Senior learns value of home while traveling abroad

Elyssa Parnell Staff Writer

October 4, 2013

NEWBERRY — Realizing that the term “home” is about who you surround yourself with, Kaleigh Margita, a senior at Newberry College, was able to experience studying abroad to France this summer as a part of an international research program.

In November 2012, Margita applied for an international research experience for undergraduates. Some of the locations applicants were applying for research included France, Japan, the Netherlands, and Germany. Out of the many applicants who applied, a ratio of one out of every seven were chosen to participate.

Margita spent May 17 through Aug. 3 working on organic electrochemical transistors after being chosen to work at The Centre Microelectronique de Provence, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines de Saint Etienne in France.

Aside from being in a foreign country, a new experience for Margita was working in a “clean room,” where she said she had to wear a bunny suit while working on her transistors project.

“Transistors are sensitive to light particles,” Margita said, explaining the bunny suit. “It was exciting to be able to work in a new environment.”

Living in the southern tip of France for the summer, Margita explored the surrounding areas with other student researchers on the weekends. Visiting Venice, Italy, Brussels Belgium, Paris, and Barcelona, Spain, Margita said over the course of the summer, she visited four countries and about 20 different cities.

Traveling by train, car, bus, plane, boat and bikes, Margita said the experience was almost surreal, being able to see sights from her favorite movies, and experiences other cultures.

“It was like you wanted someone to pinch you because you were actually there,” Margita said.

Another learning experience Margita enjoyed was spending a week on Porquerolles Island, participating in a workshop with Cornell.

“There were nine nationalities and six languages represented in the lab,” Margita said. “It was cool to see how all different types of people can work together efficiently, but provide different perspectives.”

Perspectives of home

One of Margita’s favorite places she visited was Gorges de Verdon, where she took part in Bastille Day on July 14, their version of the American July 4 holiday.

“It was a cool experience to see how another country celebrates Independence Day,” Margita said.

Sensing that the American research students missed home, Margita said some of the French students threw them a barbecue, hoping to ease their homesickness.

Overall, Margita said the experience broadened her opinions on people traveling to other countries and on those from other countries coming to stay in the United States. She said it was incredible to see how well different people can work together to accomplish a common goal.

“Until you go to a foreign country and have to learn a new language, you don’t truly understand,” Margita said. “You want people to be nice to you.”

Margita said her experience has also made her more globally aware, respecting that each place she visited had their own culture, history and traditions.

“No matter where I was, I realized that the people made the place home,” Margita said. “It’s a mindset.”

Although she loved her experiences abroad, Margita said she truly realized there is no place like home.

“I’m thankful Newberry has been my home for the last four years,” she said.

Elyssa Parnell can be reached at 803-276-0625, ext. 108 or at