Destination: Learning Adventure
More Kennesaw State students study abroad
KENNESAW, Ga. (Aug 4, 2016) — When classroom doors closed for the spring 2016 semester, more than 600 Kennesaw State students prepared to strike out during the Maymester and summer for 50 study abroad programs in more 45 destinations around the world.
By summer’s end, some 818 students will have set off for learning adventures abroad during the 2015-16 academic year, up more than 10 percent from 2014-15. Their academic interests and the programs they pursued on six of the seven continents encompass the arts, the social and physical sciences, education and business.
“Study abroad continues to be a very robust area of activity for Kennesaw State students,” said Iyonka Strawn-Valcy, director of education abroad and exchange programs. “More and more, education abroad is an experience that students are considering as essential to enhance their global perspective, not just an option. The more employers and graduate schools highly regard global education, the more we see an increase in student interest from a variety of disciplines.”
Strawn-Valcy also attributes the increasing popularity of study abroad at Kennesaw State to an information-rich fall education abroad fair, the continuing availability of the Global Learning Scholarship, positive reports shared by peers who have gone abroad and to cost effective, diverse and innovative academic and career-enhancing programs.
The most recent destinations and learning experiences included many first-time programs:
- An opportunity for 13 Kennesaw State dance majors to study one of Israel’s leading
repertory dance companies, learn new dance techniques and visit some of the world’s
most historic sites;
- An innovative interdisciplinary program at Kennesaw State’s first campus abroad in
Montepulciano, Italy for 40 global leadership and culinary students who experienced
educational excursions through Rome and the Tuscany region;
- A program giving 15 Latino students a chance to learn more about Latin America and
Latino identity by visiting key areas of Peru, including the Andes, Machu Picchu,
Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, Paracas and Lima;
- The “Best of France,” a guided three-week immersion into France and French culture
through Paris, Provence and the Riviera with excursions to Cannes, Monte-Carlo, Versailles,
Montpellier, Nimes, Avignon and Bagnols-sur-Ceze for 11 students with no prior international
- A six-week, full-immersion work/study opportunity in Hamburg, Munich or Wiezburg,
Germany, for eight non-traditional students who work part time and full time and earn
up to six credit hours in German Studies;
- A Human Rights and International Justice study that took 16 students to the Netherlands and Germany to visit the International Criminal Court, the soon-to-close International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice, correctional and drug treatment facilities, as well as tours of historic sites, museums and other cultural centers in Hamburg and the Hague.
For Octavio Perez, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, the chance to study in Brazil enhanced his cultural understanding and sense of place in the world.
“The lenses through which a student sees another nation might be more in focus than those of a casual tourist,” said Perez, who is preparing for graduate study in cultural anthropology. “As a studentw I had a clear purpose: I traveled to Brazil so I could expand my understanding toward my fellow human beings’ reality, by confronting it with mine within the context of migration”
Perez said he was inspired to study in Brazil following last year’s annual country study program at Kennesaw State, which focused the Portuguese-speaking world, and by a previous course on Afro-Brazilian culture and politics he took from Kenneth Williams, associate professor of anthropology.
“My most memorable experience was to be able to understand my position within the human race,” he said. “I embraced Brazilians and they embraced me back. Language was not a barrier because we as humans are all the same. It was a life-changing experience – an unforgettable journey, which I see as a guiding light toward my future.”
First leg of the journey
Students traveling abroad during the spring and summer (and those who expect to travel in fall 2016) began their journeys with the first mandatory pre-departure orientation conference developed by the Education Abroad Office, a unit of Kennesaw State’s Division of Global Affairs. Designed to supplement the program-specific pre-departure meetings organized by each program’s faculty director, DGA’s pre-departure conference emphasized ways for students to maximize their travel experiences and stay safe. The all-day session included faculty and EOA staff–facilitated workshops on improving intercultural communication skills, maximizing foreign language acquisition, and incorporating an education abroad experience into professional life.
“Students’ safety and security is our primary concern,” said Michael Sweazey, DGA’s director of global operations who works with the education abroad office to manage risks. “While many people have concerns about terrorism and political violence while abroad, the odds that a student might be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get involved in a terrorist attack are far less than other threats. The trick is not to dismiss the danger, but to prioritize it.”
Sweazey routinely monitors numerous news sites, as well as websites for the Overseas Security Advisory Council, the U.S. State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization — sites he may visit multiple times per day. In addition, DGA recently contracted with On Call International, a company that specializes in providing intelligence and response regarding international education experiences and more expedient ways to communicate warnings, advisories, and instructions to students and faculty who might be in the area of an event.
As students are traveling this summer, Sweazey said he has had to watch closely the Zika virus, about which he is messaging constantly; elevated terror levels related to several large events throughout Europe; rail and airline strikes along with the possibility of associated protests; and the flooding of the river Seine that was occurring while students were in Paris.
Standard procedures in place at Kennesaw State contribute to the safety and security of students who study abroad. Sweazey noted, for example, that students must have a Cultural Insurance Services International insurance plan and enroll in the State Department’s STEP program, which provides up-to-the-minute advisories if there is an issue of concern in their region. Students are also required to follow the "rules of the road" concerning everything from alcohol consumption to curfews and obtaining approval from program directors before traveling away from their locations during free time.
“The constant monitoring of these situations, proper planning, safety and security precautions, and flexibility on the parts of faculty and students have led to successful and rewarding experiences for our students,” Sweazey said. “It’s also why we have not had to cancel or restrict proposed locations or programs.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.