Tag Archives: abroad

Interviews factor heavily into abroad selection process

With the selection process over for the 2014-2015 school year January Term abroad courses, students may be left wondering exactly how these admission decisions are made.

While the paper application, essay, and 2.75 GPA minimum are important aspects, it is the interview that is a major deciding factor.

“All study abroad applicants, whether they are applying for a semester or January Term abroad course, are interviewed by faculty,” said Dr. Shaik Ismail, director of international programs. “It is the faculty that gives us the recommendation, and that’s when we move forward with accepting a student or putting them on the waitlist, and so on.”

“When the faculty recommends a student, that’s the final decision. [IPO] does not override the faculty,” Ismail said.

Professors look for indications of a student’s maturity and compatibility with the individual course, says English professor Lex Runciman.

Runciman will teach a creative writing course in the United Kingdom next January Term.

“The people who are willing to commit to the entirety of the experience will do well. It’s an immersive experience, in terms of the courses I’ve been on, and that’s its attraction and value,” Runciman said.

The English professor also recommended that students apply for a January Term course if they are truly interested in the subject matter and not in simply traveling.

“If a student isn’t really interested in the course, they just want to go someplace and the UK looks interesting, that’s probably not enough for me to want to take them on the course,” Runciman said.

Although faculty can take many different approaches to their interviews, Ismail suggested a general outline.

“I think generally the focus is on if the student has adequate knowledge of the subject matter, of the theme that’s being discussed. You know, ‘does this student know about environmental economics in Australia?’” Ismail said.

The IPO director advised students to research the countries of the class for which they are interviewing, such as finding out the major cities and relations between the selected country and the United States.

“One other thing I know faculty look for is evidence of team building. You have a group of 10, 12, or 14 students who will be eating together, traveling together, living together for four weeks in close quarters,” Ismail said.

Ismail stressed the importance of a student’s ability to collaborate, and urged students to be prepared for this criterion.

“For a service course in, say, Guatemala, in a Habitat for Humanity project, you will be working together. You’re handing bricks to another person, and that person is coming with a hammer. You have to be able to give and take, look out for each other, and be respectful of each other,” Ismail said.

More commonly discussed topics, such as commitment to the course’s objectives, are not the only characteristics professors consider, according to Runciman.

“I’ll ask people about their drinking habits because the drinking laws in the UK are different from the drinking laws in the U.S. That’s a question that needs to be asked and addressed so that we all go to the UK with the same set of understandings on how that’s going to work,” Runciman said.

The brief, 20-minute interview may feel like too short of a time for faculty to truly asses a student’s potential, and the other parts of the application can help compensate for this.

“I read all the essays,” Ismail said. “From the essay you can tell about motivation, you can tell about knowledge of the country, you can tell about lots of things. It gives an indication of who that person is before they come for the interview,” Ismail said.

The interview is a critical piece of the study abroad application, but it is not the only important part, and students who were waitlisted can take this into consideration for the next time they apply.

Helen Lee

Photo Editor

Helen   Lee                 can                 be                   reached        at

Students gain experience from gap year Trips

Every student before their freshman year of college reaches that point where they feel they might not be ready for college. Most students ignore the doubts and move on to college, but a few decide they need a gap year to feel ready. Freshmen Ben Niesen and Anna Hurwitz took gap years to travel and to volunteer. Niesen joined AmeriCorps for 10 months, and Hurwitz backpacked across Europe then volunteered in Costa Rica.

Niesen applied to Linfield before he joined AmeriCorps and he was admitted. Linfield agreed to let him attend a year later if he was accepted into AmeriCorps.

“I immediately got cold feet and was worried that I wasn’t ready for college,” Niesen said. “So what I did was sign up for a program that was 10 times more difficult than college.”

Niesen’s 10 months in AmeriCorps were spent volunteering at four different sites.

“I was placed on a team of 11 people. We were essentially employees of the national government,” Niesen said. “You had to roll with the punches and go with what you were given.”

