WINFIELD - After spending time studying abroad, four Winfield City High School graduates discussed the experiences they had overseas and how those experiences have impacted them.
Some highlights include how they engaged with new cultures, were able to contribute to important causes and got to experience famous landmarks.
Cole studies culture in Peru
Hallie Cole graduated from WCHS in 2016 and is a junior at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss. Cole is pursuing a degree in accounting and had the opportunity to travel to Peru through an honors program.
“I was able to study abroad because I am a centennial scholar in the Gordy Honors Program,” said Cole. During the months of May and June, Cole traveled to Peru with other students from the honors program.
Cole did not select the location of her study abroad program, but said she was happy to get to go to any location, since her trip was paid for by a scholarship through the honors program.
“I had so many incredible experiences in Peru. I went surfing, hiked Machu Picchu, went sand-boarding in the desert and even had a fake Andean wedding,” said Cole.
Cole said she experienced true culture shock over the lack of clean water in the South American country.
“I couldn’t even rinse my toothbrush in the sink,” said Cole.
“I had to constantly think about water. I was having to buy water by the gallon every few days, which was almost impossible the last week of my travels because we were so off-the-grid.”
Cole said she was only able to shower once during her final week in Peru. Some of the other students traveling with Cole became ill after rinsing their toothbrushes in a sink.
“It was basically like they had a stomach virus for a few days,” said Cole.
Cole visited Lima, Peru’s capital, along with other cities, including Cuscu, Puno and some islands off of Lake Titicaca.
The culture differences in Peru that stood out to Cole the most were the language barrier, which sometimes made regular communication difficult, and the fact that Peruvians do not use their hands to eat food—not even sandwiches, according to Cole.
While in the country, Cole attended a Peruvian culture and learning course at Universidad del Pacifico in Lima.
Here, Cole said she was able to work with Casa Ronald, which is part of the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
As a volunteer, Cole provided manual services that the facility could not otherwise afford. Largely, this involved landscaping, gardening and painting.
In a research paper Cole wrote following her experience, she points out that the level of poverty she witnessed was striking. For the people in underdeveloped areas, each day brought new hardships.
“When I say hardships, I don’t mean domestic violence or something like that—I mean the struggle of providing the basic necessities,” said Cole.
Cole said the experience helped widen her perspective of different cultures and mature her as a young leader.
Cole is the daughter of April and Greg Cole of Winfield. The couple has another daughter, Hillary, 24.
Hatfield visits Greece and Italy
Winfield City High School 2016 graduate Alexandria Hatfield participated in a summer study abroad program called the Lead Abroad Organization in which she traveled in Greece and Italy.
Hatfield is a senior public health major at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After her graduation, Hatfield plans to pursue a career as a physicians assistant.
While abroad, Hatfield participated in some courses that raised awareness for sex trafficking, child slavery and civic engagement. The program also had a service portion in which Hatfield gained some hands-on experience working with the local Salvation Army.
In addition to service, Hatfield said that getting to experience some of the world-famous landmarks of Rome was an experience of a lifetime.
“I didn’t think I could ever be more impressed, but we then traveled to Rome where there is history in every step. The Pantheon, the Piazza, the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain are just a few of the great sites I was able to check off my bucket list. I learned so much more by being there, experiencing the culture and seeing the history books come to life,” said Hatfield.
In Greece, Hatfield was able to swim out in open ocean and experience the naturally occurring hot springs. According to Hatfield, the water was so clear that she and other students on the trip were able to see through it as they swam.
“The view was like a postcard and it’s a memory I will never forget,” she said.
Hatfield said she had once-in-a-lifetime experiences on this trip, including bungee jumping at the Corinth Canal in Corinth, Greece.
Describing the experience, Hatfield said that it was both nerve-wracking and exhilarating.
“I didn’t think I could leap off, but it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done so far,” said Hatfield.
Engaging with locals and experiencing a new culture were eye-opening experiences for Hatfield as well.
“The real-life lessons were made with engaging with local people and cultures,” said Hatfield.
“I feel so blessed to have been able to experience this study abroad trip with my friends. It changed my way of thinking about other cultures and people. I made life-long friends with my traveling group and with local people I met along the way.”
Hatfield is the daughter of Dr. Jason and Emily Hatfield of Athens. The couple also has an 18-year-old son, Cade, who is a senior at Athens High School.
Bryant studies historical Scotland
Bethany Bryant attended a study-abroad history program over the summer in Scotland, in which she and other students worked at the Highland Folk Museum, in addition to traveling to other historical sites.
Bryant is a sophomore at the University of North Alabama in Florence and is pursuing a degree in history and political science.
According to Bryant, the museum commemorates the lives of Scots from the 1700s all the way to the 1950s.
The experience was historically rich for the students, as they learned how to take care of an open-air museum.
Bryant said that the group of students was able to watch a re-enactment of the Jacobite Uprising, a series of very violent wars in 1745.
Following the re-enactment, the students toured the Culloden Battlefield, which was the scene of one of the bloody battles of the uprising.
“The battlefield is where the last battle of the Jacobite uprising occurred. On the battlefield that I stood on, more than 1,600 soldiers were killed in less than an hour,” said Bryant.
