BSM Students Study Abroad

Many students travel during winter to take a break from the cold Minnesota weather, but usually, students try to come back once school starts up again to avoid making up classwork. Mimi Goodwin and Oliver Bastian, on the other hand, missed their entire first semester of Junior year at BSM and decided to instead study abroad.

Bastian decided that he wanted to be abroad in Chile because of a year living under COVID restrictions. COVID-19 was a sudden shock for the entire world that shifted the way that everyone lives. About a year after it entered the world, Bastian felt that he needed a change from the pandemic way of life. “COVID kind of put a wrench in everyone’s world, and I felt like I just needed a change of pace, a change of scenery,” Bastian said.

For Goodwin, COVID was a minor factor in why she felt that studying abroad in the Bahamas would be the best decision. “I was struggling in school and it was COVID and I just kind of wanted to do something different. And I’ve never been able to learn super well in the classroom…I actually found out that this might be a really great opportunity for me,” Goodwin said.

The application process for both programs was lengthy and included multiple tasks. Goodwin and Bastian had to write essays, have good transcripts and submit letters of recommendation. “It was a pretty hefty process, but I do think it prepared me for college,” Goodwin said.

The hardest part of being abroad for Goodwin was the occasional homesickness that would hit her in waves throughout the 100 days abroad. “I missed my space. I missed my room. I thought, what’s going on with homecoming or basic school events? I’d always have to tell myself that I’m getting an experience that anyone would love to do and it just kind of took me some time to get that perspective,” Goodwin said.

However, Bastian did not have much homesickness while he was away. He spent the first eight weeks of the program in Idaho. The next six weeks he traveled with the same group to Chile. He wishes that he could have been able to spend more time in Chile than he had and was able to travel and experience the entire country.. “I wish I was there longer just for the experiences, and I wish I could see more. I was really restricted when I studied abroad. I wish I could have seen the entire part of Chile I was in,” Bastian said.

The interactions I had with [locals] and being in the city, being a part of the culture was interesting and really fun. And I got to speak to residents there, which was really cool.

— Oliver Bastian

When one studies abroad, it is only typical that they might feel a bit of a culture shock from being in a different country. Goodwin noticed that in the Bahamas, people take life at a much slower pace and do things quite differently from Americans. “There were definitely times where we were like, Okay, wait, this isn’t socially acceptable here. We need to be a little bit more respectful, but it was definitely an eye-opener to see different customs,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin’s school structure was significantly different from how BSM has its classes. One major difference was that she was able to participate in activities such as scuba diving for her marine ecology class. The school’s curriculum included many different physical challenges that they had to accomplish by the end of the 100 days in the Bahamas. For example, she had to train every morning so by the end of the semester she would be able to swim four miles. The program drew attention to aspects of life that are not normally mentioned in traditional school settings. “…they emphasize a lot about leadership, life skills, and environmental sustainability,” Goodwin said.

Bastian did not have the same culture shock that Goodwin experienced. His classes were in English, and the major change was the material moved at a much faster pace. The program would take breaks for outdoor excursions such as kayaking and backpacking. The students also had visits to the local town. “The interactions I had with [locals] and being in the city, being a part of the culture was interesting and really fun. And I got to speak to residents there, which was really cool,” Bastian said.

One way Bastian was able to experience Chilean culture was through the food. It is common to have tea multiple times a day, so Bastian got used to having tea with most of his meals. He has carried this tradition back to Minnesota because he has tea more often now than he did before his trip. Regarding food, dinner was the time that Bastian got to experience the Chilean lifestyle. “We had a family make homemade, traditional Chilean dishes,” Bastian said.

Goodwin had mixed feelings when she came back from being abroad. Classes are not as engaging, and winter was hard after the sunny Bahama weather. Bastian noted that the workload at BSM is also much more intense than it was in Chile. But staying social was the key to transitioning back to BSM without too much difficulty. “I’m going to all the sporting events, really enjoying those. It’s just good to be back,” Bastian said.