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Dear students: get outta town

February 22, 2010

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. -Miriam Beard

Exiting the Pucará de Tilcara, Argentina. This journey helped me see the light.

Back in 2006, I had a life-changing experience: husband and I wandered for a couple of weeks through Argentina. While I’d been abroad before, this was my first time traveling without an agenda in a non-English-speaking country. I can’t even begin to describe the subtle effects this experience had on the way I view the world and my life. (It’s what has helped me to “see” Scottsbluff and to write this blog.) I returned home with a drive to help others grow through travel, and I left a solid lab technician job for a one-year appointment in a study abroad office.

When I was preparing to move to Scottsbluff, I searched the website of Western Nebraska Community College to find out whether there was a study abroad program that I might be able to glom onto. Alas, the only links I found were for a generic clearinghouse and information for international students studying here. I assumed there was no program.

Surprise, surprise — last week I saw advertisements for a fundraiser to support WNCC students traveling to Spain this summer. I still can’t find information about study abroad opportunities on the WNCC website (other than a rather negative-sounding student handbook), but at least now I know the college supports it. WNCC’s 2010 self study includes the statement that “WNCC
supports study-abroad opportunities” and mentions that 60 (!) students have studied abroad through WNCC in the last decade.

I know that one of the perceived barriers to studying abroad is the cost, particularly for community college students, so a fundraiser is a great idea. I had to check it out!

The culinary staff at the Gering Civic Center pulled together a menu of Midwestern-palate-friendly tapas. (Note: enunciate carefully when you speak of spending an evening in a tapas bar.)

Tapas olives á la Gering: marinated with citrus rind and cumin seed.

Two pros from Fort Collins and two students entertained the audience with their dancing. (I love watching Spanish dancers, both those with and without vertebrae).

The dancers' flouncy skirts are fun.

Generous businesses and individuals from around the community contributed items for a silent auction.

This student-made piñata was my favorite item. I lost the bid, unfortunately.

The event had a great turnout. The ballroom was full, and many of the silent auction sheets had bidding wars going. The scale of this fundraising event and the support from the community impressed the heck out of me.

I’ve heard it mentioned a few times that people in this area have a hard time thinking outside the box. If that’s true, perhaps it’s due to the homogeneity of the region, which rarely confronts people with new ideas. It’s been shown that studying abroad improves creativity and problem-solving ability. This summer, several students will return from Spain to western Nebraska with new skills that may enable them to see the potential of the panhandle in a new light. This region, this country, could use more creative thinkers like them.

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Stacy Wilson permalink
    February 22, 2010 11:32 am

    Thank you so much for coming and for introducing yourself! I’m very glad the event turned out so well! I thoroughly enjoy taking the students to study abroad – always an adventure! 😮 I can attest to your comment about how studying abroad fosters creativity and problem-solving skills!! I studied abroad for two years when I was younger and have taken many trips with students over the years and have GREAT problem-solving skills! 🙂 ha ha ha! You failed to mention that it also fosters great PATIENCE and understanding. 😉
    Looking forward to talking more with you. Thanks for blog! I’m going to pass it along…
    Stacy 🙂


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