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Winter Study Abroad Menu Grows

students visiting Middle East landmarks

SAU students in the Middle East desert.

February 2016 | by Amanda Bertolozzi


A total of 64 St. Ambrose students participated in five faculty-led study abroad trips over winter break. That's a 50 percent increase over the number of students who earned credit through winterim study abroad opportunities in 2011.

 Ryan Dye, PhD, director of the Center for International Education at St. Ambrose, was particularly excited about the varied and robust menu of opportunities. Included were trips to Israel and Palestine, Rome, Ecuador, India and Greece.

"Student demand is high for winter study abroad programs," Dye said. "With many students' academic or athletic schedules, winter study abroad just makes sense."  

That's why it also makes sense to offer strong learning opportunities. "The number's are great," Dye said. "But the quality of these programs is what is really phenomenal."  

The trip to Rome led by Rev. Robert Grant '80, a professor of Theology, and Art Department Professor and Chair Kristin Quinn, "has become a St. Ambrose institution," Dye noted.

Meanwhile, the Ecuador excursion offered course credit for students in four different disciplines - geography, writing, education and speech-language pathology. It was offered under the leadership of retired Professor of English Bea Jacobson, PhD, Professor and Director of School of Education Tom Carpenter, PhD, and David Krupke, an assistant clinical professor of speech-language pathology, and alumnae Susan Wiley '11 MSLP.

Led by Associate Professor Johny Augustine, PhD, Master of Social Work students took a biennial trip to witness social work practices in Kollam, India, a city on the coast of the Arabian Sea. Next year, students will be able to study Hinduism in India under Professor Carl Herzig, PhD.

Theology professor Micah Kiel, PhD, led a consortium class that included three St. Ambrose students on a study abroad trip to Greece.

Dye led the winterim study abroad opportunity in the Middle East along with Middle East Institute visiting scholar Alex Cicelsky. Dye intends for the trip to become an annual offering.

"Isreal is not a place where most universities are leading study abroad programs, " he said. "Ours was a well-balanced look at the region in terms of perspectives and I am proud we are able to do this."

Senior Sophie Foreman was enrolled in the two-week study abroad trip to the Middle East.

"The idea of going to such a historically violent and conflicted area made me a little nervous," Foreman said. "So, naturally, I had to go."  

Foreman and her fellow travelers visited the Arab Education Institute, snorkeled in the Red Sea and visited Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial museum, along with countless other explorations.

 "My experiences on the trip broke down many cultural barriers and preconceived notions." Foreman said. "I came home with a renewed sense of our connection as human beings."

Junior Maureen Gardner traveled to Ecuador.  "I had always wanted to study abroad but was afraid to be gone a full semester," Gardner said. "I had also heard great things about Ecuador, and was eager to explore a different culture."

While there, Gardner lived with an Ecuadorian family and was completely submerged into their culture. She experienced an Ecuadorian New Year, and also tried the popular Ecuadorian entrée, cuy, or guinea pig.

 "My host family spoke mostly Spanish, so I also had to learn Spanish in order to communicate with them," Gardner said. "I felt like after three weeks, I was able to receive the full Ecuador experience."

As an early graduation present from his parents, senior, Joshua Hopper joined the study abroad trip to Rome.

 "Since I am a music major, getting the experience of other cultures is priceless," Hopper said. "One thing leads to another and affects every facet of our life, so it's important to know where we come from."   Hopper was also able to visit numerous churches in Italy and admire their beautiful architecture.

"I found it fascinating how the architecture permeated through many of the designs of the older buildings," he said. "My biggest educational takeaway, however, was the fact that our world is huge. You have to do and see as much as possible."

Dye said the growth of winter break study abroad participation is part of an intentional university focus on expanding students' understanding of the world.

"Students are definitely getting more involved with study abroad." Dye said. "They're becoming more aware of the opportunities that exist at SAU, and they're beginning the planning process earlier."

At least one new opportunity will be added to the winterim study abroad menu next year. Director of International Studies Duk Kim, PhD, is planning to lead a group to South Korea. Kim's study abroad trip, From Hiroshima to Pyongyang: Nuclear Politics in Korea and Japan is unlike any before.

The trip will enrich student's awareness of the prospects of nuclear war in the 21st century. It is offered to students from five other universities as well as SAU, and can help create friendships outside of the Quad City area, Dye said.

"Study abroad is a such a wonderful way to enhance university education and experience, and the process isn't that hard to complete," Dye said. "There are so many affordable opportunities."

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