Erin’s Story- An English student’s study abroad experience with the Los Angeles Film Studies Center.

Erin Wolf
Junior at Whitworth
English Major
Film and Visual Narrative Minor
She is spending her fall semester studying at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center (LAFSC) in Los Angeles, California. The LAFSC is a semester-long program for students interested in finding a career in the entertainment industry. The program consists of an internship with a film company, as well as classes for short film production, screenwriting, narrative storytelling, and faith development in film.


Last weekend I sat on the beach at Santa Monica, camera in hand – a typical film student look. The battery was almost dead, the result of taking nearly 300 photos and videos in the few hours we’d been there. It was a sign that it was time to sit and enjoy what I was seeing with my eyes, not my lens. I was there with three of my roommates, and two of them had adventured onward toward the pier for food while I stayed behind with Alex.

Alex practices flow, which is a form of dance and movement that involves object manipulation (a little like a circus performer, almost like juggling, but cooler), using hoops, poi balls, or a levitation wand. It’s one of those things that looks a million times easier than it is (I may or may not have smacked myself in the face trying).

We’ve just hit the one-month mark of our semester at a film program here in LA. Alongside 21 other students from Christian universities around the country, we’re spending four months taking film classes and completing internships with companies in the real-deal film world at the LAFSC (Los Angeles Film Studies Center). It’s been an amazing month, filled with crowded tourist locations, In-N-Out Burger, beaches, theaters, movie nights, and lots of banana bread (thanks Mom).

But we were warned back in our first week that culture shock might begin to set in after about one month – Los Angeles often feels like a foreign country. As Alex flowed on that beach in the fading sun, she asked me how I felt about LA. Maybe it was the golden hour light getting to me, but I decided to answer her honestly rather than dealing in pleasantries: I love California, despite its traffic and weird trees and exorbitant prices on anything that isn’t an avocado, but I am conflicted. Part of the reason a lot of us are in this program is to determine whether Los Angeles is the place we can see ourselves building lives and careers. If we want to be in the film industry, it’s the place to be, and this program is our door into the business we’re after. And yet, I told Alex, I’ve been struggling with how to reconcile wanting this kind of life and still believing that I will always call the Pacific Northwest my real home. Feeling that I have two lives is odd; is my Whitworth life on pause while I build a new one here, waiting until I get back? Or is this my home now?

I spent the first eighteen years of my life in the same small town, which meant that there was only ever one place I could truly call home. When I got to Whitworth, I built that same sense of home; the house on Stevens Street, the study tree by the library, the same red door to come walking through at the end of every day. And then I packed everything I owned into my little blue Honda and voyaged to a strange land, one where the stars you’ll see are on Hollywood Boulevard and not in the sky, where the ocean is a stone’s throw away. I’ve created the feeling that I am divided between homes, and no matter which one I am in, I will long for the part of me that I left in the other.

The problem, I think, lies in believing that you can only have one home. It’s easier to find one place and stay there, never faced with leaving the people and places you grow to love, and I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to matters of the heart I am often inclined to choose what is easy over what will be worth the struggle. But thinking back to that beach at Santa Monica, watching Alex move gracefully to some unseen rhythm as she found her center of gravity, I can begin to believe that maybe I don’t have to choose. I can be at home in more than one place.

Written by Erin Wolf

There and Back Again: Writing Home from Oxford

By: Kristen Bertsch

I think that stories are the most important things we can collect in our lifetime. The more I explore my life, the more I am convinced that the joy and wisdom of life come through the accumulation of stories. Stories are how we learn about ourselves, others, and the world around us. I’ve said so before. That’s kind of the thesis of my own little blog, which I maintain during my travels . I use this blog to collect my own stories, my own as well as those I pick up in my adventures.

This time my adventures are taking me through Oxford. I’ll be here for three months, studying writing and linguistics (anticipate a future post about language and the formation of meaning). My last adventure took me through six countries in three months, and I spent no more than four days at a time in one place. This adventure is very different. I’ll be existing here for a little while. And that means it’s time to start writing home.Oxford Phtoo Kristen

I mean many things when I say “writing home.” First off, I mean that I will be writing letters to those I left behind in the States–my loved ones who together create “home” for me. As privileged and honored as I am to be taking this opportunity, it comes at the price of a temporary loss of home. To alleviate that loss, I spend my days writing. I write here, in my journal, in my letters, professionally, and academically. It’s what I do and I love to do it. It keeps me connected to my home, reminds me of what I will return to in three months time.