Most of the participants in Niesen’s section of AmeriCorps were 18 to 24 year old. The first site Niesen worked with his team, Blue Unit Team Seven, was Salton Sea in Southern California. They left for the project Nov. 10, 2012 Niesen and his team worked there for five

weeks on park maintenance. After their service there, the team received their winter break.

The next site the Niesen worked at was Sly Park near Lake Tahoe where Niesen and his team worked with children.

“We were meant to be sort of their chauffeurs or camp counselors,” Niesen said.

From Sly Park, Niesen was sent to work with a different team, Silver 2, working two miles out of Boise for a month putting up a fence.

The second site that Niesen worked at with Silver 2 was at Hell’s Canyon. At one point, Niesen almost got lost because he couldn’t stop taking pictures of the site.

Finally, Niesen returned to Blue seven to finish up in Sheridan, Wyo. He worked with Habitat for Humanity for five weeks.

After taking three weeks to graduated from AmeriCorps and receiving his education scholarship awards, Niesen felt ready to come to Linfield.

“Well, because AmeriCorps was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, [college] is nothing,” Niesen said. “It definitely helped me with my time management skills. I still procrastinate. I’m not going to lie, but there’s for me now a seeming willingness to just get it done.”

Hurwitz’s gap year experience was different from Niesen’s but no less formative. First, she backpacked through Europe for six weeks with her friend Naomi Tarling, and after, she volunteered in Costa Rica for two and a half months.

During her senior year, Hurwitz applied to a few schools, but she withdrew all her applications before she heard back.

“I knew that I wasn’t ready to go off to school,” Hurwitz said. “A friend and I just kind of on a whim thought, ‘Let’s go see something. Let’s do something.’”

On their trip to Europe, Tarling and Hurwitz visited 10 different countries, beginning and ending in Switzerland, where Tarling’s uncle lived. The 10 countries they visited were  Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic and

finally Hungary.

“I bought my tickets a month before we left,” Hurwitz said. “We bought [travel] books and just kind of planned as we went.”

Hurwitz’s favorite city in Europe was Amsterdam, Holland.

“It felt like a combination city, as far as old world Europe and kind of an up and coming city,” Hurwitz said. “It’s such a beautiful city as well.”

After backpacking across Europe, Hurwitz looked for a place to volunteer in another country.

“My parents told me that if I wanted to go to Europe, I had to go and do a service trip as well,” Hurwitz said.

Hurwitz found her volunteer trip on Volunteer HQ, which she recommends to other looking for service trips. The trip had two aspects.

First, Hurwitz taught English at an orphanage in a suburb of San Jose for two months.

“I worked with 10 to 14 year old,” Hurwitz said. “I started off as a teacher’s aid, but I [later] got to teach my own class.”

While teaching Spanish, Hurwitz also had the opportunity to take Spanish classes.

“It helped me so much with my Spanish,” Hurwitz said. “I got to immediately use it in real life.”

Second, Hurwitz joined with biologists and other volunteers to work with endangered turtle eggs and hatchlings.

“We’d walk around the beach patrolling for turtles laying eggs,” Hurwitz said, “and we’d collect them with plastic bags and take them back to the hatchery.”

Hurwitz learned a lot from her gap year abroad about herself and about the world. She decided that she wants to major in international relations and Spanish.

“As soon as I graduate,  I want to get involved with more teaching,” Hurwitz said, “and I’d

like to go back to work with the turtles again.”

“[Traveling] really made me reevaluate my values as far as materialism and excess,” Hurwitz said. “It really made me want to minimize my lifestyle as far as clothing, money, the way I spend my time, and it made me want to travel more.”

Gilberto Galvez/Features editor

Gilberto Galvez can be reached at linfieldreviewfeatures@gmail.com

Freshman Anna Hurwitz releases 100 baby turtles into the ocean. This is the most important stage in turtle hatchling care.

Freshman Anna Hurwitz hides inside the “A” of an Amsterdam sign. Her favorite city that she visited while backpacking across Europe was Amsterdam.

Freshman Anna Hurwitz poses for a picture in front of a friend’s house in Costa Rica.

Freshman Anna Hurwitz volunteered at a turtle hatchery for two weeks during her service trip to Costa Rica.

