New programs help Albion College students explore the world

By Ward Mullens

Luke Rivard had not traveled very much before he decided to pursue his music education at Albion College.

“I had never traveled outside of the country,” said Rivard, a junior music performance major from Wilson, Michigan.

Izzy Endsley, a first-year student from Marshall, had traveled extensively overseas.

“I have been to Ireland, France, Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom, mostly on school trips because I love to travel but don’t have the money to do it on my own,” said the physics major.

Rivard and Endsley have new stamps in their passports now thanks to Dr. Clayton Parr’s first-year seminar on Vienna and Albion Go Grants. Endsley was in Parr’s first-year seminar, and Rivard participated through the music major colloquium course.

“The course is designed to connect the things that they are learning in class with direct experiences,” said Parr, professor of music. The trip with Rivard and Endsley included 16 other students, visiting professor of music Ji Hyun Kim, and Parr’s wife and occurred during the recent winter break.

“They get to experience the history and culture and music and they learn tips about how to travel as well,” said Parr, who has traveled with student groups numerous times in his 11 years at Albion.

The Albion Go! Grant program awards up to $2,500 per student to support them participating in off-campus intensive experiential learning opportunities like the trip to Vienna. The Go! Grant is administered through the Center for International Education, and more than 100 Albion students have benefited since the program was launched in 2022.

Another perk that Albion students enjoy is the new Albion Explorer Free Passport Project. Made possible by an alum who knows the power of global experiences, Albion students now have both financial and administrative help to get a US passport for free. More than 50 students have applied for free passports since the project began in fall 2022.

“I had never traveled outside the country. I would have been lost and scared if I had gone by myself. The grants are amazing,” said Rivard. “I was free from money anxiety. I was able to enjoy the trip more.”

“I was able to splurge a little bit more than I would have had I not had the grant,” said Endsley. “On other trips, I didn’t buy souvenirs because I was worried about the money. This grant gives students a chance to travel outside the country. I don’t think you would get an opportunity such as this anywhere else. I have friends at other schools and they travel, but it also costs them a lot more.”

“I was kind of pinching myself because it was hard to get the students to believe that this was real and that the college could support them. They kept looking for the hitch and there was not one,” said Parr.

A 48-hour flight delay left the group in Frankfurt for two days on the way to Vienna.

“We missed a couple of days because of the weather,” Parr said. “We arrived in Vienna Saturday and our luggage got there Sunday. But everyone rolled with the punches and kept things positive.”

“I am very grateful to Dr. Parr for all of his help,” Endsley said. “He had it all covered, even when things didn’t go our way. He speaks German so that helped us and he waited in very long lines when we were trying to figure things out.”

“There is nothing you can do about some things when it comes to travel,” Rivard said. “You cannot change the weather, but Dr. Parr was so well prepared and worked very hard to make this a good trip for everyone. If ever I travel again I am better equipped to deal with challenges.”

The best part of the trip for Rivard was hard to pin down, it was either the chocolate shop where he enjoyed an apricot-filled cake covered in chocolate or the music shop he found with volumes of sheet music.

“I was like a kid in a candy store,” Rivard said of the sheet music store.

For Endsley, it was harder to choose between seeing everything that Vienna had to offer, including the Christmas markets and museums, and the connections she made with people.

“Luke and I went to the Christmas market. It is like a Frankenmuth on a much larger scale,” Endsley said. “There are handmade crafts and food.”

Rivard and Endsley both said that they got a lot out of the trip, but they both said they each got something they did not expect, a new friend.

“The last night of the trip we had dinner as a group and each of us had to say a few words,” said Endsley. “Before the trip, I didn’t have any close friends here and was nervous about giving up my break but it was so amazing and I became really close with people on the trip.”