But the writing I do also serves the secondary but equally important purpose of creating a new sense of home where I am now. This is where I talk about storytelling. Narratives are the stories we tell to inform ourselves and others about the reality. The words I write are my narratives, and they inform the reality I am fashioning for myself here. To call Oxford “home,” I have to be a part of Oxford. I have to have stories that put me here and make this place and these people important. I am writing myself a role in the story of this new world with all the people I meet, the places I go, and all the beautiful things I see. Then I will be part of their story, and they will be part of mine. When I write home, I am writing myself “into home.”

This first week has been a gracious adjustment period. Despite having assimilated once before, I am still surprised by my own quickness to goof up here. Last year, in my first week of travel, I severely burned myself cooking, resulting in a trip to the local hospital (the scars are quite charming). This week I have only shattered a glass diffuser, committed two traffic violations, and insulted the tea staff by taking a cup too early. I do think I’m writing myself as a bit of a nuisance. But every home has one. I hope that by the end of the week I will have written myself into waterproof shoes.

To all of those who receive my letters and who read my blog, you are playing a vital role in the confirmation of my home here. Thank you for reading, and please write back.


Kristin Bertsch (’17) is a junior English/Writing major at Whitworth, pursuing a future in graduate school and a career in travel writing. Kristin studied abroad last year in Britain and Ireland and will study English at Oxford University during spring of 2016. In addition to her studies and contributions to the English Department blog, Kristin works as research assistant to English Professor Dr. Pam Parker and as archiving assistant to Library Director and Art Professor Dr. Amanda Clark. Kristin is an active supporter of local art and theater and a frequenter of Spokane Poetry Slam.

Kristin Bertsch (’17) wins Founders Day scholarship 2015

The Whitworth Founders Day Scholarship is an annual scholarship that recognizes two students with high academic achievement who have made innovative and realistic proposals for strengthening an aspect of Whitworth College. The scholarship was established in 1999 in memory of Whitworth College’s founder, George Whitworth.

This year’s winner, Kristin Bertsch said the following about her plans for the next semester:

During the Spring 2015 semester, I and twelve of my closest friends (or so we will be after three months sharing hostel rooms) will embark on a quest through England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, learning the lives of the people in their respective geographic contexts. Our learning will enable us to use art, history, economy, and literature as frameworks for understanding the unique and intertwined cultural histories of the region.This blog will function toward two ends: firstly, to keep those at home abreast of the happenings on our journey; secondly, and perhaps more importantly, to awaken us all to the beauty of life as it manifests in underappreciated ways. This blog is for me, as a way of recording my adventures. This blog is for you, so that you might feed your own soul which pines after the beauty of life. This blog is for whatever goodness can be derived from it. I hope My Awfully Big Adventure will speak to yours.
A native of the Spokane area, I am currently in my second year of study at Whitworth as
kristinan honors student of English Literature, with special focus in Women’s Studies, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Art History. My participation in the Britain and Ireland Semester Program is generously sponsored by Whitworth University, the U.S. Department of State, and the Benjamin A. Gilman Foundation in partnership with the Institute of International Education.
Congratulations Kristin!

Jan Term Flashback: London by Nick Avery, ’16


People walk around London at a hurried pace, which is why tourists are easy to spot. Weighed down by the history and culture of the city, they are sluggish, contemplative, and absolutely oblivious to those pushing past, whether it be school kids walking to the National Portrait Gallery, shop attendants on a quick tea break, or actors rushing off to their next career-making audition. Yet, despite the constant prodding of more experienced city-goers, tourists are propelled by some driving force to see everything London has to offer at their own pace.

One night my roommates and I participated in the Ghosts by Gaslight walk that wound its way through West End. In the midst of a discussion on how Ann Boleyn holds a record for the most sighted ghost in London, our tour guide halted at a pre-determined location and began an off-script commentary on the malleability of London’s milieu.


Indeed, under the right light the city can become anything. Refractions cause each experience to become personal. Perhaps, this is why tourists mill about; every scene is arresting because of its distinctiveness.

