Travel Opportunities at Houghton | Highlander Blog

May 29, 2019

One of my first questions when I started seriously considering Houghton was about travel. When I was fourteen, my family went to Germany on holiday. As we sat in a train car on our way to catch a flight home, I remember watching the fields blur by and thinking, “I’m going to come back here.” Although that’s the first moment of wanderlust I can put a timestamp on, the itch to explore the world has been a longstanding part of my genetic make-up. Any college I looked at needed to have some travel opportunities. It was non-negotiable.

Travel at Houghton

At first glance, Houghton didn’t seem to qualify. It was small, community-oriented, and buried in the woods. Most of the student body seemed perfectly content to spend four years on a Western NY main campus. But I quickly realized that impression was dead wrong.

Houghton is small, yes, but that means each student’s travel goals are considered individually. It is community-minded, but its community spans the world. And although its students tend to enjoy living in a rural location, most of them have also enjoyed opportunities to travel a whole host of different environments. In my own limited circle of acquaintances, I have friends who have traveled to the jungles of Costa Rica, the urban landscapes of London, the hills of Eastern Europe and the desserts of Jordan.

Have Dream Will Travel

Travel is such a common Houghton experience, there’s an entire office devoted to it. The Off-Campus Studies office handles travel planning, flight tickets, and all the details that go into a study abroad experience. Karen Hotchkiss, our travel aficionado, coordinates Houghton’s two main study abroad programs – Houghton East Africa and Houghton Honors (which has three separate tracks with three separate destinations) – both of which are a full semester. She also works with shorter trips run by professors, usually during Mayterm (a three-week period at the end of the spring semester) or over breaks. These locations are dependent on the professors who lead them, but in the past they’ve included places like Italy, Vienna, Sierra Leone, Alaska, and Israel.

But the Off-Campus Department offers more than official programs. Part of Karen’s job is to match up interested students with programs run by other colleges or organizations. Spanish majors partner with a program in a Spanish-speaking country to participate in an immersion experience. Other students study in Oregon for a semester; still others take off to Oxford and spend four months in the same university where CS Lewis worked. Again, I personally know people who have participated in all of these programs! If you have a burning desire to see India, Karen can help. If you want to work with a water-rights organization in Indonesia, she can assist with trip details. Honestly, if Antarctica is your dream, she can probably find you some options, or at least a compelling substitute.

You’re not limited to one program!

Here are some of the places that I’ve been able to travel in my four years at Houghton:

1. London, England (Houghton Honors)

Houghton Honors is one of my favorite things about the college. You can find more information here, but the gist is this: the spring semester of your freshman year is devoted to an immersive academic experience, which either takes place in a foreign country or ends with a trip to one. I chose the London Honors track, which meant I spent three months living in the heart of the city, riding red buses and studying the formation of Western civilization.

2. Washington D.C. (Environmental Sustainability Office)

This trip was a partnership between Houghton and a non-profit lobbying group that works to protect the environment. A few students piled into a van and drove down to the capital, where we spent the weekend making our voices heard and talking with our representatives about how to better protect God’s earth. While there, I also got to visit one of my favorite art museums, where I spent a happy morning wandering around Monets and Cassats.

3. Israel (Passages)

This trip is a great example of how things at Houghton tend to work. The Vice President for Student Life knew of an organization named Passages that sends students to Israel, and he also knew I loved to travel. One day, he stopped me in the lunch line to chat about it, since he was hoping to organize a trip later that summer. I got very excited. But then – for a variety of reasons – the trip got pushed to the following year. I instantly knew this wouldn’t work, so I asked him if I could go through the organization independently. He contacted Passages, and got me into one of their programs. Four months later, I was stepping out of the Tel Aviv airport into the Middle East.

4. London, England (Houghton Honors again!)

Each honors program has what’s called a TA – or a teacher’s assistant. They travel with the program, serve as a resident director for the dorm, and help out with a variety of things. Since I had done the program my freshman year, I was eligible to apply. After I received the position, I got to spend another semester in London, riding red buses and helping the freshman navigate their new lives.

Small College, Big Opportunities

When I chose Houghton, I knew about the first opportunity, but I had no idea the rest were in my future too. Shakespeare wrote “though she be little, she be fierce.” Houghton might be small. But its travel opportunities are extensive, and I can attest that they are a valuable part of almost every student’s experience. They’ve been, without a doubt, one of the best parts of mine.

Anna is a writing major and a member of the Class of 2019.