FeaturedPulseLong story short, travelers tell their tales

Students, faculty reflect on studies abroad at Center for International Engagement event
Cate CoeNovember 21, 2019373 min
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From a professor discovering a new species in Tanzania to a student interviewing strangers in Copenhagen, the stories told on Tuesday, Nov. 19 in the Ruth Taylor Cafe Theater depicted a broad range of travel-related adventures. Around 20 people gathered for Trinity’s first “Long Story Short: An Afternoon of Storytelling” event, organized by the Center for International Engagement, where they listened to seven speakers from the Trinity community tell a story.

“It’s just so beneficial to share any story,” said study abroad adviser Carolina Fuentes. “Both for the viewers — the people listening — and for the storyteller, I think it connects them both, but it also helps the storyteller make sense of a part of their life. I know it from experience.”

Fuentes’s inspiration to host the event came from associate professor of business administration, Mario Gonzalez-Fuentes, who led a storytelling workshop for faculty earlier this year. The stories told at Tuesdays’s event varied widely, but all shared a unique experience from their travels.

“These stories resonate with me,” Fuentes said. “They allow us to connect with people, slow down from the hectic semester and make sense from our own past.”

The stories could be about anything, but most focused on experiences that occurred while students and professors were traveling or studying abroad.

David Ribble, chair of the environmental studies program and associate vice president for Academic Affairs, shared a story about how he discovered a new species of elephant shrews, which are small insectivorous mammals native to Africa. Ribble spent two and a half weeks in a remote jungle in Tanzania looking for these elephant shrews.

“They really don’t like cages, so we had to set up nets to try and catch them,” Ribble said.

Another speaker at the event was senior Sarah Gorban, who talked about the photo project she undertook while studying abroad in Copenhagen. Similar to Humans of New York, Gorban walked around Copenhagen interviewing and taking photos of strangers and fellow students. She interviewed around 60 people, her conversations with them ranging from five minutes to two and a half hours.

Gorban said her experiences interacting with people proved to be more valuable to than just sharing a picture on Instagram, which she thinks some people are more interested in doing nowadays.

“It’s so important to stop and make the time to really connect with people,” Gorban said.

Sophomore Khalen Haribhai attend the event and was inspired by Gorban’s story.

“I thought it was really cool,” Haribhai said. “I’m studying abroad next semester, so how Sarah talked about just going around and exploring the city alone seemed really cool.”

Senior Lydia Woodruff shared her experiences studying abroad in Germany and a debacle that occurred while taking a train ride back to Feinberg after visiting a local friend. Not only did she forget her wallet with her identification and money on the platform, she overslept and ended up going to a train stop too far.

Unfortunately, this meant that she illegally crossed the border into Switzerland without identification or a ticket. However, with the help from a local she was able to communicate to the border patrol officers her situation. She was met with eye rolls, but made it safely back to Feinberg.

“Almost everything went wrong that day, but human kindness led me back to where I needed to be,” Woodruff said.

Senior Eryka Mendoza talked about her experiences studying abroad in Siena, Italy. In Italy, she initially struggled to connect with her study abroad classmates. However, she was able to connect with other local students and members of the community after on a whim she asked a Columbian graduate student to have lunch together. This led her to meet a variety of different people who were all very smart, genuine and kind.

“I had a wonderful time making friends that weren’t American,” Mendoza said.

Fuentes believes that the value of storytelling expands beyond just understanding a personal experience; it can be applied professionally as well.

“Even from a professional level, storytelling is involved in job applications, resume writing, cover letters and interviews,” Fuentes said. “There’s always some element of storytelling and I think this [event] is a way to get started with all of those things.”

Fuentes hopes to continue doing this event every semester and aims to see more students attend the event in the future.

Cate Coe

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