For some students, study abroad entails more than viewing Pisa from a leaning tower, admiring the fine architecture of Stonehenge and gorging on French baguettes. Some Ephs broke the mold of traditional tourists and ventured into the realm of the quirky, the reckless and, in one case, the holy. Instead of viewing the world from tour bus windows, these students immersed themselves in the local cultures of their respective destinations and took the most outlandish activities, bringing the adventurous and quintessentially Williams spirit to all corners of the globe.
Biking (and villa-surfing) across Europe
While studying at Oxford, Bianca Czaderna ’11, Mike Geary ’11, Dale Markey ’11 and Amy Nolan ’11 took a five-week voyage, biking through Portugal, Spain and France. Geary and Markey departed from Lisbon, meeting Czaderna in France. “None of us had gone on a bike trip before,” Czaderna said. “In fact, not all of us even had bikes.” The group usually stayed at youth hostels or campsites, that is, until Flavio came along. “He was our Portuguese sugar daddy!” laughed Markey. “We met him in a bike shop. He told us if we biked the 95 miles to his place, we could stay over. We got there and it was this beautiful casa-villa summer mansion!”
Bungee jumping in China
Jumping off a 150-foot platform, your life hinging on an elastic cord and a Velcro strap, is nerve-racking no matter what country you’re in. But the opportunity to bungee jump in a Chinese gorge proved too much for Danny Guo ’13 to resist. “I wanted to do more than the touristy stuff in Bejing,” said Guo, who was in China last summer as part of a study-abroad program. “It was only about $20 – you just had to sign a form. I couldn’t read most of it, but I was just like ‘Okay, let’s do this!’” So he plunged off a bridge in a scenic location a few hours outside of the city. “The safety stuff was definitely sketchy,” Guo said. “And after you’ve jumped, you’re just hanging upside down, and these people come by on a boat and fish you out with a wooden stick.” Despite the dubious precautions, Guo claimed to have loved the experience.
Roughin’ it in the outback
For David Roth ’11, studying sustainable agriculture meant laboring on a farm in rural Australia. “Everything worked on a rotational schedule,” Roth said. “We had to move the chicken coop to a different part of the field every night [to evenly distribute fertilizer], so our busiest hours were between 9 p.m. and midnight.” And sometimes the simple life is far from laid-back, as Roth learned when he helped neighboring farmers castrate bulls. “We had to mark and vaccinate 400 cows and castrate all the males,” said Roth. “Fortunately, we did it in a humane way, but it was a lot of hard work … You definitely sleep well at night.”
Escaping high waters in Costa Rica
Kelsey Gaetjens ’13 became acquainted with flash floods all too quickly during a summer study abroad and volunteer program in Costa Rica. “One day my friends and I were just chilling on the beach,” Gaetjens said. “We saw this murky outlet of water and decided to walk across and explore what was on the other side. But when we came back a few hours later, the water had risen.” While the males in the group were able to make it back across, the women were left stranded on the other side. “All of a sudden, this old guy comes out of this nearby shack. I spoke decent Spanish, but I didn’t understand what he was saying,” Gaetjens said. “He went back in his house and came back with this huge Styrofoam paddle!” Using the paddle as a makeshift raft, he was able to pull the women across to safety. “It was awesome,” said Gaetjens, who spent most of her time abroad working at a local school teaching cooking and other classes.“Costa Rica was a fun experience, and spending time in a small village [as opposed to a tourist hotspot] really taught me a lot about local culture.”