What did you do this summer? Attend class on the side of a volcano? Work with a German student affairs organization? Curate an exhibit of 19th-century French paintings?
Those are just some of the hands-on, real world experiences that Florida State University students took advantage of during their summer break.
Internships, service learning, undergraduate research and international study can enrich students’ college experience, develop their skills and talents and broaden their professional network. In fact, research shows that participation in high-quality experiential learning improves students’ academic performance and post-graduation outcomes.
That’s why Florida State recently became the largest university in the country to adopt an experiential learning graduation requirement for undergraduates.
And, summer is the perfect time for FSU students to make the most of these types of opportunities. Here are a few of their stories:
Thelemaque, a sophomore majoring in psychology and family and child sciences, traveled to Dresden, Germany, with Beyond Borders, a short-term cultural exchange program coordinated by the Center for Global Engagement that gives students the opportunity to develop a global mindset and intercultural communication skills.
She was one of 10 FSU students who took a two-week trip to Dresden, to work with Studentenwerk, a state-run nonprofit student affairs organization in Germany.
Last spring, Beyond Borders students were enrolled in a one credit-hour course to prepare them for their international experience. During that time, German students from Studentenwerk spent two weeks on FSU’s campus as part of the exchange.
Thelemaque said her time in Dresden opened her eyes to new opportunities and different perspectives.
“I never knew anything outside of Florida, so having the chance to go to another country and see what the different social issues are and how people reacted to them and what was the same was really eye opening,” she said.
The group also visited Gorlitz, Berlin and Poland, but Thelemaque said one particularly staggering experience was a trip to a former Nazi concentration camp.
“It was really emotional for everyone,” she said. “We all had a moment and had to come together in the end to unpack the things we’d experienced. You learn about it in a classroom, but it was really emotional being there.”
When Gardner, a finance major, started doing research on studying abroad, he knew he wanted an experience completely out of his comfort zone. When he found the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Immersion program in Bali, Gardner thought it would be the perfect fit because of how little he knew about entrepreneurship or Bali.
Gardner studied alongside other FSU students in Bali, Indonesia, for about a month, taking classes on social innovation and entrepreneurship. But what Gardner enjoyed most was that much of the learning took place outside of the classroom.
“While many classes were held at the homestay, there were other times where we got to have class in cool places, like on the beach or the side of a volcano,” Gardner said.
A large portion of the students’ experience in Bali included a “Social Innovation Sprint,” where they collaborated with the local Balinese Undiksha students to work on design challenges and possible solutions to major issues that the people of Bali face today.
“We visited a variety of social enterprises and socially responsible organizations around Bali and learned about their history, vision and social impact while participating in activities related to the topic at hand,” Gardner said.
Gardner said his experience in Bali influenced him to pursue a degree in the field of entrepreneurship at FSU.
“Coming into this trip, I was fairly confused on what I wanted to do with my life and honestly felt like I was getting very little out of my college experience,” he said. “Not only did this trip spark my curiosity in the field of social innovation and entrepreneurship, but it opened a new door in my life.”
Marino, a senior studying media communications and art history, stayed closer to home this summer and participated in a seven-week internship at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. She worked alongside three other interns to curate the exhibit of posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a popular artist in 19th-century Paris.
Marino said the intern-curated exhibition examined Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters through the lens of challenging the retrospective romanticism that 19th-century Paris is typically given.
“Nineteenth-century Paris is often seen as this really glamorous and beautiful time in history, but actually there was a lot of anti-Semitism and war and poverty going on,” Marino said. “Our main goal was to display as many posters as we could, just to get Toulouse-Lautrec’s artwork out there.”
Along with curating the exhibit, Marino led summer camp tours, worked in the library, archived materials and wrote press releases. Through each of these jobs, Marino said she learned many valuable skills and gained more insight into her future career.
“I improved a lot as a writer,” she said. “We were constantly writing for the exhibition, and the multifaceted nature of the internship really gave me insight into professional experience — what I like doing and what I don’t like doing.”
Marino was nervous heading into the internship, but she credits her FSU education with preparing her for the experience.
“I was working with three other interns who had all graduated, so I was the youngest of the four, but throughout the internship I think that what I learned at FSU prepared me for it. I felt confident that I was able to keep up.”
To learn more about Beyond Borders, visit cge.fsu.edu/beyondborders. For more information about FSU’s International Programs, visit international.fsu.edu. To learn more about global opportunities available to FSU students, faculty and staff, visit global.fsu.edu. For more information regarding internships available to FSU students, visit career.fsu.edu.