Students explore culture, green tech in Germany and France

Published 6:45 pm Friday, August 3, 2018

Stepping into a different country is not only the best way to learn about a place’s past, and future, it can give a student a new perspective of their own country or themselves. Beaufort County Community College’s Study Abroad program took ten students to Germany and France from July 5 to 13. The focus for the trip this year was green energy and transport, history, government and arts of the two countries.

The group, led by English instructor and study abroad coordinator Suzanne Stotesbury and mechanical engineering technology instructor Matthew Lincoln, visited Freiburg, Germany and several locations in France including Strasbourg, Versailles and Paris. Students on the trip took one of two classes for credit, Engineering Materials or International Cultural Exploration.

“Our program puts international travel within reach of our students,” noted Stotesbury. “Many students who travel with the program have never left the state or boarded an airplane. Our program prepares students for travel, and once they get abroad, they want to stay.”

Led by a PhD student living in Berlin, the group visited the Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Catacombs and Smartville. Students were impressed by the cleanliness and efficiency of the Smartville Smart Car factory in Hambach, France. At least 20 cars came off the line as they toured.

In Freiburg, Germany they learned about sustainable city planning. A great many of the buildings in the town have solar panels. In addition, the city has an old system of gutters called “bächle” that run clean water into the city. Originally used for water and fire prevention, they remain a way to keep the city cool. Children in the city use them to race toy sail boats.

“People can take this knowledge back home with them to use in everyday life and maybe even make their hometown better,” said student Elizabeth Renwick.

Some of the students enjoyed their first picnic ever as they tasted baguettes and local French cheeses and meats in the gardens of the Versailles Palace. Some students rented rowboats, while others explored the vast gardens.

SMARTVILLE: BCCC Study Abroad at the Smart Car factory in Hambach, France. (BCCC)

“It was amazing to watch the students learn and adapt,” noticed Stotesbury. “The first time they had to order food, several weren’t sure how they would convey their wishes without English. However, they quickly adapted and figured out ways to communicate their wishes.”

“This program opened my eyes to a whole world that is waiting to be explored and showed me that there is more than just our little county or state,” reflected Emily Amend. “Before this trip, I was a shy person who was scared to even go in stores alone, but now I can order food without being able to even verbally communicate. The world is not so big, and there is good in the world if you look for it.”

Gaining confidence resonated with many of the students. “My dreams of traveling were masked by school, a lack of confidence, and too many ‘what if’s’,” said Cristal Gachuz-Sandoval. “Study abroad allowed me to discover a world full of possibilities, good people and amazing experiences.”

For Breana Robinson, the experience was humbling. “Never in my life have I been in a situation where I felt outnumbered, isolated or misunderstood,” she said. “I have never considered myself in a minority because I’m not. Not being able to effectively communicate, having to rely on the kindness of strangers, it truly was a bit humbling. I feel like I better understand now a new level of tolerance, and a new level of humanity, a new level of humility.”

The next study abroad trip will take students to Costa Rica in July 2019, with a cultural and biological focus. Students can sign up now. Payment plans are available, but the group also typically hosts a fundraiser to help offset costs.