Photo gallery: See pictures from CWRU students who spent spring break abroad

For most students, spring break is a great time to return home to recharge. But for some, it’s the perfect opportunity to immerse themselves in a different culture.

Case Western Reserve University’s Office of Education Abroad offers several programs over spring break for students who want to continue their studies while gaining new life experiences. 

Last week, 118 students visited nine countries—from Uganda to Ireland and Taiwan—and engaged in unique cultural and academic experiences. We spoke with a few of them to learn about their time abroad and see what they were up to.

Learn more about study abroad experiences at CWRU.

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Hannah Jackson

Fourth-year undergraduate majoring in business management and English
Study abroad country: Ireland

1. Why did you decide to study abroad over spring break?

I’ve never traveled internationally, so I wanted to take the opportunity before I graduate. I saw that the program aligned with my career goals and found a scholarship to help cover costs, so it was a no-brainer to study abroad! 

2. What about this program appealed to you?

My business concentration is in innovation and entrepreneurship, which goes hand-in-hand with the social enterprise space. I’ve always admired leaders of social organizations for their ability to be successful entrepreneurs while also championing initiatives that uplift their communities. Having seen the impact of social startups in the U.S., I was excited to learn how organizations in Ireland approach social change differently.

3.How do you expect this program to augment your academic experiences?

The most exciting part of the program is that we got to act as consultants for an Irish social enterprise. After learning about a handful of organizations in the classroom, we visited them in Ireland and then worked in teams to help them solve a business problem. This gave us the unique opportunity to take what we’ve learned in the classroom, apply it to a business, and see the effects of our decisions. 

Our learning also goes beyond academics. With each business visit, we got to learn about a new cause that needs more attention, resources or support. It’s a great way to learn about business, but also about people.

4. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned during your time abroad?

We learned a lot about how Irish culture is infused into every facet of Ireland’s social enterprises. There’s a conscious emphasis on preserving elements of the Irish language and history even in organizations with aims outside of these topics. The great sense of pride that Irish entrepreneurs have in supporting and growing their communities is palpable and incredibly admirable. 

5. What is your best memory abroad?

We got the opportunity to play traditional Irish sports one of our first days in Galway. We played hurling and Gaelic football, which we learned together because we had limited experience with either sport. 

At the time, we didn’t really know our classmates, but getting to interact with each other in a fun environment while still learning about Irish culture was a perfect icebreaker! 

Isabelle Zhang

Second-year undergraduate majoring in computer science
Study abroad country: Uganda

1. Why did you decide to study abroad over spring break?

I’m a part of the Global Health Design Collaborative (GHDC), which is a CWRU student organization. GHDC works with Makerere University in Uganda to develop medical devices for the healthcare centers there. I have been a part of GHDC’s Needs Assessment Committee since I was a first-year student. As a member of the Needs Assessment Committee, I help the engineering teams contextualize the cultural setting for their settings, evaluate the current needs of the health centers we work with, and come up with new project ideas for the organization.

This past school year, I have been working with the Medical Waste Management team to develop a way to manage sharps waste. The spring break trip to Uganda is a great way for me to gain more information on the current conditions of the healthcare facilities so I can help the Medical Waste Management team as they move through their testing phase. 

The trip is tied to the work that GHDC does overall as well, so it’s a great opportunity for me to learn more about the other project teams and their efforts, and to meet the organization’s Makerere colleagues. 

2. What about this program appealed to you?

I grew up traveling with my family to many different places, but I’d never been to Africa, so I wanted to try something new. The itinerary was jam-packed with visiting health centers, talking to workers and staff, meeting new people, etc. 

The trip seemed like a good way to immerse myself in a new environment while also contributing toward work that matters and will make a difference in people’s lives. 

3. How do you expect this program to augment your academic experiences?

The trip gave me valuable exposure to fieldwork and assessment, which are both topics of interest to me as someone who is minoring in anthropology. I wanted to learn and exercise my skills in note-taking, interviewing, and crafting a critical analysis of my findings.

Moreover, it is extremely important to have experiences that take you outside of what you are familiar with. My main academic focus is computer science, which is an area that often struggles with diversity in not only demographic but also mindset. I hope that by being exposed to different perspectives and ways of life, I continue developing a more aware and capable viewpoint as an engineer.

4. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned during your time abroad?

The most interesting thing I’ve learned so far is about the Marabou stork. We saw these birds when we visited Makerere University’s College of Health Sciences facilities, and later at our housing in Luwero. These birds are huge, growing to be up to 5 feet tall!

5. What is your best memory abroad so far?

My best memory abroad so far is sharing jackfruit with the professors and travel team. We had a “jackfruit party” on Tuesday! Even though I’ve tried jackfruit before, I’ve never had to peel it off of the rind with my own hands.

Silvana Corrales Cantelmi

Third-year undergraduate student majoring in classics, world literature and French 
Study abroad country: Greece 

1. Why did you decide to study abroad over spring break?

I’ve always been a huge proponent of studying abroad, taking the opportunity to do so every time I can. I studied abroad once before this trip, in Rome, Italy, with the same professor. So when I saw this program open up, I counted my pennies and jumped at the chance.

2. What about this program appealed to you?

As a classics major, I’ve been studying the language and culture of the ancient world for three years. When I saw this program open up, I was immediately attracted to the chance to learn about the ancient city onsite! The ability to have the city of Athens as my classroom was really what appealed to me most about this program.

3. How do you expect this trip to augment your academic experiences?

This program opened my eyes to the world around me: to our differences and simultaneously what we all share as human beings. I believe we all can learn a lot from each other, and should and most definitely take every opportunity we have to educate ourselves about cultures that are different than our own, or else we ourselves might become harder, harsher people. 

Additionally, I looked forward to this program augmenting my abilities to learn by exposing me to a more hands-on approach to learning, rather than being stuck in a classroom.

4. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned during your time abroad?  

The most interesting thing I learned this week was that there was a goddess named Aphaia who was only worshipped on the nearby island, Aegina. Given that most gods in the ancient world were widespread and well known across the Mediterranean due to religious syncretism, I was shocked to find that this goddess of warfare was quite lonely, only worshipped at one temple on this small island.

5. What is your best memory abroad?

My best memory so far is a tough one! There are so many to choose from already. But if I had to choose just one, I think that seeing the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis for the first time is my favorite.

It might sound silly, but upon seeing the grandeur of the Parthenon after having studied what it means for the Athenian people—and what it still means to them today—I almost broke down crying. The feeling of greatness just rose in my body and I felt like I was lifting off the ground. Seeing the Parthenon for the first time—that really takes the cake!