No Substitute for Experience
It takes Jessica Lindoerfer roughly eight minutes to commute from her residence to the Landmark College campus, a fact that elicits a laugh from her as she discusses her new role as Director of Experiential Learning; because the career journey to here has been much longer for this educator, mother, and Jeopardy! winner. (True story!)
Like many high school students, Jessica’s first experiential learning adventure was through a homestay exchange program. Spending two weeks in France then hosting a student back in Connecticut opened her eyes to many of the nuances that separate cultures. “Suddenly, it was like: ‘oh, this is not just from a book.’ It was a whole world of new relationships through communication,” she recalls.
Jessica returned to France as an undergraduate student at Bates College. Then her first job took her overseas to live in Europe while planning tours for high school students, much like her own first experience. “I was in Paris about ten times a year. I got to know all the 2-star hotels,” she jokes. Restless to have more of her own adventures, Jessica left the job and embarked on a nearly year-long backpacking trip through South America.
When she returned to America to work in the study abroad office at Penn State, however, she realized her education was not yet complete. “One of the biggest adjustments was recognizing that backpacking and staying in hostels and taking whatever bus is cheapest and just going on the fly is fine for me, but now I’m in charge of other people, and groups of other people,” she says.
So, it was back to school for Jessica. This time, at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. The school immediately hired her upon completion of her master’s degree and she had been a Program Manager there for the past eight years. She actually worked with Landmark College’s Director of International Studies, Peg Alden, to organize a trip to Ghana during that time. With Peg returning to teaching full-time, Jessica knows she has big shoes to fill.
“Peg has done such an amazing job setting up these programs,” says Jessica. “They’re just beautifully created and everything has been thought through about how to make the students’ experience go well, both in how to attend to individual student’s needs as well as the activities in the program. They’re so interesting and diverse and they’ve made really amazing connections.”
The newly created position offers Jessica an opportunity to broaden LC’s experiential learning opportunities. While she hasn’t had a chance to think too deeply about new directions, she is excited about the value of such programs for Landmark College students.
“Reading a book about the education system in the Netherlands is one thing. That’s a struggle for a lot of people,” says Jessica. “It’s a whole other thing to walk into a school in the Netherlands, and see how their programs are structured and how they move through the school system. To be physically there is so ideal. It defines learning differently in a lot of ways.”