October 16, 2020

Learning Beyond the Classroom: York College’s Short-term Study Abroad Makes Travel Accessible

3 Minutes

After more than 20 hours on a plane, 14 of them in a middle seat, Alexis Czaplinski was exhausted.

She was also ridiculously excited.

In the airport parking lot, she looked for anything to give her a sense of place, to show just how far she’d traveled in those 20 hours.

Then she spotted it — a little bit of writing on a tall wall. It was in Chinese.

A love of people

Alexis always wanted to travel growing up. But, she had a big family, and it just wasn’t something she got to do as a kid. What she did do is help take care of her five younger siblings.

“I was kind of like the boss,” she says.

Anytime one of the kids got hurt, Alexis was there to take care of them. Blood never fazed her, and she just genuinely had a love of people. So, it came as no surprise when she decided to go to York College of Pennsylvania for Nursing.

Alexis is passionate about women’s health and hopes to become a nurse midwife and practice international medicine one day. She knew having experience traveling to other countries would help her achieve her goals. But with the demands of her major, it was hard to consider being gone for an entire semester.

Then she got an email from York College with information on short-term study abroad opportunities.

She was in.

A new perspective

Her first trip was to Costa Rica. That was a life-changing experience, she says.

She came home with a new perspective on life. Experiencing culture different from hers was eye-opening, and she wanted more.

Two days before the deadline to sign up, she heard about another short-term study abroad opportunity. This one was in China.

In June, she set off for the 16-day adventure.

Alexis and her classmates saw temples, hiked mountains, went on guided tours, and saw the Great Wall of China. There was so much to take in.

“You get filled with all this information,” Alexis says.

She learned about different cultures and talked with people about their lives. These trips, the exposure to people who have lived in a completely different way than her, taught her cultural sensitivity.

“In York County, I feel like I’m in a bit of a bubble,” she says.

These trips popped that bubble.

Being present

Many of the temples in China didn’t allow photos. It changed her experience, not seeing the trip through a lens.

“It really taught me to be present in life and while traveling,” she says.

She also started journaling so she can look back at her experiences.

Each time she returns from these trips she feels renewed and refreshed — and ready to plan her next adventure through York College.

“To be able to do these short-term trips,” she says, “I’m so grateful for it.”

A holistic education

None of the trips Alexis has taken have been directly related to her major. But, her love of people is why she went into Nursing. And these trips have given her the opportunity to meet so many people she otherwise would not have.

“It really helps me be more well-rounded,” she says.

The next study-abroad on her list is Cuba. And she’s planning her own visit to Iceland before then. Her passion for travel and experiencing the world has only grown.

“There’s just so much unknown,” she says. “No matter what I try to explore or see, there’s going to be more that I haven’t.”

For Alexis, that’s part of the excitement. To be able to learn and explore well beyond the classroom — and into the world.