The Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Meet Maria and Denisse, part of the first cohort of exchange students that Washington College has welcomed since the pandemic began
Every year, Washington College hosts both semester and year-long exchange students from international partner institutions. Typically, anywhere from 10-20 students attend through the exchange program.
Maria Boggetti-Sadir and Denisse Rojas Maldonado are current exchange students, with Boggetti-Sadir attending only for the fall semester and Maldonado attending for the full academic year. They are part of the first cohort of exchange students that Washington College has welcomed since the Spring of 2020 when the pandemic began and the program was put on hold.
Washington College has partnerships with over 30 institutions across the globe, which means the College can both send students abroad to these locations, as well as host students from other nations.
Six additional exchange students will be on campus for the spring semester.
“Opening our doors to international students is really built into the College’s mission of fostering and developing global citizens,” said Rebeca Moreno, Associate Dean for International Education, Global Education Office (GEO). “By welcoming exchange students to be a part of our community, we are inviting them to share their skills, their thoughts, their perspectives and their unique experiences with their peers.”
On the flip side, domestic students who travel abroad learn to think in a different way. “They think more creatively about issues in general, and things that affect their community or even their country,” said Moreno. “In this way, you begin to see yourself as a citizen of the world.”
“The beauty of the Study Abroad experience is in gaining a better, deeper understanding of other cultures,” she added. “Through living, studying and socializing in another country, students have access to other people, systems, services and cultures.” Moreno also cites the value of the relationships that students build during these exchange experiences, which can last a lifetime.
Maria Boggetti-Sadir, Argentina
Boggetti-Sadir is leaving Washington College at the end of the semester, but gained much from her experience – including a close friendship with another student from her home country of Argentina. The pair didn’t know each other prior to arriving in Chestertown, but they quickly became friends and then roommates. Boggetti-Sadir noted that they even live close enough that they will be able to continue to see each other even when they return home.
She doesn’t feel that making friends at Washington College is difficult, even for someone who is shy or quiet (which she isn’t!) – largely because there is a large group of international students on campus. And even though American culture is more reserved, she is pleased to be leaving here having formed some close friendships with American students as well.
A junior, she is studying International Relations and will be returning to UCA in Buenos Aires to complete her undergraduate studies. Her career goal is to work in diplomacy, either for Argentina or an international agency. While she will return home to finish her degree, she ultimately sees herself living outside of Argentina, perhaps somewhere in Europe where she can pursue a master’s degree.
She has found that she prefers the smaller campus atmosphere found at Washington College. “Everyone here says hi and knows my name – I like that part,” she said. “You don’t get that at a big university.” She also enjoys the focus on school spirit and social activities.
The academic experience is also very different, with a focus here on a variety of classroom experiences throughout the semester that contribute to your grade in the course – presentations, discussions, projects – versus just one big exam at the end of the term. The classes are also much smaller than what she experienced at UCA.
“All the professors and staff here were always willing to help me,” she said. “I have felt this whole time as if I am at home.”
“The education system here differs is so many aspects,” she said. “In Argentina, you don’t live on campus. Here, you eat with your friends, take classes with your friends and live with your friends in the same residence halls.”
Boggetti-Sadir made a point to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist outside of academics, joining the Water Sports club, taking dance classes, playing tennis and participating in Intramural Soccer – though that particular experience landed her on crutches for four days!
She has had many other memorable experiences, including her first-ever hospital visit – which happened to be on her first night in Chestertown, and celebrating her 21st birthday. “I thought it was going to be one more day, different from how they usually celebrate in Argentina,” she said, “but it ended up being an incredible day surrounded by a lot of love.”
The one thing Boggetti-Sadir really does miss is the food and the experience of sitting down to a meal at home, which often happens at 8, 9 or even 10 p.m. And while she is very close to her family, she said she hasn’t had time to really even miss them.
“I really love the life here – it was better than I expected,” she said.
Denisse Rojas Maldonado, Honduras
Denisse Rojas Maldonado, a senior, is here on a full-year exchange with Nebrija University in Madrid, Spain. She is also studying International Relations, with a minor Conflict Resolution. A native of Honduras, Maldonado will remain in the US after completing the academic exchange at Washington College, moving on to an internship with the United Nations Refugee Program.
Maldonado chose the exchange experience for several reasons, but one is that she simply loves to travel and experience other cultures. “I think it’s important to immerse yourself in the culture and have first-hand experiences,” she said. “This helps you understand why people feel the way that they do.”
Maldonado chose Washington College for her study abroad experience because she wanted to attend a school that had proximity to both Washington, D.C. and New York. Attending a liberal arts college was also attractive to her, particularly the focus on participating and expressing yourself.
Arriving in Chestertown from a big city was a big difference, but Maldonado actually prefers it. “People always assume I like the city better, but no,” she said. “Here I feel welcome. You really get to know people. In the city, everything moves so fast. Here, you share a class with someone and then you share a meal or a coffee. People are always there to offer you something.”
Maldonado has found that the international students form a close bond, and it’s another aspect of the experience that she really likes. “We are all in the same situation, so it’s a shared experience that we all have,” she said. They have taken a few trips, including visiting Washington, D.C. and Annapolis. They also participated in the Intramural Soccer league as a team.
“People who get out of their comfort zone are inspiring to me,” said Maldonado. “I meet people and I know that they are a combination of so many experiences and influences. I also like pushing myself to the next limit and don’t ever want to get too comfortable.”
After her internship with the United Nations, Maldonado thinks her next stop may be Egypt because she really wants to have an immersive experience there as well. As for her career goals, Maldonado’s long-term plan is to one day return to Honduras in a role that supports women.
In the meantime, she’s figuring it out along the way! “I’m way too young, and the world is changing so fast. I really want to be out there and to see the world – not through a book, but experiencing it for myself,” she said.
Maldonado plans to soak up everything she can during her remaining time at Washington College, which has been all positive. “It’s like taking a deep breath here,” she said. “I’ve loved it so much.”