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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Graduated, but still “going abroad”

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Imagine getting to study abroad twice, once as a student, and then later as an alum; hiking through Scotland’s Western Isles, floating down the Ganges River in India, or hiking the Grand Canyon with Carleton alumni of all ages as your travel companions and Carleton faculty and staff as your guides. Every year Carleton Alumni Adventures runs eight trips—six of them international and two of them domestic—for Carleton alumni, and their families.

“Just like our students, our alumni are very curious and want challenges intellectually and academically. Carleton Alumni Relations is very committed to providing lifelong learning opportunities. Travel is certainly part that—it’s a way that alumni can deeply connect with faculty; a back to learning experience,” said Sarah Forster ’93 and Director of Alumni Relations.

While these trips aren’t cheap, with international excursions costing from $4,000 to nearly $20,000, they are almost always full, and 20% of travelers have participated in more than one trip, according to Forster.

Unsurprisingly, most of the travelers are of retirement age—graduates from the 1960’s or 1970’s. “Not everyone can take two weeks off to spend touring Europe or Asia,” said Forster, “especially young alumni who might not be at a point in their career where they can take that time off.”

Alumni Relations offers domestic programs, which are cheaper and shorter so that a broad number of alumni, from all stages in life, can participate.

In July of 2014, English Professor Pierre Hecker and Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History Lauren Soth led a three-day trip to Spring Green Wisconsin for a weekend of theatre, art and geological study.

This excursion attracted alumni from the 1950’s through 2003, and only cost $225. In addition to Hecker and Soth, trip-goers were lead by two other Carleton alums, a local architecture professor and geologist.

Forster explained that, while Eos Study Tours, a small outfitter, plans most aspects of the trip, there are opportunities for Alumni Relations to make small adjustments in order for travelers to connect with other Carleton alumni along the way.

For example, in 2014, Art History professor Kathleen Ryor led a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. Before the trip departed, a Carleton alumnus who lived in Ho Chi Min City contacted Forster and offered to give a tour and host a reception in a local art gallery.

Eric Hillemann, Carleton’s archivist, accompanied alumni on a cruise to Antarctica in 2006, and will do so again January of 2016, in honor of Carleton’s sesquicentennial anniversary. Hillemann wrote a biography of former Carleton President Laurence McKinley Gould, an epic Antarctic explorer.

Although Hillemann is prepared to share his expertise knowledge about Gould as he did in 2006, he says, “I haven’t done any other planning other than saying, ‘Yes I’ll go!’.”

Hillemann is thrilled to have the opportunity to go to Antarctica with Carleton alumni for a second time. “Going to Antarctica is really amazing. I want to say it was a spiritual experience, and that’s not the kind of vocabulary I usually use, but it really was,” he said, “and, of course, Carleton alumni are wonderful to travel with, just great, great people.”

The Antarctica trip is a cruise and many of the other adventures are as well as that can be easier to accommodate travelers of all ages. However, Geology Professor Mary Savina led a trip to Iceland recently, and felt strongly that the travelers would get more of a cultural experience if they did a land-based tour.

Carleton professors are generally approached by Alumni Relations and asked to lead a tour, based on their area of interest or study, or their experience in leading Off Campus Studies programs. They do not receive a stipend, but all of their travel expenses are covered.

Alumni who have participated in these trips give rave reviews, and many have traveled with Carleton Alumni Adventures more than once. On alumnus, Nancy Hamlin ’55 has gone on eleven trips.

Rich Banyard ’79, the youngest traveler with whom I spoke, recalls one of his favorite memories from his tour of Scotland, involving a Carleton geology professor. “He was trying to lecture to us about rocks, after dinner, and after a fair amount of Scotch whiskey. During my student days, I had attended lectures after a bout of drinking the night before, but I don’t recall having previously been in class with a drink in my hand,” he said.

Banyard is single, and many of the other travelers take part in the trip alone, or with one other person. However, families are welcome to participate.

Beth Boosalis Davis ’70, a former Board of Trustee member, has traveled four times with Alumni Adventures to Alaska, The American Southwest, the Columbia River, and the Black Sea. Her sons, 9 and 12 accompanied her on the first two.

During Davis’s trip to the southwest, her husband suffered from a kidney stone attack and had to be treated in a hospital in Flagstaff for two days. During that time, they left their children in the care of the Carleton group. She recalls, “by the time we rejoined them, they were clearly having a great time without us.”

On the trip her older son met a daughter of Carleton alumni and the two, 13 and 12 at the time, kept in touch for over five years.

In closing Davis said, “the same unpretentious, self-deprecating, humorous qualities seem to be present in alumni of all ages, just as they are in students on campus today. That’s what makes these Alumni Adventures trips really special.”

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