An Experience of a Lifetime

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Tired of going to the same
place, surrounded by the
same walls everyday to learn
from a book? Well that’s not the
only way to learn.

Students at GCC may participate
in a program called Study
Abroad. Through this program
students can visit exotic locales,
immerse themselves in different
cultures, and learn in a hands-on
approach that is considered to be
an experience of a life time.
“It’s truly a life changing
experience,” said Elsa Urquilla,
a second-year student who is
also Senator of Campus
Relations and a Study Abroad

The Study Abroad program
offers several different trips a
year, one in winter and three in

This winter is the New
Zealand/Australia excursion; the
cut off date to apply for this trip
is Nov. 11 and this program has
only a handful of vacancies left.
In summer there are three to
choose from: the Greece trip, the
Prague/Venice trip or the
England/ Ireland trip; the cut off
dates for these are in the middle
of March/April.

Each excursion has about five
to six days of on campus learning
to get prepared for the trip
and to start the classes. The students
will then be abroad for
about 28 days.

“The way that [the Study
Abroad program] enriches [the
students] is invaluable,” said
Darren Leaver, the Director of
the Study Abroad program,
geography professor and one of
the professors going on the New
Zealand/Australia trip.

“And it
could just be as far as they meet
people in business in the future
and ‘oh you’ve been to New
Zealand too’ and all of a sudden
you have a connection with that

Leaver has been to New
Zealand many times and has
gone on a previous Study
Abroad excursion to New
Zealand as a guide because he
knows the area so well.

All students who wish to
attend one of the programs must
complete the Study Abroad
Application and Reservation
Forms. To qualify to go on one
of these trips students must have
a GPAof 2.0 or higher, a letter of
recommendation from a friend,
family member or co-worker and
a letter of recommendation from
an instructor.

“We’re looking for things that
let us know they’d be a good
traveler,” said Leaver. “Is this
student capable of learning
under these unusual circumstances?”

All Study Abroad programs
usually offer three courses. It is
recommended that students take
two of the three courses, depending
on their needs. The courses
are usually transferable to Cal
State and UC campuses.

“There are two things, you
can go see a place or you can go
experience a place. I want them
to go experience the place,” said
Leaver in regards to how helpful
the textbooks are that the students
use on these trips.

Students will be using the
Lonely Planet guidebooks as
textbooks in the International
Field Studies course for the New
Zealand trip. Each book contains
a wealth of knowledge.

Everything from the history of
each city, maps and facts and
information on: the culture, the
environment, food and drink.

An example of pertinent
information is listed on the
inside cover of the New Zealand
guidebook. It lists exchange
rates, business hours, and some
key phrases. “Kia ora,” which
means ” Hello”, “I’ll have a handle/
seven/twelve,” “I’ll have a
beer,” and “You like rugby?”
meaning, ‘Can I bore you to
tears with rugby statistics.”
The students going on the
Prague and Venice trip will be
getting quite a treat. Jiri Holub
will be teaching the International
Field Studies class in the
Prague/Venice trip. Holub is a
Professor of Political Science at
Charles University in Prague and
he will also accompany the students
to Venice as well.

“Professor Holub, a Czech
professor, was the Czech
Republics Ambassador to Italy
back in the 1990’s,” said Ted
Stern, professor of music and
one of the professors going on
the Prague/Venice excursion.
“So not only does he know the
Czech Republic really well he
knows Italy really well.”

Stern has gone on the Prague
Study Abroad trip five times.
But don’t think it will be all
work and no play. Depending on
which of the four programs students
go on they may have a lot
of free time to go and explore
other places besides where they
are staying.

“Three and a half days a
week you’re a college student,”
said John Queen, in regards to
the England/Ireland trip. “Three
and a half days a week you’re a
tourist. Even in the evening and
in the afternoons you’re going to
have time to poke around in the
various cities.”

Queen is a professor of political
science and will be one of
the professors on the England
and Ireland trip. He has gone on
the Study Abroad program to
Ireland twice before. And this
time it’s an England and Ireland
trip. The students will be staying
in three different cities: London,
Dublin, and Galway.

“[The Study Abroad program]
has given me a love for
traveling,” said Urquilla when
asked about her Study Abroad
trip to Greece last summer. “I
never thought [traveling] would
be something I would get into.
But now it has become a hobby.”

