When Sara Frakes is asked about her Monmouth College experience, the theme of breaking out of her comfort zone comes up more than once.
“I didn’t expect to go abroad when I first thought about being in college, but I’m so glad I did,” said the junior from Carthage, who was a Fulbright International Summer Institute participant in Bulgaria last August. “I was exposed to so many different people that I wouldn’t have ever met. There were professors from Bulgaria and Pakistan, and students from all over – Russia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan.”
Frakes was accompanied on the trip by three other students – Lukas Devlin, Joe Hasenstein and Kaylin Smith – and by associate dean Bren Tooley.
“One of the classes that I’ll definitely remember was a peace and conflict class, where we focused on the Middle East conflict,” she said. “It was interesting to hear the perspective of the students from Pakistan and Afghanistan – two of the countries directly involved in the conflict. I got a much better understanding of what’s going on over there.”
Frakes said she was encouraged to go on the trip by her parents.
“I’m a first-generation college student. My parents had to make a lot of sacrifices to get me to college. They helped me see what an opportunity it would be to have study-abroad experience like Bulgaria. I would never have the opportunity to do something like that otherwise.”
Although she was very satisfied with her time abroad, students don’t have to leave the U.S. to break out of their comfort zone, Frakes explained.
“The way I define liberal arts is that it encourages you to go out on a limb and try new things and take classes that might be out of your comfort level,” she said.
Part of Frakes’ immersion in liberal arts has come as the publication editor for the college’s Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research. Frakes reads student essays from peer institutions in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) on topics representing disciplines across the curriculum.
In the classroom, one of her favorite liberal arts experiences was the course “Race and Ethnicity,” which she said tied in well with her two weeks in Bulgaria.
“The class covered how different ethnic groups come to the United States, and how we try to assimilate them and get them to conform, but their cultures still exist.”
While in high school, Frakes originally planned to visit another ACM school in Illinois, but she was encouraged by one of her teachers, MC graduate Pat Raftis ’05, to consider Monmouth. She enjoyed her visit so much that she canceled her other visit and “knew Monmouth would be where I was going.”
Frakes came to campus as a political science major, but she switched her focus after having a good experience in the entry-level psychology course.
“I started to see all the things that I could do with that major, and I just decided to run with it,” she said.
Within her major, Frakes has enjoyed learning about the “unhealthy” elements of the American lifestyle in her “Health Psychology” class, and she’s also been introduced to the emerging area of positive psychology, which involves the health benefits that optimistic people have over their pessimistic peers.
She also helps tutor psychology students, which calls for her to be aware of individual studying methods.
“Some students are visual learners, and some are auditory,” Frakes explained. “I need to understand that and come up with techniques that will work best for each student. One thing that I find very helpful is to get the students to apply the subject matter to their own lives. That helps make the concepts more real to them.”
Frakes, who is also working toward a human services minor, plans to get a master’s degree in college student personnel, then pursue a Ph.D. in educational leadership, with the goal of helping college students focus on academic success.
Although she hasn’t pursued those graduate courses yet, Frakes was asked what advice she could currently share about succeeding academically.
“It’s important to find the time to sit down and make yourself do work,” she replied. “You have to keep yourself motivated in whatever way you can.”
And, she might have added, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb when choosing classes or extracurricular activities.