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CCU Atheneum: CCU students Tracy Fish (left) and Kayla Looysen dressed as Chinese royalty at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
CCU students Tracy Fish (left) and Kayla Looysen dressed as Chinese royalty at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

Short-term study abroad program offers new experiences

by Russell Alston
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For more than 20 years, Coastal Carolina University’s Office of International Studies has opened up the world to students, enabling them to travel to such countries as Australia, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Greece, Japan and Spain. Cuba and Kenya were recently added to that list. Director of International Studies and CCU alum Geoff Parsons sums it up best, “The world is open to you.”

Some students may be traveling outside the U.S. for the first time. “The culture shock is the one thing that never fails to happen,” says Darla-Domke-Damonte, assistant dean of international programs and a professor of management. “Simple tasks, such as making a bed in a youth hostel, have frustrated past students.”

Faculty leaders who have foreign travel experience ease the cultural shock for study abroad students. “Faculty members need training in order to shepherd students around these countries, so we have a faculty mentoring program,” says Domke-Damonte. “Each aspiring study abroad faculty leader is paired with an experienced faculty study abroad leader who helps to model how the process works. That way, no one who leads a program is doing so blindly.”

Jay Teets, CCU professor of management and decision sciences, has been a study abroad faculty leader for the past three years. This past May he was part of the Culture and Business in Asia Maymester in China, where he taught a class on production operations management. Teets travelled with students around the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an, home of the host school Xi-An International Studies University. “Taking these kids to Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall, and watching students learn there is more in the world…was a defining, eye-opening experience,” says Teets.

Other professors are preparing for their roles as faculty leaders for short-term programs in 2013. CCU professor James Henderson has spent most of his summer putting the finishing touches on a short-term study abroad program taking place in Cuba during Summer 2013. Participating CCU students will attend the University of Havana, in a partnership with Presbyterian College, May 16-31, 2013. Students will have the opportunity to earn six credit hours in classes on Cuba’s political history and Cuban literature. An independent study course on public opinion will also be available.

CCU assistant professor of archaeology Carolyn Dillian spent time in Kenya this summer preparing for her role as a faculty leader. From June 15 to July 28, 2013, she will lead a program at the Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya titled, “Basic Principles and Field Method of Archaeology and Paleoanthropology.” During the short-term study abroad program, students will learn about archaeological field and laboratory methods, fossil identifications, artifact identification and analysis and geology. The field school is located on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. While there, students will reside in a makeshift tent city that has no power on most days. When power is turned on, it is only for a few hours for necessities, such as email correspondence for the researchers.
Other study abroad programs offered for the 2012-2013 academic year include: spring break programs in London or Buenos Aries and a course called Successful Management on the High Seas, which takes place on a cruise ship heading for the Bahamas.

Maymesters in 2013 include opportunities to study the Spanish language in Costa Rica; history of Africa and global health perspectives in the West African countries of Sierra Leone and Ghana; ecology of coral reefs in Jamaica; the biology of sharks in the Bahamas; and a program in Asia titled Thailand: Its Culture in Art on Exhibit and Interpreted in Graphic Designs; and business and culture in the European countries of France, Germany and Spain.

It is Parsons’ belief that programs like this have more far-reaching benefits than just credit hours, souvenirs and visits to exotic locals. “Education is the best bridge to diplomacy,” he says.

Domke-Damonte says 69 percent of students participating in these programs in 2012 said they intend to pursue additional foreign language study or additional study abroad as a result of their travel study experience through CCU. “I feel they also come away with a more cohesive, first-hand knowledge of global issues.”

Reports from partiipants in the Maymester 2012 programs support this contention, with 95 percent of study abroad participants agreeing with the following statement: “As a result of this travel study experience, my global awareness and appreciation for cultural diversity have been improved.”

CCU senior arts major Kayla Looysen, who spent 16 days in China, testifies to both Parsons' and Domke-Damonte’s enthusiasm for the benefits of the study abroad program.

“This was a life-changing experience,” says Looysen. “The only way to truly understand something is to experience it firsthand, so the most valuable part of the trip for me was the knowledge I gained about history, the culture, the language, the food and the art. As an arts major, I will use these experiences in my work for the rest of my life.”


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