that’s everywhere … We haven’t had a bad experience yet!”

  1. Your confidence will soar.

“Adaptability, confidence, intuition…I feel as if living abroad is like a workout for your intangible traits,” says Jonathan Sundby ’17, who is studying in India this spring.

  1. You can experiment with new habits.

“A new experience gives you a chance to try some different lifestyles,” says Nguyen, who was always very organized and plan-oriented in the United States. “Planning like I used to doesn’t really work in Korea, so I had to change the way I operate. I feel more relaxed and outgoing here. I really enjoy the change!”

  1. You’ll do things you never imagined (or maybe things you always dreamed of).

“I recently visited Iguazu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world,” says Kim. “The amount of water and the size of the waterfalls are indescribable. My friends and I even hiked a mini-trail to a smaller waterfall, where we jumped in and swam just like the people in GoPro videos!”

Joseph Galaske ’17 is a biology major from Moberly, Mo.

Jinna Kim ’17 is a sociology and Spanish double major from Bellevue, Wash.

Emily Adam ’17 is a biology major from Harper, Iowa.

Trang Nguyen ’17 is a mathematics major from Hanoi, Vietnam.

Jonathan Sundby ’17 is a political science major from Stillwater, Minn.

GIL Courses

BIO 295: Blue Genes: How Modern Genetics Has Changed our View of Humanity

(Vida Praitis), 4 credits, prerequisites: none. Enrollment cap: 15. Counts for Biology major advanced elective credit.

GIL Fall 2016

Grinnell-in-London offers students and faculty who teach on the program the opportunity to learn as a community about this dynamic place, its history, and its people through a careful selection of courses, opportunities for cultural integration, and co-curricular activities.

Grinnell in London: An Experience on the Queen Mary Module

Grinnell is partnering with Queen Mary because of the reputation of its teaching and campus life, as well as the different perspective on London and the UK that students gain from Queen Mary’s location in London’s East End. Alex Odom ’16 shared highlights of her experience at Queen Mary as part of the program in fall 2014.

By participating in Grinnell-in-London, Alex was able to do research to complete her two years as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. The fellowship provides underrepresented minorities support on a path to a career in academics. Her research project compared the British and American civil rights movements and minority women’s roles. Alex appreciated having access to the entire campus with the library and study spaces at her disposal. The Queen Mary course, Race in the United States, was a highlight and enlightening on the British perspective on American history.

Alex was inspired to build on her experience in London when she learned that a Mellon Mays fellow at another institution had received a Fulbright award to study at Queen Mary. Alex has now accepted a Fulbright award to complete a master’s degree in history at Queen Mary and has deferred acceptance to a nationally ranked Ph.D. program in history in the U.S.

Exploring History Through Dance

Taylor Watts ’16 had never danced before taking a salsa lesson during her New Student Orientation. She discovered she loved dance.

Her passion for French goes back a little further, to her sophomore year in high school. Watts is combining both passions in a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP), “A Choreographic Exploration of the ‘commerce triangulaire,’” under the direction of Celeste Miller, assistant professor of theatre and dance.

Watts had the idea for this MAP after several powerful academic experiences. One was a summer MAP in Atlanta, also directed by Miller, working with theatre and dance companies whose work addresses social justice issues.

Another was a semester abroad in Nantes, France. While there she learned about the history of France’s largest slave port in the 18th century in a course taught by a black Frenchman. “Why is it so much easier to study [slavery and race] in a different culture’s history? I was very interested in the class, but I wasn’t going to do anything with it,” Watts says.

When she returned to campus the next semester, Watts took a class on Caribbean authors from Haiti, Guadalupe, and Martinique with Gwenola Caradec, assistant professor of French. The impact of slavery on the Caribbean was a topic that spoke to Watts.

Taylor Watts performanceShe says, “I really questioned doing it because I’m not French or from the Caribbean. Do I have the right to write about this? So I chose words directly from the text. Dance adds another layer of emotionality.”

