Traveling the world is not everyone’s ultimate passion, but for one Piedmont College student it’s all she has ever known. From adventures near her hometown to long international journeys, she has seen many indescribable sites that will stay with her for a lifetime.
“I have been travelling longer than I have been able to walk,” says Caitlin Parker, a history major at Piedmont College. “At three weeks old I took my first trip to camping on the beach with my family, and at six weeks we traveled to South Carolina.”
On Wednesday, April 17, Piedmont College hosted its first annual Piedmont Research Innovation and Discovery Exhibition in the Swanson Center. This event was held to give students the opportunity to present any research they have done over the year, share unique experiences they have been involved in or present their capstone presentations. It was a huge success with over 130 students presenting throughout the course of five hours.
“Throughout the day, students discussed their research, described how study-away programs broadened their horizon, and performed works that inspire them,” says John Roberts.
These study-away programs mentioned by Roberts are called Maymesters at Piedmont and this is where Caitlin Parker is able to continue her passion of travel, while still obtaining credits for classes. She was one of the many presenters at the P.R.I.D.E event last week talking about Maymesters, gaining the attention of many listeners with her topic “Travelling enhances education.”
“Travelling is just in my family’s blood,” says Parker. “Any chance we get on holidays or time off to spend together we just go somewhere new and exciting.”
Aruba, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands and Arizona are just a few places where Parker has gained new knowledge and experience for her works in history at school. It wasn’t until she came to Piedmont, however, that she was able to travel across the world to England and Peru. Piedmont’s Maymesters are a great opportunity for her to continue to explore areas of the world and learn more about the history of this earth she has never seen before.
“When I was at Buckingham Palace in England, It was completely life changing just to be able to stand in front of something so beautiful,” says Parker. “Being a history major it really helps to see these amazing structures in person to appreciate them and learn more about them. Architecture that has been standing since the Roman Empire has a lot of rich history to it.”
Last year, Parker took yet another chance to see a different area of the world by flying to Peru with the Piedmont College Maymester crew. Having gained new experience in England the year before, she was ready to take on this adventure with a different group of students and learn more about the culture’s in Latin America.
“My favorite place in Peru was definitely Machu Pichu. Sitting on top of one of the seven wonders of the world at 15,000 feet elevation was incredible and something I’ll never forget,” Parker says.
In Peru, there are many different styles of living and a vast variety of how the locals make a living. From farmers to expert basket weavers, Peru has a culture very different than that of America’s and Caitlin experienced it first-hand.
“We saw three women taking the time to hand weave blankets, mittens and scarves out of materials from Alpacas or other mammals,” Parker says. “They talked to us about their traditions and how it relates to their customs in Peru.”
Without Piedmont’s Maymester program, she would never have been able to gain experience for international travel. Parker has become a better world traveler in the past two years and now she can share her stories with the people who taught her the importance of exploring: her family back home. From a young age her mother engrained the importance of experiencing the adventure and encouraged Caitlin to get out in the world.
Parker is a prime example of how people can start to understand and appreciate the differences we all have in culture and ways of life. Once students step out of their comfort zones, they will begin to broaden their horizons and shape the way they live their life.
“There’s only so much a professor and textbook can teach you and once you’re out there on your own experiencing new traditions, you will learn more than you ever imagined,” says Parker. “There’s so much to see beyond campus…beyond the States. You just have to get out there and find it.”