There is a certain shared experience that the traveled have. Almost like admission into an exclusive club. Those who have seen, smelled and tasted the world. Stood amongst the ruins of the Acropolis, at the base of Stonehenge or atop the Eiffel Tower.
This sense of mutual community and discovery is central to the St. Joseph’s College mission: “fostering an environment of openness, exploration and the understanding of diverse ideas, traditions and cultures.”
For the second straight year, SJC hosted its Study Abroad Conference, an all-day event where students’ shared global experience was on display. Through presentations, photos, discussions and cuisine.
“This is a big thank you to the students, and the faculty who have mentored and developed programs so students can have these experiences,” said Linda Lubranski, SJC’s global studies coordinator and co-director of the conference.
The World More Traveled
The conference’s keynote speaker, Rebecca Mincieli ’15, a Spanish language and speech major, travels the world daily. As a JetBlue flight attendant, Mincieli first left the country during a study abroad experience as an undergraduate at SJC Long Island. She spent her entire junior year abroad studying in Grenada, Spain, an experience that widened and deepened her view of the world.
“Learning to be alone and learning to get lost in a city by yourself, without any real sense of direction, has taught me to be a lot more patient with myself,” Mincieli said.
Now, Mincieli takes every opportunity to travel. At any break in work, she looks jet off to an overseas destination, with no companion but her backpack.
“I’ve ridden camels in the Sahara, I’ve bathed with elephants in Thailand.” she said. “I’m having an amazing time, and I would not be able to that without having study abroad, thanks to St. Joseph’s.”
Students like Tyler LaCarrubba, Marisol Nazario and Mayssa Gregoire know the infectious feeling that comes with travel. Having recently travelled to Oxford, Costa Rica and Japan, respectively, the three held presentations that reflected on their travel experiences.
Each student presenter had a unique perspective. LaCarrubba was interested in the social habits and groupings of his fellow travelers while abroad. The focus of his presentation was watching friendships and bonds form and evolve, among the backdrop of Oxford, England.
As part of the Oxford Experience, LaCarrubba was able to live and study at one of England’s oldest and most esteemed institutions. Excursions to local establishments and a London trip that featured The Globe Theatre were among his highlights.
Breaking up the trip’s participants to three groups (A,B and C), LaCarrubba observed as cliques formed based on preferences and personality similarities.
“While I was away, I really enjoyed watching interactions we the students had with each other while we were on the trip,” LaCarrubba said. “Social identity is everywhere and affects all of us at every moment in our lives.”
Nazario’s unique story was found in her repeat travel to Costa Rica. She ventured there first as part of a study abroad course in spring 2016. From there, she was able to gain a summer internship at AGLOCAM, a growing educational company.
Her fluency in Spanish helped her immerse into Costa Rican culture and traditions — even building a relationship with her boss, whom Nazario remarked had recently visited her in New York for the first time.
“I was hesitant (to take the internship) because it was something I was not familiar with, but something made me do it,” Nazario said. “(My boss) taught me so many things I would not have gotten at any other internship. Personal, life things I wouldn’t have found anywhere else.”
Gregoire discovered this on her first day in Japan how different the culture is, compared to home. Narrower streets and buses, a pristine and painfully precise transportation system were jarring — especially for an SJC Brooklyn student who is used to the urban sprawl of New York City. Despite this, Gregoire found a welcoming culture that took her in.
“One of the things I noticed was there’s a huge concept of inclusion in the culture.” Gregoire said. “I didn’t know anyone, I just knew my mentor. Everyone was coming up and talking to me, taking me to try Japanese food. People include you into what they’re doing. It’s a group mentality.
“I came into Japan not knowing anything, and I learned so much,” she added.
“Something bigger than where we are right now…”
The student presenters shared a common opinion. “Would you go back again?” seemed to be the question of the day. And “Absolutely” was the unanimous answer.
At a conference focused on the love of travel, Tom Petriano, Ph.D., summed up the romantic relationship one has when exploring the world in his opening remarks to the audience.
“It’s been my exciting pleasure to fall in love many times over with many different places,” Petriano, co-leader of the Nicaragua Program and chairman of the religious studies program, said.
“It changes you, it fills you with an urgent passion. It makes you realize we are all a part of something much much bigger than where we are right now. And we discover that when we travel.”