Susanna Olson graduated UNC Charlotte in the summer of 2019. Her dream is to become a crazy fun middle school teacher. After high school she moved to Wales to study history at Cardiff University. Studying abroad afforded her the opportunity to compare historical narratives from British and American perspectives. Although she had to return home unexpectedly, her time in Wales impressed her with the value of studying abroad. In July of 2019 Susanna traveled to Jerusalem to participate in UNC Charlotte's Mt. Zion archeological dig. She received a Gilman Scholarship to fund her study abroad experience. Now she hopes that she can help other students at UNC Charlotte connect with the amazing resources available for would-be study abroad students!
Concentration: Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights studies
Graduated: Summer II 2019
Learn More: Check out the blog that Susanna kept while abroad.
Program Name: Israel: Mt. Zion Archaeological Excavation
Program Type: Freestanding Faculty-Led
Semester Abroad: Summer 2019
Susanna's Experience Abroad
Describe your study abroad program.
"I participated in a faculty-led program to Jerusalem, Israel. I worked in UNC Charlotte’s archeological dig site on Mount Zion. UNC Charlotte is the only American university with a license to dig in the old city of Jerusalem. The opportunity to work in such a historically significant area is incredible! I also explored Israel with my classmates and three professors. My classmates and I participated in uncovering history from the ground! We toured museums and debated about the presentation and interpretation of artifacts. We witnessed our professors debating historical narratives right where events took place. We even got to participate in some of those discussions! I have always loved history (I mean, I majored in it!), but on this trip I developed a deeper appreciation for the process of presenting history to the public."
How did this program fit in with your degree requirements here at UNC Charlotte?
"Because the program I chose was faculty-led through UNC Charlotte the class credits transferred automatically onto my transcript. Easy-peasy! The history class credits for this trip fulfilled my final requirements for graduation. I could not have chosen a better capstone for my journey here at UNC Charlotte!"
Describe an obstacle you encountered.
"The biggest obstacle for me was finances. I heard about the Mt. Zion dig my first semester at UNC Charlotte but I did not work up the courage to apply until my final semester. For years I wrote the program off as an impossible dream. In the middle of my final semester I decided that it was a once-in-a-life-time experience I didn’t want to pass up. I found that there are a lot of resources available for students like me. The staff at the Office of Education Abroad were super friendly and helped connect me to scholarships! I received a Gilman Scholarship to fund my study abroad. The Gilman Scholarship is an opportunity I wish I could tell everyone about. The program offers students who are pell grant recipients generous funding to bridge the gap between what they have and what they need for study abroad experiences. I learned that there are unique scholarships just for college students who want to study abroad. While we are in school we ought to utilize the resources available to pursue seemingly impossible dreams!"
What do you wish you would have known before you went abroad that you know now?
"I wish that I had spent more time practicing Hebrew and Arabic before my trip. In the touristy areas most shopkeepers and guides speak English and the signs have English translations. You can survive without learning a second language. However, I cannot overestimate how much residents appreciated it when I attempted to speak their language. We were guests in their country and I wish I had taken the time to respect that fact by learning more of the local languages. I learned a tiny bit of Arabic before going. Just a few words opened doors for me to have great conversations. Honestly, everyone I tried to speak Arabic with was so nice. They really appreciated my trying (even when didn’t do a great job). A little bit of Arabic went a long way. I wish I had learned more. Also, I did not learn any Hebrew before going. I missed a lot of opportunities there."
What part of your experience abroad had the greatest impact on you?
"I think the most important experience was the opportunity to meet residents and talk to them about the realities of their daily life. I enjoyed my conversations with the hotel staff, locals who worked on our dig site, and the store owner who sold me a bottle a bottle of sparkling water each day. Talking to residents impressed me with the importance of engaging with different narratives. The perspective of a 20-year old Palestinian boy and the perspective of an Israeli Army (IDF) veteran may contradict each other, but they are both based in the lived realities of truthful people. I learned so much just by having short pleasant conversations. I hope I can remember their voices and carry them with me."
In your opinion, why should students study abroad?
"Every student has their own academic, career, and personal goals. However, you cannot get around the fact that we all live in a globalized world. Studying abroad fosters intercultural communication and determined confidence, skills necessary to navigate the interconnected world we live in. I believe every student needs a study abroad experience to compliment their education. Studying abroad may be intimidating and difficult at times, but I have never met someone who studied abroad and regretted it."