They told me it couldn’t be done, but that was only because no one had ever tried. They told me I wouldn’t get any material, but I was determined to find answers. They told me I would never be able to pull it off, but they should have known better… My task was simple: interview one of the study abroad signposts located around the St. Norbert College campus. What I never anticipated was the riveting conversation that would unfold.
Selecting the signpost next to Todd Wehr Hall was a calculated decision on my part. If I was going to jump this far out of my comfort zone, I needed to stay close to the base of operations commonly referred to as the Honors Center. My proximity to this location and my trusty sidekick, Stacey Wanta, meant that I could restock on snacks and report all reconnaissance whenever it was necessary.
Once the signpost was ready and comfortably set in one place, we were ready to begin the interview: “What can you tell me about Quito?” Apart from the fact that Quito is approximately 2583 miles away, the signpost did not have much to say. When I continued to urge a comment out of it, I was approached by one of our own Honors students, Elisha Jaeke. Elisha is a junior here at SNC who studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador during the Spring 2018 semester. I asked her for any comments on her experience abroad and, to no surprise at all, Elisha was able and willing to be much more talkative than the signpost! Between all of her homework and exams, Elisha traveled to rainforests, islands, beaches, mountains, and volcanoes! After an entire semester immersing herself in a different country and speaking a different language, Elisha admitted that it was difficult to say goodbye to the wonderful country she spent so long exploring. From her own words, “studying abroad was the opportunity of a lifetime” for Elisha. The people working in the Honors Center are happy to have Elisha back, but they’re even happier to know she had a wonderful time abroad!
Once Elisha had to leave for a Biology study session, I tried to convince the signpost to talk one more time. I’m not typically one for bribery, but I didn’t have many options remaining at this point. Lucky for me, my wallet was spared from the pain of loss when another Honors student, Hannah Sherfinski (‘19), walked by and noticed my state of despair. Like my unsuccessful interview with the signpost, Hannah revealed that her time abroad was not always the most glamorous experience. Getting directions could be difficult, altitude sickness was common at the beginning, and the desire for the comfort of home came in waves. However, she found comfort in all the ways that Quito reminded her of Wisconsin, specifically that “the people are extremely caring and affectionate” just like in De Pere! Quito might be able to offer all sorts of adventures, but nobody holds open doors like the people of SNC!
Hannah had her own obligations to get to, but I felt like my Quito inquiries had been answered, albeit not by my initial interviewee. I might not have learned much from the study abroad singpost, but I sure did learn a lot from the study abroad students of the Honors Program.