May X: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

By: McKenzie Gibel, Contributor

“Foreign.” The word has a terrifying definition – strange and unfamiliar. With the unknown, however, comes excitement and discovery. Traveling to foreign ports allows students to broaden their minds and understand more about the world. Furman University gives its students the opportunity to explore places and ideas previously foreign to us through the May Experience. The May eXperience (May X) is an academic program for those with the wanderlust, curiosity, and courage to explore cultures different from their own. 

I was fortunate enough to speak with Jack Markowitz who ventured to Italy and Switzerland this summer through the May X titled Religion and Religious Art. “For me, this was my first time leaving the country so I really had no idea what to expect. I also was not truly “friends” with anyone else who was going on the trip,” he began. Those who are on the fence about traveling abroad on a May X generally have three main fears: 1) leaving the country for the first time, 2) not knowing anyone, and 3) the workload. Markowitz was able to address these fears and quickly assuage them as our interview progressed.  

Despite not knowing what to expect, “[he] personally did not experience that much culture shock,” which he credited to the professors because they “prepar[ed] [them] beforehand about different customs [they] had to abide by.” As far as not knowing anyone to begin with, he said “the speed that everyone on the trip became friends was shocking to me. In just one or two days, we were immediately bonded as a group…” Finally, in relation to the workload, he commented, “our academic workload was fairly manageable in my opinion.” He said most of the work was due before they left and once there, they only had to keep a journal and give a presentation. 

Markowitz’s trip was not all sunshine and rainbows, however: “almost half of our group lost our luggage in Atlanta customs and we had to have our bags shipped to us at home.” Problems will arise and not every moment will be perfect, but it is all a part of the journey. “I would one-thousand percent do it again!” Markowitz said. Thus, I challenge you to go out, explore new cultures, and create an experience that you will never forget. 

For more information on studying abroad visit https://studyaway.furman.edu

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