In her travels across the country and around the world, Rachel DeLuca always manages to make herself feel right at home. The junior communication sciences and disorders (CSD) major from Little Falls, N.Y., has studied in a variety of off-campus locations, including Alabama, Thailand, and Mexico, and each time, she has found a way to adjust to her new surroundings, although she admits that it hasn’t always been easy. “Transitions can be difficult for me,” she said.
This past fall, however, it was smooth sailing as DeLuca went to Copenhagen, Denmark, and later captured her experiences in an award-winning essay. Her piece was selected for an Intercultural Leadership Platinum Award by the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. The honor, the highest awarded by the Institute, recognizes students who go above and beyond their experience in the classroom while studying abroad in Denmark. DeLuca certainly did that by cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for her host family and organizing a public forum about the U.S Presidential election in November, among other activities.
As for the trip, DeLuca thoroughly enjoyed herself. “The people of Denmark believe in ‘the good of all,’” she said. “It is a less-competitive, more laid-back pace; a very trusting society.”
DeLuca was especially struck by Denmark's approach to education. “In one of the classes I took, we learned a lot about the perceptions of children with special needs,” she said. “We spent time in a ‘forest kindergarten,’ where the wilderness served as the classroom. It was very interesting, very different from the United States.”
While in Denmark, a country slightly smaller than the state of Florida with a population of about 5.5 million, DeLuca also took a variety of other classes, including Danish language, photojournalism, and Scandinavian children's literature. In addition, she met with cochlear implant teams to gain a greater understanding about how medical professionals approach the process internationally. The topic is particularly interesting to DeLuca, who plans to pursue a career working with individuals who are hearing impaired.
In assessing the value of off-campus study, DeLuca believes that such opportunities facilitate personal growth. “You're out of your element so you have to figure out things on your own,” she said. “I'm now a lot more capable of diving into new challenges and so thankful Wooster has given me these opportunities.” Her experience in Denmark was particularly influential. “It shaped my life for the better,” she said. “I am going to take a lot of the values from their culture and apply them to my life."
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