Urquilla will also be going on
this winter’s trip to New Zealand
and Australia. There she will be
visiting Auckland, Waitomo,
Rotoura, Wellington,
Christchurch, Franz Josef and
Queenstown in New Zealand
then off to Sydney, Australia.
And she isn’t the only student
who gained a love of travel and
different cultures through this

“On several trips we’ve had
people actually say: ‘I’m not
going to return at this time. I’m
willing to forfeit my return ticket.
I’m going to look for
employment and I’m just going
to spend the next year here,'”
said Stern in regards to the
Prague trip. “And they do just
that. They get jobs teaching
English or something like that.
Over the last five trips we’ve had
three or four students who’ve
actually chosen to do
that-Prague and Venice are two
of the most magical cities in the
world-people just fall in love
with it.”

“One of the most spectacular
and spiritual places that we go to
is Sanorini [in Greece],” said
Caryl St. Ama, who is a professor
of Art, and is one of the professors
going on the Greece trip.

“It is amazing geographically,
artistically, it’s just awe inspiring.”
St. Ama has been to Greece
over seven times.
Generally 30 to 36 students
go on a study abroad trip,
accompanied by two or three
professors. That’s a very small
student to professor ratio. And
you make lasting bonds with not
only the other students but with
the professors as well.

“We go on field trips together-
we’re all traveling together,”
said Queen. “You develop
more of a bond then you would
normally get in the classrooms
here. We become ‘Uncles’ as
well as professors.”

“We’re with the students
24/7” said St. Ama. “We [eat]
with them, we travel all the time.
So there’s a real nice bond that

St. Ama has become good
friends with some of the students
who have gone on the trips with
her. In fact she and her husband,
Gordon Alexandre, have recently
met up with two students from
the 2002 Study Abroad trip.

Alexandre is also a professor
political science at GCC and is
one of the professors going on the Greece trip this year.

Stern says that some of the students
have become personal
friends after the trip. And that
sometimes he won’t see a student
for a several months to a
year but then they’ll stop by
“and they always talk about how
their life was changed by the

“I learn as much about my
students as they learn about me,”
said Leaver.

There are rarely any problems
when students go on the
Study Abroad programs. The
most common issue is homesickness.

However there have
been a few cases worth noting.
“You know the drinking age
here is 21,” said Stern. “Over
[in Prague] it’s 18. And so there
are always students who say
‘wow I can suddenly drink.’
Course what they forget is that
the European attitude for drinking
is you may be legally able to
drink, but they expect you to
drink responsibly.”

According to Stern the one
real problem they encounter is
students who drink too much
and can’t hold their liquor. One
student ended up vomiting on a
public tram. She offended the
passengers so much that the
driver stopped the tram and
kicked her off, after making her
clean up the mess.

In Greece, St. Ama says, they
had only one problem when she
first went to Athens. Several students
were late for the bus and
after waiting about 30 minutes,
they left the students in Athens
while they went and toured the
Acropolis and the Archeological
museum. The late students were
stuck in Athens all day and
missed out on the other sites. St.
Ama says that after that they had
no more problems with late students.
And according to Queen, in
England and Ireland students
need to learn that they need to
look right instead of left first
when crossing the street. And
that’s the hardest thing to
remember that they drive on the
other side of the road over there.
But if you do rent a car Queen
says you learn real quick which
side of the road you’re supposed
to be driving on.

All the professors agree that
the Study Abroad program is a
smart move financially if students
want to travel to these

Just flying from LAX to
Auckland, New Zealand and
then taking a trip to Sydney,
Australia round trip from both
places costs about $1,960. And
that’s just the flight costs; this
isn’t including room and board,
public transportation, entrance
into different exhibits, museums,
tour guides and so on.

But by going on the New
Zealand/Australia trip students
can save a lot of money. For
$3,999, not only is air fare
included, but also accommodations
in 3-star hotels (based on
double and at times triple occupancy),
a lot of transportation,
daily breakfasts, welcome and
farewell dinners, and a large
amount of sightseeing tours and

And that’s the case in all of
the other trips. The prices differ
for each program; Greece costs
$3,599, Prague/Venice costs
$3,499 and England/Ireland
costs $3,999. For each program
prices are subject to change.
These prices do not include air
departure tax, textbooks and
class fees.

Financial aid is available for
those intereted in attending one
of these programs. Contact
Dennis Schroeder at (818) 240-
1000, ext. 5433, for more information.

For more information on the
study abroad programs visit the
Study Abroad office in
Administration Building Room
145-C. The phone number is
(818) 240-1000, ext. 5718. The
program’s Web address is
and the e-mail is
[email protected]

Leaver is always looking for
ideas for new study abroad trips
and is open to suggestions from

He looks at travel this way:
“Are you going to have stories to
tell your grandchildren?”