GVSU to host first Study Abroad Story Slam

By James Kilborn | 9/10/18 10:03am

Study abroad story slam_RGB
Courtesy / gvsu.edu

On Thursday, Sept. 13, the Padnos International Center of Grand Valley State University will host the first-ever Story Slam, an event tailored toward students who have studied abroad and the stories they bring home with them. Students will be able to share their foreign experiences with others while connecting and hearing from others who’ve traveled to unique corners of the earth. 

Alissa Lane, study abroad and outreach coordinator, sees the event as not only a way to encourage students to study abroad, but allows them to hear first-hand experiences from exotic locations across the globe. 

“People say travel turns you into a storyteller,” Lane said. “At the Study Abroad Story Slam, students and alumni who studied abroad during their time at GVSU will be sharing their stories from abroad. I hope attendees will enjoy hearing real stories from abroad from fellow students and alumni and gain an inside look into the experience of studying abroad. This is also a great opportunity for the storytellers. Often, our experiences abroad are some of our most vivid, exciting, challenging and important memories.”

Conrad Frank, a GVSU student who traveled to Europe, noted the stark differences in the cycling culture between the United States and the Netherlands on his study abroad trip this past summer.

“It was a lot of fun going on a bicycle tour around Groningen with students of the University of Groningen because I was able to experience the accessibility citizens have via bicycle,” Frank said. “There are bike lanes all over the nation and massive areas to park bicycles.”

Frank’s advice to students considering traveling abroad is to visit more unknown locations—sites that stand in stark contrast to the familiarity of the United States, as these unconventional places give a more authentic representation of foreign countries and stirs the imagination more than typical destination spots frequented by tourists. 

“The best memories of my study abroad trip to the Netherlands were places that were unique to the region like a roof-top neighborhood in Almere, a bike trail around the sandy island of Vlieland or seeing an Upcycle Center,” Frank said.

Ehren Kuzekov, Coordinator of Study Abroad and International Partnerships, hopes that similar experiences are shared, as hearing others' study abroad stories will be exciting and offer an additional perspective to reflect upon. 

“We hope that students feel validated in their feelings of returning home by listening to other stories from abroad and that this can be an opportunity for reflection on those experiences,” Kuzekov said. “Studying abroad is a life-changing experience, but it is easy for students to feel like they are alone when they return home. We hope that this event will highlight the commonalities of experiences shared by students that study abroad. We also hope that the stories will inspire students that have not yet studied abroad to consider the opportunity.”

Stories of exotic locations, like the damp rainforests of Haiti, street-side bodegas in Turkey and towering mountains of Peru and experiences from locations across the globe will be shared. Students are encouraged to attend the event on Wednesday, Sept. 13 in room 107C of the DeVos Center from 6 to 7:30 p.m on the downtown campus. Those in attendance will experience second-hand beauty of these foreign destinations and the impact they’ve left on those who’ve traveled there before. 

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