Leaving Decorah (Temporarily)


Students gathered by the fireplace in the Union to discuss traveling abroad on Luther away programs. Photo courtesy of Verena Mueller-Baltes (‘26)

On Tuesday, February 21, students gathered around the fireplace in the Union to chat about their experiences studying away from Luther or, for those who hadn’t yet, their desires to do so. The event was presented by the Center for Global Learning (CGL) and organized by Off-Campus Programs Advisor Julie Simiele (‘01).  


Simiele created an informal space in which current and former students sat together to discuss the study abroad options that Luther students have. As an ice-breaker, the attendees were asked where their dream destination would be. South Korea, Chile, South Africa, Iceland and Nepal were among the answers. Simiele, who went on two study-away trips as a student herself,  emphasized that students do not have to have things all figured out before coming to talk to CGL.


“I want to remind kids that if they don’t know where to go, they can still come in and just communicate that with us,” Simiele said.


After the introductions,  students interested in the possible programs were able to ask questions to those who already have already studied away. Nathan Behrens (‘23), who went to Washington for a semester to work in a non-profit organization, shared about their experience.  


“It’s like a trial run of a career,” Behrens said. “It feels like a starting job and you have the opportunity to just try it out.” 


Others shared about their trips overseas. Allegra Garcia (‘23) went on a non-Luther trip to India and enjoyed the opportunity to travel over J-Term.


 “I just wish I would’ve brought sandals,” she answered when asked what she regretted not packing in her suitcase. On the other hand, Simiele argued that leaving some space in the suitcase is always a good idea, as students tend to bring back more things than they brought.


After that, Garcia and Behrens mentioned the fear of missing out on life in Decorah. 


“Some people thought I had graduated,” Garcia said. 


On the other hand, both also said that there are new friendships that students can form on study-away trips. Sustainability Fellow Olivia Helland (‘22), went on a study-away trip to Norway when she was still a student at Luther. Helland recalled having a difficult time returning after being close with her classmates.


“At that time it was really difficult to leave Decorah,” Helland said. “In the end leaving Norway with these people was so hard.” 


The destinations for next year’s J-Terms will be revealed on Sunday, March 5, in Valders 206 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.