For me, a college student who travelled abroad for the first time this Jan Term, the view was spectacular even from the cheap seats. Three weeks immediately passed, and I regret not acting a little more touristy.


Nick Avery is a sophomore studying literature and writing at Whitworth University. He is the proud owner of a Netflix account, a 1993 Toyota Corolla, and five tobacco pipes. Nick hopes to pursue graduate school following his education at Whitworth.

Nick along with 23 other students spent Jan Term in London studying British Culture through the Arts, co-led by Casey Andrews and Meredith Shimizu.

Want to experience the British Isles for yourself? Check out the British Isles Study Program coming Spring 2015.  If you are interested contact, John Pell at, or Katie Creyts at

One last reminder, Julia Kasdorf Reading TOMORROW, Feb 25 at 7 pm in the HUB Multipurpose Room. Don’t miss it!


Majors Abroad: Ana Quiring (’14) Blogs About Life in London


EL major Ana Quiring is studying literature and writing at Whitworth University. (Ana is pictured above on Warwick Avenue, the “real-life home,” she explains, “of my long-time fictional characters and imaginary friends.” In the photo below, she befriends the Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park.)

Ana is exceedingly fond of coffee shops, sitcom marathons, and anything to do with Virginia Woolf. This January she is traveling in London with Emily Anderson, a once-Whitworthian who has since transfered. They are busy getting lost and enjoying scones, sometimes simultaneously.

Read about Ana’s adventures on her blog.


Majors Abroad: Sarah Jaymes Kenney (’14) Shares the Green of Nicaragua


Sarah Kenney (’14) is a junior at Whitworth from Spokane Valley. After solemnly vowing to avoid Spanish for the rest of her life, she applied and was accepted to the semester long program at the Costa Rica Center. She’s studying History and English (Lit) and having the time of her life here in Costa Rica!

The photo of Sarah, above, is courtesy of Danny Parker (’15); the photo below, of a drawing from a prison that was used during the Nicaraguan Revolution, was taken by Katie Bergmann (’15).


I was jolted awake as the bus trollopped over a pothole in the road, but it was one of those awakenings where my mind was alert before the rest of my body. Just five more minutes, I thought. But slowly, slowly I remembered that this was the only time I would be on a bus to Nicaragua. So I slowly, slowly opened my eyes.

I wished I had opened them earlier.

Green, green, green all around me. We’d been in a rain forest in Costa Rica, but that one was bulldozed and tailored for the comfort of the people. This was different. The trees hung low against the horizon, colored emerald and evergreen. On the rare occasion when I could glimpse past them I saw that they stretched beyond the distant hills, as if Rapunzel had spread her hair over Europe to Central America and in a rebellious act of her youth decided to dye it green.

This green reminded me of home. I grew up with the forest as my backyard; I went hiking in among the trees and peered past their branches at the sky as a child. To me the green was sacred. Lovely. Peaceful.

Yet as we entered the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, I noticed that the green could conceal as well as protect. Between the lush trees lurked an uneven patch of darkness Rapunzel had missed when she dyed her hair: squatter homes. About five of them  clustered on the slope of a grey-colored river, among jungle plants that grew thick and tall and choked any dreams the residents might have had about providing a backyard for their children.  Smoke rose out of makeshift chimneys that in turn rose out of makeshift tin roofs. But what got me was their size. They were tiny…smaller than the laundry room back at the CRC. A quarter of a tennis court. About the size of a parking space.  And that was somebody’s home—

Before I could fully comprehend the reality of these squatter homes they were swallowed up by the trees, hastily brushed back into the never-ending green mane.

“It’s not easy being green,” a wise frog once said. And now, after seeing the various sides of green in Nicaragua, I’d have to agree with him.

Majors Abroad: Lindsay Pund (’13) Finds Inspiration In Mejia Godoy’s Nicaraguan Folk Music


Lindsay Pund (second row, third from left) is from San Jose, CA but a Northwesterner at heart. She is currently studying at the Costa Rica Center and developing a dangerous affinity for empanadas and plantains. If you’d like to hear more about her and her compañeros’ adventures in Costa Rica, check out her blog.

