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Students Venture Overseas for Foreign Language Immersion

October 8th, 2008

By Kaitlyn Czajkowski

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727

Senior John Curry in Russia

About twenty Patrick Henry College students dispersed across the globe this summer to master a foreign language as part of their academic requirements at PHC. Students majoring in Government or Journalism often choose to immerse themselves in a foreign country or full-time language program in order to fulfill their needed twelve credits of a modern language. This year, their destinations ranged from Russia and Germany, to Egypt, Costa Rica, and California.

Senior John Curry spent over two months overseas this summer, studying the Russian language. “Nothing can replace the chance to be in the country of the language you study,” Curry said.

The advantages of traveling to another country to learn the people's language are many. Living in Russia gave Curry the chance to understand the unique Russian culture and the inflection of the language. “I heard [Russian] every day spoken by native speakers all around me, on the radio, metro, and the street,” he said.  

Ashlynne Meiklejohn, a sophomore and a Government: Strategic Intelligence major at PHC, went to Germany for the “24/7 language experience.” She had always liked the German language, but jumped at the chance to go to Germany when she learned that another PHC student and a faculty member would also be in Germany.

“If it hadn't been for [my professor] picking me up on the airport and getting me to the train station and on the right train, I would have been lost, like many of the other students were,” she said.

Meiklejohn lived in Germany for one month, immersing herself in the German language at the Goethe Institute and living in Schwabisch Hall, which is in Suddeutschland. She found the experience both educational and soul-broadening. Her favorite moment of the trip was just standing by the train’s open window and smelling the mountain air, flowers, and pine trees. “It was the most amazing air I have ever smelled,” she said.

Curry’s experiences in Russia have also been exciting and varied. He helped with building renovations in a Moscow church, attended a Moscow soccer game, and even escaped an attempted mugging in St. Petersburg.  

Rising Junior Luke McNamara, who spent his summer in Monterey, California, studying Chinese believes that the academic rigor of PHC prepared him for his language program. “You eat, sleep, and breath your language,” he said. “They aren't lying when they say it's intensive, with five hours of class every day and around four hours of homework.”

Starting this fall, 2008, students are able to fulfill some of their language requirements on-campus in Russian language courses taught by Dr. David Aikman, former senior and foreign correspondent for TIME Magazine. Many are taking advantage of the opportunity. Nonetheless, PHC students all agree—a foreign language immersion program is an invaluable experience for students.

“The world is a complex place and you can't properly appreciate how it works through five-minute reports on CNN,” Curry said.