“Taylor’s ‘Choreographic Exploration’ is a rich example of how dance, because of the undeniability of the body, can be a powerful and visceral use of the arts to examine complex and difficult topics,” Miller says. ”It is a choreographed embodiment drawn from research into both her topic and the aesthetic of the art form of dance.”

“Because of the emphasis spoken French places on connecting each word so that a sentence flows together, just listening to French I can visualize movement,” Watts says.

Watts was already planning the MAP when she heard about the France on Campus Award competition. She had just watched the film The Royal Tenenbaums, written and directed by Wes Anderson, one of the France on Campus Award patrons. The timing seemed auspicious. She won second place.

Watts will perform her work at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, in Flanagan Studio Theatre in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. As part of her award, she also will receive mentoring from the French Embassy and from Kickstarter to raise funds that will enable her to perform the work on other U.S. college campuses. 

Taylor Watts ’16 is a French and anthropology double major from Sacramento, Calif.

National Scholarships Support Study Abroad

Six Grinnell College students in the class of 2017 have received federally funded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to support their study abroad during the 2015 fall semester or the 2016 spring semester. Winners were chosen from a group of approximately 1,600 American undergraduates from 355 colleges and universities across the United States.

Two of Grinnell's scholars, Lizzie Eason ’17 and Lily Galloway ’17, studied abroad during the fall semester, and four are studying abroad this spring.  

Mathematics Meets Migration

Lizzie Eason '07 in front of Vajdahunyad Castle

Eason at Budapest's Vajdahunyad Castle

Eason, a mathematics major from Lamoni, Iowa, was in Budapest, Hungary. There, she studied with world-renowned professors of mathematics and witnessed first-hand the refugee crisis in Europe.

"I returned to my home college, Grinnell, with a broader perspective both on mathematics and foreign policy," Eason said. She noted that her school was only two blocks away from Keleti Pályaudvar, the train station shut down by police to stop migrants from the Middle East from traveling through the European Union.

"On the day Keleti shut down, it was more crowded than I had ever seen it," Eason recalled. "There were narrow paths on the ground with no blankets where people could walk, but every other space on the floor was taken up by blankets on which refugee adults and children were begging for money and food."

Language Expands Archeological Options

Galloway, an anthropology major from Westchester, Illinois, spent her fall semester in Tanzania. There, she planned and executed with other undergraduates an archeological excavation of a 700,000-year-old elephant carcass. She also studied Kiswahili, one of the most spoken languages in Tanzania. She plans to pursue a career in archaeology.

"With this background and continued study of Kiswahili as part of Grinnell's Alternate Language Study Option program, I'll be able to promote dialogue between English-speaking archaeologists and Kiswahili speakers," Galloway said. "This will help improve communication about heritage preservation and lead to more collaborative scientific work on human origins in East Africa."

From Chile to the Czech Republic

Four of our Gilman scholars are studying abroad this semester:

  • Jinna Kim ’17, a sociology and Spanish major from Bellevue, Washington, is in Argentina.
  • Hankyeol Song ’17, a media and cultural praxis (independent) major from Bettendorf, Iowa, is in the Czech Republic.
  • Aniqa Rahman ’17, a biological chemistry and French major from Hillsboro, Missouri, is in Morocco.
  • Robin Crotteau ’17, a political science major from Boise, Idaho, is in Chile.

About the Scholarship

Funded by the U.S. Department of State, Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. The program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad and the countries and regions in which they study by supporting undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints. 

Students receiving a Federal Pell Grant from two- and four-year institutions who will be studying abroad or participating in a career-oriented international internship for academic credit are eligible to apply.

Students can apply now on the Gilman website for funding for study abroad during the 2016 fall semester or the 2016–17 academic year. Applications are due March 1.

Cultural Immersion

Caleigh Ryan ‘17, an English major, spent her fall off campus in Madurai, India on the South India Term Abroad (SITA) program. In this video from SITA, Caleigh and the Syed family discuss the bonds and memories they formed with a home stay.