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This guest blog was written by Christopher Razo, a current senior from Chicago, IL.
During my first three years at Furman, I have earned the opportunity to participate in two study away programs. The first program that I participated in was the “May by the Bay” San Francisco- May X, as a sophomore. The second program that I participated in was the “Washington Experience” semester away program during the spring of my junior year. Having the opportunity to interact and explore in person the adventures that we read about in the classroom is a reality at Furman and offered to any student for the standard tuition price!
Furman is a place full of bright minds and innovative thinkers, but having a chance to study away from Furman’s campus offers students the opportunity to go through a transformative learning experience. Whether a student chooses to spend a semester or a May term away, they will certainly encounter enriching academic experiences.
The May Experience is essentially an optional three week term following the spring semester that allows students to explore topics of interest, within in and outside of their majors, in two credit courses (typically without prerequisites) that are not offered during the academic year. When a student opts to study away from campus for the month of May in programs that explore topics such as the rhetoric of social activism in the San Francisco, religion and politics in Israel- Jordan, or food in Italy, the student has signed up to have an extravagant life experience. Having an opportunity to explore different destinations with amazing professors, is an example of engaged learning at its finest. The programs designed and led by Furman faculty ensures students that they will be receiving the rigorous Furman education while studying off-campus. My professor led the journey when we traveled along the Bay and met with famous activists from diverse groups. I had the chance of meeting NYU law professor Dr. Kenji Yoshino at Stanford, Dr. Clarence Jones at Stanford, David Harris in San Francisco, Chief Chris Magnus at the Richmond Police Department, United Farm Workers in Fresno, and survivors of the Japanese Internment camps in Fresno. Besides the academic opportunities, there is time for students to explore the city they are studying in. During my free time around the Bay area, I would tag along with my professor to small used bookstores in Eureka and Palo Alto and after one month I found myself interested in political commentaries and philosophy books more than ever.
Seventy percent of Furman academic departments require students to fulfill an internship experience credit. As a political science major I had three study away programs offered to me through the department. The programs were academic-internship focused semesters in Brussels, Edinburgh, and Washington D.C. The spectacular aspect about the study away programs within the academic departments is that the professors have the opportunity to customize a curriculum and lead the academic journeys. It is often the case that Furman professors have gone on the same trip for twenty years and are well acquainted with the cities students live and study in. Spending spring ’16 in Washington D.C. gave me the opportunity to live, study and work in the city that contains every branch of government and every government organization that I study in the classroom at Furman’s campus. The unique experience allowed me to study campaigns and elections during the national residential primaries. As a citizen of the Washington D.C. political climate, I also partook in protests, organization meetings, and met with with Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) two politicians I respect and follow regularly.
The greatest impact that I have had from my study away experiences in San Francisco and Washington D.C. was finding out how I want to incorporate the rigorous knowledge I am receiving at Furman into the political realm of our society as it stands today. I am a young Mexican-American from the south west side of Chicago. Growing up I found interest in political corruption and poor education systems because that what I was exposed to, and the corruption had affected my family’s personal life. As a young kid, it was easy for me realize these things early and I have been ambitious with my academic career at Furman to place myself in a position where I can return to the city of Chicago or to communities nation wide like the one I grew up in and be able to assist the young constituents who are effected by local school systems. Traveling with students of diverse political and social ideologies, and professors of great knowledge and experience has opened my mind to the billions of opportunities that exist for those who dare to chase their dreams. I had the chance of addressing the political issues that interest me the most through my media focused internship where I published articles, written while working along side political editors from TIME magazine, journalists from the Miami-Herald, and a former CIA agents.
I recommend studying away because between the ages 18-22, these are crucial years to the development of a person, their mind, body and soul. I believe that it is essential for a student of all backgrounds to use their college experience to explore perspectives on issues they find themselves interested in. A study away program may serve as a life changing experience in that through the program one may find their passion and or the place they would like to live out their career lives. The term could potentially create both professional and personal relationships with our professors who are both well connected and hold a lot of wisdom just waiting to be brought out by a vibrant and intellectual student, a Furman student.