Jeremy Wentzel ’14 – I’ve been trying to pinpoint one specific theme that makes the Wabash immersion experience so great and unique from a social perspective. Having gone on a previous immersion trip to Europe, I believe it’s possible to articulate a specific “slice of life” that is specific to a group of Wabash men overseas.
It should come at no surprise that a Wabash immersion experience, in many cases, is the first opportunity for a Wabash student to travel outside of the United States. It should also come as no surprise that, for many, there is an immediate visible exposure to the new culture. Some students can blend in better than others. However, what I’ve noticed that inevitably comes from this process of cultural adjustment, is that the Wabash man manifests himself in a different way, with a guiding spirit that comes from the college mission statement. To put it more concisely, you can spot a Wabash man wherever you go in the world, but that same Wabash man might not have to be perceived as a stereotypical American.
It comes as no surprise that taking risks is part of the Wabash education, as well as the ethos of many students. In Paris, I have observed a healthy amount of risk taking that transcended cultural barriers. Some risks were in the purview of an American outlook, but more commonly, there were risks taken for the sake of humanity – risks that truly embodied the mission of Wabash College, in a different nation.
Maybe it was the times when students would, out of sheer curiosity and friendliness, talk to strangers on the Paris Metro. The Metro is traditionally silent, but for some strange reason, a group of Americans livened the atmosphere in a tasteful way at various points. Or, maybe it was the time when a student gave up his seat for a couple to sit with each other on another form of public transportation. Generally, the couple would have had to split up to find separate seats. Or, maybe it was the time when I was walking with another group of students in the evening when one decided to strike up a conversation with a gentleman walking his dog. Generally the gentlemen would have not been approached by an American on his evening walk, but the small risk on the part of the Wabash man led to a brief encounter of positive conversation.
These impulses are very specific to a group of Wabash students who find themselves immersed in places they don’t understand completely. Yet, when our power of lingual and cultural certainty are diminished, small risks that enhance humanity sort of filter through. This is another example, to me, of “spreading the fame of her honored name” in a culturally sensitive way, that comes only through immersion learning through Wabash College.