Magic in FlagSHIP

FlagSHIP students gather while studying abroad in Tanzania, Africa—photo courtesy of Skylar Pittman. FlagSHIP, one of Flagler College's core programs, focuses on Study Abroad and collaborative, community-based courses.

By Chloe Smith

As traditional education methods begin to phase out, modern approaches toward learning are being prioritized within higher education. Flagler College has followed suit, but one program in particular, FlagSHIP, has stood out among its student body as exceptionally impactful.

“It was just so crazy,” sophomore Skylar Pittman said. “I never thought I would have an experience like that.”

FlagSHIP, one of the three pillars of Flagler College’s signature CORE Experience, stands for Flagler Sophomore High Impact Practice. The program allows second-year students to focus on real-world learning to help prepare them for life outside of college.

According to Question the Quo’s June 2023 report, 80% of high school students believe it is essential to have hands-on or on-the-job learning opportunities as part of their post-secondary education — a 14% increase since 2022.

The higher education landscape has recently taken on a new form, with modern universities, like Flagler College, providing more progressive teaching methods for incoming and current students. Through hands-on experience and experiential learning, Flagler’s FlagSHIP expands students’ critical thinking, problem-solving and other skills.

Pittman, who traveled to Tanzania, Africa, for her FlagSHIP, said the experience was incredible.

“It pushed me way far out of my comfort zone, which was really beneficial to me. That’s what I like my travel to do,” Pittman said. “It was really cool to see the differences, not necessarily the pros and cons, but the difference in how their communities are versus how we kind of lack a sense of community.”

Whether traveling abroad or taking an on-campus course, students can understand better the diverse cultures, communities and groups around them.

During Pittman’s course, for example, she immersed herself in one of the famous tribes of Africa, the Maasai people.

Maasai warriors perform the Adumu dance, a traditional Maasai dance that includes jumps and chanting—video courtesy of Skylar Pittman.

“We stayed in the mud huts that they constructed,” Pittman said. “It was like a resort-style. So it was beautiful, but we got to see their cultural dances and everything. And it was at sunset, and the colors were so vibrant. … I’d never, ever gotten to experience anything like that.”

Given the opportunity to see the world through a new lens, students often finish the program having experienced something extraordinary.

Sophomore Hope Siner, for example, swam with whale sharks in La Paz, Mexico, during her FlagSHIP.

“It was just so cool seeing them there, and we were so close, and they’re like these massive animals,” Siner said. “I think, at one point, there were four of them swimming around us. Like that was crazy.”

A whale shark swims near La Paz, Mexico—video courtesy of Hope Siner. 

Siner described it as her favorite moment from the trip.

“It was mostly adrenaline that was pushing me through,” she said. “It was like I was on a high of just like, ‘Wow, what are we doing right now?'”

Beyond swimming with the gentle giants of the ocean in Siner’s program, several other FlagSHIP courses allowed students to be face-to-face with some of the Earth’s most majestic creatures.

Pittman reported being surrounded by a herd of elephants and witnessing the circle of life within a pride of lions during a two-day safari. She also swam with an enormous group of sea turtles, which she said was one of the highlights of her trip.

A herd of wild African elephants walks through the semiarid grassland in Tanzania, Africa. Photo by Skylar Pittman.

“I like animals, but it was never something that I was like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be the highlight of my trip.’ But then we actually experienced it,” Pittman said. “Getting to see those animals interact naturally in the wild was incredible. You learn about those things in science class, but actually getting to see it happen was just amazing.”

The program by Flagler often pushes students out of their comfort zone, which, although intimidating, was equally rewarding.

“I think going to a country where you’re not met with some of the accommodations that you would be used to in the U.S. and having to understand and change that mindset of ‘You’re not without, you’re just living in a different way,’” Pittman said. “It was such a huge thing to me because it was definitely an adjustment.”

Since completing the program, students are readjusting to their everyday lives in various ways. Some are seeking similar adventures to the ones encountered during FlagSHIP.

“Recently, I’ve been itching to go outside or go to the beach or just do more risks and stuff like that because I did definitely do a lot more adventurous stuff there,” Siner said. “And I’ve just been wanting to do more of that more recently.”

Other students returned with plans to use their new knowledge and experience to initiate positive change.

“All the teachers who work there are locally sourced. Everybody is. It’s just really sustainable within that community, which is super, really, really cool,” Pittman said, referring to the locally-led Simba’s Community Center in Tanzania. “And I thought that was awesome, and I could bring back to the nonprofit work I do here.”

FlagSHIP students dove into an unknown world this past January, gaining a new perspective on life that will continue to shape them even after college.

Sophomore Jeanne Tissot, who took an on-campus course, confirms this. Her course titled “Stages of Life: A Bridge Between Generations” examined the condition of aging in the U.S., allowing students to “probe cross-cultural differences along inter-generational lines” and develop meaningful relationships with Independent and Assisted Living Community residents.

“It was such a heartwarming and kind experience that I will never forget,” Tissot said. “I felt so inspired and changed after the course ended. It made me want to go out there and meet new people from any age and any background.”

To learn more about Flagler College’s FlagSHIP, visit

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