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### Exploring Study Abroad: Unveiling Exciting Destinations

From Kazakhstan to Rome, Kenyon students embarked on diverse journeys during their Off-Campus Study last semester. These experiences offered them a range of new encounters, from immersing themselves in local languages to savoring exotic cuisines. Below, four students recount their adventures from their time away from Kenyon College.

Jackie Samandas ’25, Psychology & Russian

Location: Astana, Kazakhstan

Motivation for Choosing the Destination:
Jackie aimed to enhance her Russian language skills through full immersion, seeking to elevate her proficiency to the next level. Additionally, she was intrigued by observing Russian language usage and political dynamics in the context of the Ukrainian war, but from the unique perspective of a Central Asian nation that, politically aligned, may harbor distinct social viewpoints.

Insightful Cultural Experience:
Contrary to the stereotype of Kazakh people being reserved, Jackie discovered a warm and friendly community, especially among students at Nazarbayev University (NU). She found that Kazakh students were passionate conversationalists, willing to go to great lengths to show kindness and camaraderie.

Memorable Moments:
Exploring Astana with an open and curious mindset left Jackie with cherished memories of cultural events, meeting new acquaintances, and relishing the beauty of the city. She particularly recommends leisurely strolls in the park behind NU, where the mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets create a lasting impression.

Local Delights:
Jackie suggests trying Beshbarmak, the national dish of Kazakhstan, along with unique treats like caviar-flavored Lay’s and cottage-cheese bars (сырки). For a bold experience, she recommends visiting a баня (Soviet-style sauna) and exploring charming cafes like Gussi Cafe and Kunde Cafe at NU.

Zeena Osman ’25, Arabic and Psychology

Location: Amman, Jordan

Reasons for Selection:
Zeena’s Sudanese heritage motivated her to deepen her Arabic language skills, leading her to choose Amman for its language-focused program. She valued the immersive language learning experience offered by the Amideast program, which she found distinct from other Arabic programs focusing on history or politics.

Highlight of the Experience:
Zeena cherished the connections she forged with the locals in her neighborhood, Khilda, where frequent visits to the neighborhood store made her a familiar face. Celebrating birthdays and holidays with her host family, coupled with educational excursions exploring Jordan’s history and culture, enriched her understanding beyond language learning.

Cultural Insight:
Living with her host family, Zeena encountered the cultural practice of showing affection through generous portions of food, even if it meant being overfed. She humorously recalls her host family’s gesture of baking her four birthday cakes despite her protests of being too full.

Must-Try Dish:
Zeena highly recommends savoring Shawarma, a popular local delicacy enjoyed for its delectable flavors.

Arianna Garcia ’25, Modern Languages and Literatures — Track 3 Spanish, with English or Psychology

Location: Santiago, Chile

Selection Rationale:
Arianna was drawn to Chile’s rich literary tradition, creativity, and commitment to human rights, shaped by its tumultuous history. The resilience of the Chilean people in the aftermath of a devastating dictatorship resonated with her, inspiring her to delve deeper into the country’s cultural tapestry.

Unforgettable Experience:
Arianna found daily life in Chile to be a continuous learning opportunity, fostering meaningful relationships within her community. She appreciated the chance to engage with diverse perspectives and build connections that broadened her cultural understanding.

Cultural Revelation:
Navigating Chile as a U.S. student of Ecuadorian descent, Arianna encountered varying levels of trust and skepticism due to historical factors like U.S. foreign policy involvement. This experience underscored the importance of engaging directly with local perspectives to foster mutual understanding.

Local Delicacies and Traditions:
Arianna’s favorite memory was celebrating Fiestas Patrias, Chile’s Independence Day, marked by vibrant festivities like Fondas and traditional dances like Cueca. She relished the opportunity to immerse herself in Chilean culture through culinary delights like Empanadas de Pino and engaging in the lively dance traditions.

Yifan (Sally) Shang ’25, Art History and Asia & Middle East Studies

Location: Rome, Italy

Destination Choice:
Sally’s decision to study in Rome stemmed from her passion for immersing herself in the Greco-Roman art style. Rome’s reputation as a hub for art history studies and its cultural richness appealed to her academic pursuits.

Standout Experience:
Sally’s exploration of Baroque Art History led her to delve into a research project that intertwined Italian and Chinese cultural influences. Her initiative to explore connections between Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit, and the Forbidden City in Beijing showcased her cultural pride and academic curiosity.

Cultural Epiphany:
Studying art history in Rome prompted Sally to reflect on her identity and the unique perspective she brought as a Chinese student amidst a predominantly U.S.-based cohort. She appreciated her professor’s respect for her background and valued the opportunity to contribute her perspective to enrich art history discussions.

These students’ diverse experiences abroad highlight the transformative power of cultural immersion and academic exploration during their time away from Kenyon College.