Ever wonder what’s at the end of the world? A group of Susquehanna students found out during the inaugural Global Opportunities (GO Short) experience to Patagonia over winter break.
PataGOnia exposes students to Argentinian culture, biodiversity and natural beauty across more than 3,000 miles from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world.
For senior Riley Mulligan, of Ridgewood, New Jersey, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I always really thought that Europe would be a place that could be attainable to me after graduation and it wouldn’t have taken me that far out of my comfort zone,” Mulligan says. “Patagonia—I don’t speak Spanish, and I knew it would challenge me, so that is what originally drew me to it.”
Nearly 10 years ago, Susquehanna was considered to be the first college in the nation to require every student to have a meaningful cross-cultural experience, followed by scholarly reflection. Since then, GO has made study away accessible to 100 percent of Susquehanna students through many semester-long options, and the faculty/staff-led GO Short programs, which are a minimum of two weeks. The GO Short programs have increased from a few in 2009 to a robust 30, with about 20 operating in any given year. What’s more, all business students studying in the semester-long London Program now complete internships while there.
In a time of geopolitical and economic complexity, cultural competency in the workplace is an essential skill. PataGOnia introduces students to the unique historical, political, cultural, biological and environmental realities that characterize Argentina today. Latin America, including U.S. involvement in Latin American history and politics, is a focus of the preparation discussion. The experience provides lenses through which students re-examine their values and roles as citizens of the U.S. and the world.
Students began their experience in Buenos Aires, where they participated in a scavenger hunt that forced them to interact with the local citizenry.
“It was fun interacting with people. They were very welcoming and open,” says senior Bradyn Natter.
“It was a safe way for us to throw them into the frying pan,” program co-director Harvey Edwards adds.
It was in and around Buenos Aires where students took tango lessons and learned about Argentina’s gaucho culture.
They moved on to Bahía Bustamante, a village in the Patagonian region of the Chubut Province in southern Argentina. Though the village is tiny, it boasts amazing flora and fauna, including a petrified forest and colonies of more than 50,000 penguins.
“I got to see the mom feed the babies—they still had a little bit of the fluffy fur on the babies,” Mulligan says. “I have never seen anything like it.”
They also took part in a service project collecting litter from a beach—80 pounds of it in total, mostly pieces of microplastic.
The experience was eye-opening for Mulligan and Natter, who both admit to being heavy plastic users. “There is more plastic in the ocean than there are fish, and if that keeps going, it will be catastrophic to our ocean environment,” Mulligan says.
“It makes you rethink your own habits and realize what happens after you use plastics,” Natter adds.
But it was their time in Ushuaia that may have been the most memorable.
“The first time we arrived in Ushuaia, I was totally blown away,” says Natter. “It was such a beautiful and scenic place.”
Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego—Land of Fire—and commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world.
“It’s the end of the world,” Mulligan says. “You’re 600 miles away from Antarctica. You can see the Andes Mountains, and they are absolutely breathtaking.”
In Ushuaia, students boated and hiked throughout Los Glaciares National Park.
“I’d never seen a glacier, let alone climbed on one,” says Natter. “When you’re right there, it’s amazing. Huge chunks would come down. You’d hear a loud crack and a loud thud and see huge waves.”
Edwards hopes the experience took students out of their comfort zones and gave them a different perspective on the world in which they live.
“The best classroom in the world is the world, so I advocate leaving your comfort zone and going somewhere else,” Edwards said. “Having a cultural experience changes how you look at the world, yourself and others.”
Intentional programming ensures that students make the most of their GO Short programs. They study away with Susquehanna faculty/staff leading a small group of Susquehanna classmates, all of whom have participated in the program’s preparation course in the semester prior to departure. After an intensive, active program, there is a credit-bearing reflection course in which students optimize their cross-cultural learning. GO Short programs run during winter or summer breaks for two to six weeks and are an alternative to GO Long or GO Your Own Way experiences.