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Learn how three upcoming abroads are extending education beyond the classroom and out into a world of endless possibility and discovery.
DOMINICA: Ecology, Conservation and Economic Development
In January, students of many different majors and academic backgrounds will embark on a two-week trip to Dominica to explore the pristine beauty and culture of this island nation. Students will study the effects of Dominica’s growing ecotourism and other economic developments on the island’s environment.
In addition to exploring these important issues surrounding the conservation and preservation of Dominica’s ecosystem, students will also have the opportunity to meet with the Carib peoples and tribe representatives, gaining a broader perspective on the country’s culture and values.
The question posed to students for this abroad is, “How can we have beauty, nature and culture without despoiling it through commercial exploitation, and yet still be economically self-sufficient?” Biology professor Scott Eckert, one of the program’s leaders, believes Dominica is the most beautiful island in the Caribbean, “with a relatively small human population, unspoiled forests, black volcanic sand beaches and incredible coral reefs all overtopped by seven volcanic peaks,” he said.
Eckert and biology professor Chrissy McAllister have both worked in the field of conservation, as well as having led several abroad programs in the past, including the Peru abroad and Yellowstone National Park field programs. Eckert expects student to come away from this abroad with a better understanding of what conservation looks like in a developing country. Students will also get to tap into their more adventurous side as they hike and explore the rugged terrain of the Waitukubuli National Trail.
Eckert is eager to share the island he loves so much with his students. “After spending more than 30 years working throughout the Caribbean, Dominica is one of my favorite islands,” he said. “I’m most excited to share this island gem with our students, and to help them understand that despite its insular nature, the island is affected by the greater world around it.”
ARGENTINA: Learning to Tell Another’s Story
In the spring, a number of students will begin their journey to a place best known for its natural wonders, delicious cuisine, and colorful culture. This trip combines the use of language and media to further the student’s understanding of people in a different culture. The abroad will be led by mass communications professor Paul Van Slambrouck and Spanish professor Cecily Lee.
The first stop on the map is Argentina’s urban capital, Buenos Aires, where students will have the opportunity to speak with journalists, historians, political scientists and other social leaders of the city. The hope is that students gain a broader understanding of what it means to be a global citizen as well as the role of media in this country, particularly as it approaches national elections in 2015.
After two weeks in Buenos Aires, and a trip to Calafate in the far south, students will venture west to Cordoba, where they will focus their studies on culture and Spanish. Lee hopes students will gain a greater appreciation for what makes Argentina and its people unique. She also hopes students will learn to embrace both the cultural differences and commonalities they experience. “We want them to notice that our oneness is about unity, not sameness.” In addition to this, Lee said she expects students to “develop the skill of intercultural competence needed to navigate effectively in the global workplace.”
After a trip to Iguazu Falls, the group will head south to the mountains of Bariloche, where they will continue learning about Argentine culture and working on their communication skills. Later on in the trip, students will take a camping trip in the breathtaking mountains of Bolson.
Another exciting element of the abroad is homestays with native Argentinian families in which students will have the opportunity to completely immerse themselves in the Latin American culture. “One of the things that I am looking forward to the most during the abroad is being able to do two homestays with two different families,” said sophomore Andrew Kratz. “I am looking forward to seeing what everyday life is like for the different families we stay with, being able to improve my Spanish and hopefully being to create a bond with the different families.” He went on to say, “I want to have an experience that will push me, but I also want it to be a fun experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
INDIA & NEPAL: Gaining Compassion Through Understanding
Twenty-one students are about to take a journey to India and Nepal, and learn to better understand two distinctly different cultures by connecting with real people and finding ways to tell their stories.
Senior Tommy Sebring is enthusiastic about what new challenges the trip will bring. “I’m most excited for having my view of the world be flipped upside down,” he said. “Going abroad to India and Nepal, two countries with very different living conditions than here, will give me a greater understanding of what a large portion of the world lives like. With greater exposure to that, I feel that I will gain a greater understanding and a greater sense of compassion.”
Sociology professor Sally Steindorf is teaching an ethnography course in which students will complete a storytelling project during their stay in India that highlights some of the key contemporary issues of the country. With the help of a translator, students will interview and document stories from their homestay families and other people they come into contact with on the abroad. Instead of a traditional slideshow, students will present their findings and new insights through the use of video content that will be compiled into a more creative presentation for campus viewing.
“Something we’re really emphasizing on this trip is for students to venture out from what’s comfortable,” philosophy professor Chris Young said. This is something he hopes that students will learn to do while living in Nepal. He is excited for students to literally step outside their comfort zones as they challenge themselves physically and mentally as they trek through the Himalayas. They’ll spend twelve days in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas and will hike a total of around 90 miles during the trip.
Their guides will be women from the Three Sisters Trekking Company, which is connected with an NGO called Empowering Women of Nepal. This company trains women to be trekking guides in order to support themselves in a predominantly male industry. Students will have the opportunity to talk with these incredible women about their experiences and incorporate their conversations into their storytelling project. This trip should be a truly eye-opening experience for students looking to broaden their cultural perspective.