A few weeks ago, those of us at Whitworth’s Costa Rica Center took a short break from organized classes and headed north to Nicaragua. It was nine days full of bus rides, continual complain-worthy heat and humidity, large bugs, and rice and beans for every meal. It was also nine days full of bus ride music videos, mud facemasks, thought-provoking conversations, and nightly Love Does story time.
We had the opportunity to visit many sites over the course of the nine days, and enough was experienced in our short voyage to Nicaragua to last for a long time. One of the most significant parts of the experience for me personally was our time with Carlos Mejia Godoy (second row, third from right, in the top photo.) Our group had the opportunity to chat with him before his show.
Mejia Godoy is a Nicaraguan musician who became associated with the Sandinista movement fromm writing songs about the workers and revolutionaries. He is also is known for composing a Mass for the working class, the Misa Campesina Nicaragüense.
There were a few aspects of our talk with him that stood out to me. Being rather new to the Spanish language, I struggled throughout the week to understand the Nicaraguan accent. However, as we sat and listened to Mejia Godoy, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy he was to understand because of the way he enunciated everything he said.
Another moment that caught my attention was when the Nicaraguans in our group asked questions of Mejia Godoy. One guy was so delighted and excited to be speaking to Mejia Godoy that it looked like he was going to jump right up and hug him before finishing the question. In hindsight, I think the most impactful part of being with this artist was witnessing his passion for his country and for music. After we finished talking with Mejia Godoy, we took a picture, said our thank-yous, and headed out to the concert. As he performed, his passion for his country and his music filled the room, and by the end of the two hours I was a complete convert to his music.
            As a directionless senior, I found the trip to Nicaragua, and specifically the Mejia Godoy concert, inspiring. It was a needed reminder of the importance of having a passion in life. I believe part of the reason Mejia Godoy and his music are staples to Nicaraguan culture is because he has passion for what he does and he infuses that passion into others when his music is played. If you ask me, I’d say that is a pretty cool legacy

Majors Abroad: Emily Grant (’13) Shares Notes on Nicaragua

Whitworth English Majors

Emily Grant (’13) is 21 years old and from East Wenatchee, Washington.  She is currently studying at the Costa Rica Center, trying to learn Spanish (as an excuse to travel all over Central and South America) and graduate in a timely manner.

Emily recently wrote this creative nonfiction piece after the CRC group’s week in Nicaragua (photo below by fellow CRC student Danny Parker, ’15.)

Whitworth English Blog

Standing at the border is a man waiting to rip you off.  Don’t worry yourself too much about it. It’s going to happen whether you know the exchange rate or not.  And you expected this, so you only handed him a large chunk of your money – but not all of it.  To make matters worse, it’s hot.  It’s too hot.  You want to complain about how hot it is, about how you’ve been ripped off, about how much you hate busses, and Customs lines, and being a tourist, but it’s too hot to complain.  So you just roll up your pants a little more, tuck your meager $12 of Nicaraguan currency into your pocket, and keep going.

You won’t spend your money the first day.  Maybe not even the second or third.  Not that there’s nothing to buy, but you’re not ready to get ripped off again.  Once per vacation is enough of that.  Instead, you walk around in your sweaty clothes, looking at museums and prisons, trying not to pass out in the heat.  There are so many interesting things to see and do!  you think to yourself.  … if only I could do all these things, and not be so hot.

You will hear about the FSLN.  You will hear the name Daniel Ortega, but only about a tenth of as often as you hear about Sandino.  You will speak to a man who was in both of the wars; he will tell you the truth about it, and you may feel as if you are witnessing a profound moment, or you may not.  You will see culture, architecture, a dump.  You will play with children who live in the dump, and talk to girls who could have wound up working there.  You will buy a beer and listen to a man who might just believe Jesus lives in the dump, too.

Finally, before you go, you will spend your money.  You will not get ripped off.  In fact, most of the vendors will cut you a deal, because they feel sorry for your inability to barter.  You will pack your new trinkets with your smelly clothes and get ready to say good-bye.

And you won’t realize it until you’re home, until everyone asks you, “¿Cómo le fue?”  that all you want to do is go back.

A (Post)Conflict Post from Northern Ireland

Supported by a generous Lilly grant, Professor Casey Andrews joined fourteen scholars from Lilly Network universities in the United States on a summer seminar for three weeks in Northern Ireland.