Bryant said she had not had the opportunity to study Scottish history until her time abroad and that being on the battlefield was surreal.
“To be standing on a battlefield at Culloden where the lumps in the ground from mass burial sights are still prominent is a feeling that I will never forget,” said Bryant.
“Everyone leaves Culloden as a different person. So many died there in under a hour.”
The group made several other museum stops, as well as spending some time working in the National Records of Scotland, which handles civil registration, national archives, historical records and the census.
“We were able to transcribe documents from the 1400s,” said Bryant. “I learned a lot about working in an archive, as well as how meticulous the job is overall.”
One of the unique highlights of the trip for Bryant was that England’s Prince William was visiting the country at the time and she was able to get a glimpse of him.
For Bryant and the other students, the trip was full of new experiences, both studious and recreational.
This included visiting a stone circle (a prehistoric monument of massive stones erected in a circle), enjoying the country’s beautiful outdoors and visiting castles.
“I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences I have ever encountered. I would encourage everyone to study abroad. It is one of the cheapest ways to travel the world,” said Bryant.
Bryant is the only child of Bobby and Gina Bryant of Winfield.
Kemble studies public relations in Europe
As a public relations major, Ericka Kemble went to Sweden and Denmark to study entertainment in other countries this past summer.
Kemble, a 2015 WCHS graduate, is a senior at the University of North Alabama.
During the trip, Kemble and the other students visited several museums and the capital building in Stockholm, Sweden.
As the group traveled, they learned from both English and Swedish professors about the entertainment industry in Europe.
Kemble especially enjoyed visiting some of the centuries-old castles in Sweden.
“We visited Kalmar Castle, which was really beautiful and one of my favorite stops,” said Kemble.
As part of the entertainment industry study, Kemble visited a recording studio.
“The professors who led this trip really value the experience students get from exposing themselves to other cultures rather than spending their entire visit in a classroom,” said Kemble.
“We walked miles upon miles around these cities, tried new foods, learned how to use public transportation and met people from many different countries.”
The trip also provided many opportunities for fun outside of studying. Kemble and other students attended the Redbull Breakdancing semi-finals in Malmo, Sweden, as well as visiting a food truck festival and more castles.
Kemble said that the people she met in Sweden and Denmark were overwhelmingly kind.
“Almost every person we talked to was super-friendly and more than willing to help us. I’m still really impressed by how many of them speak multiple languages,” said Kemble.
Kemble said she was grateful that so many people spoke English, as there was almost no language barrier.
In stark contrast to students who visited a third-world country, Kemble said that she was overwhelmed by the beauty and cleanliness of Sweden and Denmark.
“I believe the Scandinavian area is often voted the happiest place on Earth, and that doesn’t surprise me at all. The people were really well-dressed for the most part, and the cities in Sweden were also all incredibly clean. They take pride in their environment and it’s noticeable,” said Kemble.
Kemble said she would highly recommend that other students take the opportunity to study abroad if it presents itself.
Kemble is the oldest child of Scott and Bonnie Kemble, of Winfield. Kemble has three younger brothers—Spencer, Nathan and Seth.
Spann studies global citizenship
in South Africa
On a trip that was filled with many firsts, Emily Spann spent much of her time studying global citizenship and civic engagement in Cape Town, South Africa, through the Lead Abroad program.
Spann is a 2016 graduate of WCHS. She is currently a junior at Auburn University, majoring in communications and minoring in business.
Spann communicated that the segregation that still permeates the area was one of the most eye-opening aspects of the trip.
While the scenery was iconic and beautiful, Spann said the separation of races and vastly different economic situations between whites and blacks was very apparent.
“While flying into Cape Town you are treated to a dramatic scenic arrival with panoramic views of jagged peaks, pristine farmlands, linear vineyards, vast blue bays, and then a shimmering city with the iconic Table Mountain backdrop,” said Spann.
“But as the plane lowers, you get a glimpse of a different side of the city—a patchwork of densely packed, makeshift houses on flat, infertile land, far from the commercial hub of the city.”
According to Spann, these townships are the homes of the real Cape Town residents and the racial dividing lines are as vivid as ever.
Spann said she learned a lot about the previous government of South Africa, which created the racial divisions she observed.
Some of this learning included a visit to the prison where former South African President Nelson Mandela was held for decades in his fight for democracy.
“I got to see a really neat piece of history when we took a boat out to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spend 18 of his 27 years in prison. We got to visit the prison on the island, where we met a former prisoner and got to see Nelson Mandela’s cell,” said Spann.
Spann and the other students on the trip also spent time in the townships, interacting with residents, doing crafts with the children and providing meals.
During the eight-week trip, Spann and other students did crafts and face-painting in schools.
“I was in charge of face-painting. All the boys wanted Spider-man face paint, which is where having a little brother came in handy because I actually knew what that looked like,” said Spann.
Despite the extensive service and civic study, the trip also included many recreational opportunities of a lifetime.
Spann said that she went skydiving, repelling, snorkeling with seals, bungee jumping and even cage diving with great white sharks.
Spann is the daughter of Kathryn Webb and the late Johnny Micheal Spann. Spann has an older sister, Alison, and a younger brother, Jake.