Two Jackson County women recently traveled abroad as part of a Franklin College program.

Kourtney Settle, a graduate of Brownstown Central High School, visited Guatemala, while Caylie Guinn, a Seymour High School graduate, went to France.

The overseas trips allowed the two to immerse themselves in the culture and history, according to a news release from the college.

Guinn traveled to France in January to study multiple types of literature.

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The class, led by Carl Jenkinson and Richard Erable, offered students a chance to read, discuss and write about literature that deals in some way with French culture from an outsider’s perspective.

Guinn, the daughter of John and Melissa Guinn of Seymour, said the trip to France was the first time she had traveled outside the country.

“It has always been a dream of mine,” she said.

She’s pursuing degrees in English, French and creative writing and would like to eventually attend graduate school to continue her English degree and either become a published writer or go into publishing or professing.

While in France, Guinn and other students and professors, lived in an apartment-style hotel in Montpellier.

The trip also included four days in Paris; field trips to Avignon, Arles, Nîmes and Pont-du-Gard; and a free travel weekend in which she could go anywhere she chose.

“My friends and I went to Venice, Italy, for the weekend,” she said.

She said the course was perfect for her as a triple major because it focused on cultural studies combined with creative writing.

She and the other students immersed themselves in the culture through experiential learning and reading articles on current events/cultural topics. She also wrote poetry on topics such as cafe culture, architecture and relationships.

Guinn said she learned much about French attitudes, including the deep pride the French take in their education, their food and their relationships.

“Here, in America, we strive to be as productive as possible with every minute of our day, the goal often being to make the most money,” she said. “In France, a productive lifestyle does not revolve around how much money one makes, but how rich one’s relationships are, both with other people and with the self.”

Additionally, Guinn said food is a source of both pride and leisure in France.

“While our American attitude is that food is just for nutrition (excluding holidays), the French see food as an entire experience,” she said. “It is completely normal, actually. It is a natural part of the day to spend two or three hours at a restaurant to eat a single meal.”

Adjusting to the low-key, relaxed lifestyle of the French was easy for her, and she also rediscovered her own independence and sense of adventure.

“Getting out of my small-town comfort zone was both nerve-wracking and thrilling, and in the end I became a better person for it,” Guinn said. “Overall, the experience was life-changing, even though it was brief. I strongly believe that an education is not complete without travel, especially travel abroad.”

Guatemala dreaming

Settle, a junior and the daughter of Sherry and Jeff Settle of Vallonia, chose Guatemala because it was one of the warmer places students could travel, and she thought it would be interesting.

The elementary education student said it was her second time out of the country, as she spent some time in Europe when she was in high school.

Settle studied history, Spanish and the commercialization of coffee and chocolate in Guatemala.

Led by Jarrod Brown, an assistant professor of Spanish at Franklin, and coordinated by Agueda Formoso-Mayan, a lecturer of Spanish, the class allowed Settle and 14 other students to live with host families while learning about fair trade and the practices of ethical consumerism in Guatemala.

As part of the program, students volunteered at small, independent coffee farms, where they had the chance to experience firsthand how to cultivate, harvest and roast coffee.

In Guatemala, her host family was with a woman who lived in Antigua, and she shared the space with two other students — one from Canada.

Settle found the culture to be quite different from hers as well as the predominant features of the people.

“I stuck out quite a bit,” she said. “Everyone there is shorter with dark hair and darker skin, and I am around 6 feet tall with blond hair and very fair skin.”

Her favorite part of the experience was being able to have free time to explore the city of Antigua and visit other places there.

“We visited volcano Pacaya and Monterrico, which is a beach, and the Mayan ruins,” she said. “It was a very amazing trip, and I would love to go back.”