Whitworth English

The group was based at the Corrymeela Centre in Ballycastle—so far north that on clear days (there were two of them) you could see Scotland.

Whitworth English

This idyllic location has been a resource for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland since the 1960s. Their mission is to bring together people affected by the Troubles—the 30 years of bloodshed (roughly 1968 to 1998) among Catholic Nationalist Republicans and Protestant Unionist Loyalists.

The first week of the trip was sublime, featuring a poetry reading by one of the greatest living poets, Michael Longley.

Whitworth English

For his beautiful, bitter, engaging take on life as a Protestant in Ireland’s conflict zone, check out his poems “Wounds” and “Ceasefire.”

This week also included witnessing the Orange Order celebrations on July 12 when Protestants display their cultural pride (read: anti-Catholicism). In Belfast at midnight, bonfires fill the city as Protestants sing paramilitary songs and torch tri-color flags of the Irish Republic:

Whitworth English

And one ignited:

Whitworth English

Following these somewhat frightening displays of celebration plus aggression, the seminar met with peace activists, lecturers, and “direct actors” (i.e., members of paramilitary groups like the IRA and the Ulster Defense Association). Below, a Protestant paramilitary mural in the Lower Shankill area of Belfast:

Whitworth English

For a few more literary connections, Professor Andrews recommends the following books and films:

Troubles by J. G. Farrell, winner of the “Lost” Man Booker Prize for 1970, is a blackly humorous look at the origin of the Conflict beginning in 1919.

The Truth Commissioner by David Park is a lyrical, suspenseful 2008 novel that imagines a Northern Irish Truth Commission as in South Africa—with complex and disastrous results.

The difficult but deeply rewarding 2006 Ken Loach Film The Wind that Shakes the Barley is a great starting point for learning about the Conflict.

Paul Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday (2002) offers a look at the harsh British response to the Catholic civil rights movement in Derry City, 1972.

Casey is working on an article about Steve McQueen’s 2008 film Hunger depicting the self-starvation in 1981 of IRA prisoner Bobby Sands played by a striking Michael Fassbender.

Below, the Bobby Sands mural in a Republican area of Belfast:

Whitworth English

And finally, Pete Travis’ shocking film Omagh (2004) about the horrific 1998 bombing of a small town by members of the Real IRA.

Amidst the intense learning experiences, there were occasional times of relaxation, as well.


Majors Abroad: Caitlin Wheeler (’11) Teaches in Thailand

Caitlin Wheeler (’11) recently sent us an update from Thailand. Caitlin is shown above with a krathong, which she describes as “a candle set on a decorated slice of banana trunk which is pushed out onto the water to send away bad luck/thoughts.” She also sent the photo of the Thai countryside.

Dear Whitworth,

I have been living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for 10 months now, RDing and teaching English in a Christian University here. I want to tell you what Chiang Mai is.
My main mode of transport here is a bicycle. The first time I rode it in the city, a Thai man stopped his work to look up at me and shout “Hello!” For some Thais, it’s the only English word they know. It’s loud, surprising, and round-voweled, a little proud, but above all, familiar. I heard it and for a moment I expected that when I looked to the caller I would be seeing an old friend. Despite most Thais’ struggles with English, I’ve found that it’s far more uncommon for me to go a full ride without hearing a shout in my own tongue than otherwise.
This is Chiang Mai. It’s the old cleaning woman insisting I ask for my 25 baht in Northern Thai, repeating the correct words for me until I catch on. It’s the kitchen staff telling me, with giggles and no shame, that my love of Thai tea is going to make me fat. It’s my new roommate slipping her arm around my waist on the second day, just because. It’s my dorm boss giving me medicine and saying “this will fix the diarrhea” when I tell her I am sick with a headache. Chiang Mai is familiarity in what is entirely unfamiliar.
Chiang Mai is also a retreat for hundreds of missionaries. I’ve begun to learn the reason. Leaving college, for me, was a difficult goodbye, one with which I am still making peace. Many of the people who come to Chiang Mai have faced far more terrible goodbyes: sometimes permanent ones and some of them not by choice. They come here for a retreat from goodbye. Chiang Mai is full of leaving. It is a city of these goodbyes. But in its core, in its culture, Chiang Mai is that first hello.
Hello for now,
Caitlin Wheeler