Study Abroad Program sees growth

Posted: Tuesday, 23 August 2011

TROY -- While many college students flock to beaches during summer break, many Troy University students spend their time globetrotting, thanks to the University's Study Abroad Program.

Study Abroad – not only a formal University program but a challenge from its Chancellor, Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr. – allows students to earn credit while experiencing other cultures, a hallmark of TROY's international focus.

This year 91 students have participated in 10 trips with 10 faculty leaders spanning the globe from Central America to Asia, said Dr. Orlando Pacheco, Director of Study Abroad.

That figure is almost double the number of study abroad participants from the previous year, with expanded opportunities currently in development.

Dr. James Sherry, an associate professor of French and coordinator of Modern Languages, led a 10-student, two-week trip through France. His French Culture class visited places of historical interest but was able to focus on French culture. A University pioneer in study abroad, he's led similar groups to the region since 1984.

Another trip through Europe was led by Dr. Dan Puckett, assistant professor of history on the Montgomery Campus. He led a group of TROY students through Western Europe focusing on government and politics. This trip provided an opportunity to see firsthand how the history and governmental relations of Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and France have shaped those societies. For this group of students, the International Criminal Court and houses of Parliament became their classroom while experiencing other countries political transitions.

"Study abroad with Troy University has been an amazing opportunity for me and I am so grateful I was able to go on this trip," said Mary Wright, a junior human services major from Huntsville. She attended the trip as part of a political science course on the Troy Campus.

"I definitely recommend study abroad to provide a wider perspective. I saw, for the first time, how different Europe is from the United States politically, culturally, and socially," she said.

That revelation strikes at the core of what Chancellor Hawkins hopes his students gain from the Study Abroad Program.

"I really think that it's so important for students to understand the global community, and it takes more than just reading about that community. It takes experiencing that community," Chancellor Hawkins said. "It has been a remarkable experience to see these students go away, many of whom have traveled so little, and yet come back not only appreciating the world around them, but, more importantly, appreciating this great country. That's what a study-abroad program produces."

Dr. Judy Van Doorn, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Psychology on the Phenix City Campus, led a group of seven students on an 11-day trip across Switzerland, Italy, and France. Activities were scheduled to allow students and faculty to discover the living differences in multicultural worlds. The focus of the trip was to enhance the study and learning opportunities of cultural and health psychology. Highlights from the trip included Vatican City, the Grand Canal in Venice and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

In June, a group of students traveled to China on a study abroad trip offered through the Confucius Institute at Troy University. The Confucius Institute is part of a global network of more than 204 Confucius Institutes in 50 countries, 56 Confucius Institutes currently in the United States, dedicated to the promotion and development of the Chinese language, education, and cultural business exchange with the People's Republic of China.

The trip ran from June 25 to July 9, allowing students to develop Chinese conversational skills and make visits to historically significant sites. Some highlights of the trip were the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Olympic sites in Beijing.

China is not the only destination where TROY students increased their knowledge of a foreign language.

A 21-student trip to Costa Rica -- the summer's largest Study Abroad group – focused students on Spanish as a Second Language and cultural immersion under the direction of Dr. Johanna Alberich, assistant professor of Spanish. A similar program to Spain also provided students an opportunity to expand horizons.

Still, other students spent 10 days in Rome studying marketing and culture under the leadership of Tina Kimbrel, a marketing lecturer in the Sorrell College of Business. Other trips include learning about public health issues on board a vacation cruise line while receiving biology course credits under the direction of biology instructor Heather Garcia.

At TROY, however, Study Abroad isn't just a summer pastime. In December, a group of students studied for three weeks at the University of Regensburg (Germany) that allowed the group the possibility of completing two academic courses, and established lasting relationships. One of those students was offered a full scholarship to return to Regensburg to pursue a master's degree.

"I am very pleased with my fellow faculty members and the way they handle the program," said Pacheco, who is currently working on expanding the number of exchange destinations offered to TROY students.

"Studying abroad provides both faculty and students quality learning experiences that increase knowledge of a diverse range of subjects. This could allow graduates and professionals the opportunity to gain a higher degree of competiveness in the job market," he said.

Sullivan Award

Troy University students, Chelsea Colvin, Derrick Black and Haley Davies work on a project during a recent study-abroad trip to Costa Rica with Dr. Johanna Alberich, assistant professor of Spanish. Some 21 students studied in Costa Rica with Alberich. In all 91 TROY students participated in Study Abroad programs this summer. (TROY photo)