Freshman Anna Hurwitz stands in front of the Eiffel tower, one of the stops on her trip through Europe.

Freshman Ben Niesen takes a break from weed-whacking campsites for the U.S. Army Engineer Corps.

Photo courtesy of Anna Hurwitz

Photo courtesy of Anna Hurwitz

Photo courtesy of Anna Hurwitz

Photo courtesy of Anna Hurwitz

Photo courtesy of Anna Hurwitz

Photo courtesy of Ben Niesen


College places 25th in abroad programs

Linfield College placed 25th in the nation this year for its student study abroad participation by the Institute of International Education.
Linfield was compared to other baccalaureate institutions similar to Linfield in the U.S., and placed higher than other schools with 68.1 percent of students participating in study abroad programs.
Nine years ago when Shaiik Ismail, director of the International Programs Office, first arrived at Linfield, the school was placing lower for its study abroad programs.
“We have expanded the opportunity for Linfield students to study abroad,” Ismail said. “When I came here we had 10 locations, [and] now we have 30.”
Having more locations allows students to have more choices to go abroad, Ismail said. While Linfield used to be focused more on language-based programs abroad, it is now expanding the opportunity to allow all students, especially those with science majors, to have the opportunity to go abroad.
“We found that students who did not have language proficiency were selecting programs offered by other institutions,” Ismail said. “[But] as a college, we don’t have any control over the quality of those programs.”
January Term courses abroad are a campus-wide approach to international education, Ismail said. Because it is not major or minor specific, courses are focused on certain themes, which allow faculty members to teach their passion.
“Statistics tend to indicate that companies and organizations look for employees with multicultural background,” Ismail said.
Samantha Sigler
News editor
Samantha Sigler can be reached at

Costa Rica tour reveals new experience for choir

The Linfield College Con- cert Choir did more than just sing at its first spring show- case performance at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 in Ice Auditorium.

The choir department spent 10 days in Costa Rica during January Term break from Feb. 2 to 12. In addition to performing, the students discussed their experiences and shared what they learned about Costa Rican culture and music.

“Essentially, we gave formal concerts almost every night,” said junior Jaimie McDonald, the choir tour manager.

The choir department visited Catholic and Methodist churches and several other locations in Costa Rica where it performed in front of Spanish speaking audiences.

“We shared our music with the people there during formal and informal performances, while transcending the language barriers,” Max Milander said. “Despite many of us not speaking Spanish and performing songs mainly in other languages, the power of music definitely helped us accomplish that goal. Thankfully, we all rose to the occasion night after night and kept a positive attitude no matter what the obstacles were.”

Language barriers were not the only aspect of Costa Rica that the choir depart- ment struggled with.

“There’s this cultural difference in timing,” McDonald said. “They run on ‘tico time,’ essentially, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour behind schedule on everything. It actually helped us relax a little bit—we’re so used to being busy-bodies and needing to rush, but we had to slow down and learn to wait. It was good for us.”

Trips abroad are opportunities for students to bond and get to know one another in different environments.

“Every choir tour is an incredible opportunity for growth, both individually and as an ensemble,” McDonald said.
In addition to their performances, Linfield students did an exchange with local uni- versities and a children’s hospital. They also had free time in which they spent visiting a cloud forest and hot springs resort.
While in Costa Rica, the choir experienced Calypso music. Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that is common among most musical forms in Costa Rica.

“It’s hard to pick just one favorite memory out of this amazing trip,” sophomore Charlotte Laport said. “One of my top favorites would be to look out in the audience and to see President Hellie look so proud of us at every concert.”

President Hellie accompanied the choir department on its trip to Costa Rica.

“The choir sang well even at the beginning of the tour, but as it performed for increasingly enthusiastic audiences, it became more confident, relaxed, and unified,” Hellie said. “It was fun to hear them in such diverse venues: in cathedrals and performance halls but also in a city park, a hospital lobby, a cafeteria and even a tropical cloud forest. I was very proud to be with them.”

Sarah Mason
Staff writer

Sarah Mason can be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com.