Shannon White ’22
For Shannon White ’22, studying abroad had always been in the cards. He first seriously considered the idea when a travel company presented the opportunity at his high school, but events that compromised international security kept him and other students from going.
White planned ahead, and when choosing Berea, he had tentative plans to take advantage of the College’s generous financial aid for study-abroad experiences.
Disheartened when travel plans were canceled during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, White knew his senior year was his last chance to travel abroad. Having grown up in a family of limited means from Council, Va., he was well aware it was either now or never.
White graduated as a concert pianist in May and not long after boarded a flight to Switzerland to begin a three-week program.
“I had never been outside of the United States before, and when I arrived, the airport was just a bombardment of complex and beautiful Swiss watches,” White said.
As an aspiring watchmaker, he took this as a sign that he was in the right place. He then traveled by bus to Austria, where he was met by his German host, her 22-year-old cat, Jimmy Lee, and his roommate. He quickly recognized he would be learning a great deal of the language, as his host hardly spoke any English.
When recounting the highlights of his trip, one character from his travels stood out—an 87-year-old woman named Marianna Hintondorf, who befriended White.
“I swear she had [more] spunk than every other 20-year-old in the group. She was just full of personality,” White said.
Hintondorf directed the group to a 19th-century cathedral that housed the biggest pipe organ White had ever seen. Half-joking, he said to Hintondorf, “Can you get me permission to play that thing?”
A week later, White had the priest’s phone number, a schedule of what to play and when to play it, and a sense of utter bewilderment. “I still don’t have an explanation for how that happened, but it was an incredible experience.”
As one of seven children, Abby ’23 grew up knowing if she pursued college, she would have to finance it on her own. Having grown up close to Kentucky in Ohio, she was familiar with Berea College and its no-tuition promise.
“I went on a tour with my family, and my parents wisely nudged me when we got to the Francis and Louise Hutchins Center for International Education (CIE). They knew I needed to jump on it, and so did I.”
Abby enrolled in the College in 2019, confident she would pursue nursing, but kept hitting roadblocks with the study-abroad process because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I finally had an opportunity the summer of my junior year, and I wanted to take advantage of it.”
Berea’s CIE was hosting its usual event, “Think Globally—It’s Friday,” on Egyptian culture, food and language. Abby was sold, and applied to go on the trip alongside other Berea students and two members of the faculty, Nashwa Cahill, assistant professor of Health and Human Performance, and Dr. Richard Cahill, professor of history and director of the CIE.
The trip was fully paid for, and Abby got a front-row seat to experience culture outside of her own for the first time. As a follower of the Christian faith, she was especially inspired by and attracted to the religious aspect of traveling in Egypt.
“We attended mass, and I couldn’t understand any of the spoken Arabic language,” Abby said, “but sitting in that moment was so transformative and beautiful.”
Now in her last year at Berea, she is finishing up her nursing degree and reflecting on her experience.
“You never know what groups of people you will get to treat as a nurse, and I’m confident this contributes to my career simply through having a greater understanding and broader world view of people in general.”
Cora Allison ’22
There are few places I’ve witnessed as a foreigner that nevertheless feel familiar—as if I’ve been there before. Italy was that place for me.
As I persisted through my 11-hour flight and the dizzying taxi ride to my flat in the heart of Florence, I was so confused viewing the magnificent and warm architecture whizzing past the backseat window. I felt like I’d seen it before.
My study abroad experience deviated a bit from the norm. I was traveling independently of any program with Berea College, instead enrolling in an Italian university and living alone. To say I had to put on a brave face was an understatement; even as a linguistic nerd and someone who holds travel and novel experience in high regard, I freaked out on a regular basis for the first month as I acclimated to the immense change.
Last fall, I studied Italian and took four other classes that would contribute to the completion of my degree in Peace and Social Justice in May 2022. My school, Lorenzo de’ Medici, allowed me to cherry-pick courses on global conflict, women’s studies, the history of prostitution in Europe, sexuality, ceramics and yoga to provide the most holistic education possible.
Among the beautiful infrastructure, culture of romance and rich cuisine, the highlight of my trip had to be acting as a cat foster, or “stallo” as they say in Italian. In my tiny flat, above a restaurant named Trattoria CocoLezzone, I had the privilege of hosting Mamma. She had birthed three beautiful kittens prior to her stay with me, and I spent the last two months of my time there co-parenting the rowdy three while I finished up classes.
In retrospect, Italy still feels like a fuzzy dream: a whirlwind of everything I knew, and everything I didn’t.