Study Abroad Program: Will go in 2014
“As an advisor, I am on the front line when it comes to helping students succeed at UVU. What will I do to nurture that success by planting the seed of international education in my students’ hearts and minds?”
Every day I help students achieve their goals and dreams. Well, let’s be honest, sometimes advising is not as glamorous as that sounds. Rather, every day I visit with students to figure out how to help them be successful. Sometimes success means making a plan that can work with their busy lives. Sometimes success is a personal experience or a daily kindness. Honestly, success comes for different students in many forms. Research shows that interdisciplinary and intercultural experiences help enliven and enrich our minds. Often students are not even aware of the vast opportunities they have as students at Utah Valley University for global, interdisciplinary and intercultural experiences. Communicating this idea is tantamount to my roles as an advisor, an administrator, and as an instructor at UVU. One of the hallmark goals I have implemented this past year, and a goal I will continue to champion, is showing students through projects, information sessions and events just how valuable and critical international education can be for their lives and their educational development.
This past summer, Codiann, a Wasatch Campus student employee, attended a study abroad in France and the U.K. She had a fantastic experience with Letty Workman’s group learning about fashion design and marketing. Her stories were riveting and her educational development was fantastic. It was an expensive undertaking for her, considering she was a non-traditional student with many financial obligations. We sat down on numerous occasions and found additional scholarship funds and opportunities that helped her succeed. After she returned from Europe, I suggested that we have her show others just how valuable an international experience might be. She ran with it and planned a monumental event for numerous students to learn about her experience. I helped her and found some university funds for some costs, but Codi’s exuberance was the main attraction. We involved ten study abroad directors. Study abroad flyers were prominently placed throughout campus, as well as banners throughout Heber. I encouraged my students in classes I taught at both campuses and many attended. We involved a number of Wasatch faculty. They, too, invited their classes. 90+ people watched Codi and the other students shine. I also shared my experiences with international education and offered our advisement services to help students facilitate their goals. I wrote a letter of recommendation for Sabra, a student in my global intercultural section of Ethics and Values, after she attended the event. She was inspired by the words of the professor at the event. She hopes to study with the Costa Rica Biology/Geology trip. Toni, another non-traditional student, is considering study abroad next summer. I cannot wait to tell my world history students that China may actually be in their grasp, or that the Europe I love is within their reach. Indeed, Africa or Australia are possible with UVU study abroad. I have made it a critical focus to show that traveling abroad enriches student experiences. It is my responsibility as an advisor to educate students about international study abroad programs, but to also help them realize on a personal level why it can change their lives. It takes a campus.
Study Abroad Program: Middle East - Peace and Justice
Behavioral Science Advisor Tara Ivie has won UVU’s Third Annual International Education Essay Contest. Runner-up is Marilyn Riddle, academic advisor for Aviation Science. The winner receives an opportunity to travel with one of UVU’s International Study Programs.
For this year’s contest, full-time UVU advisors composed essays in response to the question, “In what ways will I, as a UVU advisor, help students overcome hurdles (emotional, academic, financial, etc.) and transform their dream to participate in an international education experience into a reality?” Essays were judged anonymously. The goals of the contest were to encourage advisors to assist students in exploring the international education opportunities offered by UVU and to give one advisor an amazing international education experience.
In her essay, Ivie recalled the process of helping one of her students overcome hurdles in order to achieve a personal goal of participating in an international education experience. Ivie receives an all-expenses-paid experience with a UVU International Study Program. She has chosen the Middle East: Peace and Justice Studies program, which travels to Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank this May.
“In what ways will I, as a UVU advisor, help students overcome hurdles (emotional, academic, financial, etc.) and transform their dream to participate in an international education experience into a reality?”
Maria chose to watch her last sunset in Fiji from the beach. Wind swept up the salt water and blew it onto her face and arms. Maria pulled her legs tight to her chest and took in one more breath of the sweet, humid air. She noticed that the seawater was as warm as the tears on her cheeks. As the pinks in the sky turned to blues, Maria walked back to her village. Tomorrow she would begin her long journey home. This was the first time in a long time that Maria cried tears of joy, not sorrow. Fiji had somehow changed her…transformed her. It was the beginning of a new chapter in Maria’s life; after Fiji she could never be the same.
Rarely in life does one have a transformative experience—something so new, so different that it changes the way you view yourself and the world. International education is one of the greatest transformative experiences a UVU student can take part in. Financial burdens and lack of emotional support created significant barriers to Maria’s progress in school. After an experience that could be described as nothing short of tragic, Maria had been cut off from her family. For years she was told that she was not smart enough to go to college. Once she was on her own, Maria decided to make an attempt at UVU. During her first few semesters, Maria struggled academically; she came to meet with me to discuss her options. A picture on her notebook started our discussion about Fiji. It was the visual reminder of her dream trip, a place she hoped to travel to “someday.” During our advising sessions, I worked with Maria to identify a support network on and off campus, including the Women’s Success Center and Student Health Center. By communicating her goals with trusted friends, she found emotional support in her personal life. Because finances were a major issue, Maria and I worked with several departments on campus to pursue scholarships and grant money, minimizing the cost of the trip. In addition, identifying how the credit she earned could be used toward her degree allowed Maria to make her dream a reality.
Because of Maria’s hard work and the resources available to her through UVU and her community, she was able to live and learn in Fiji! When Maria returned she was a changed person; her burdens seemingly washed away in the South Pacific. It was one of the greatest transformations I have seen in my students.
Study Abroad Program: London - Literature and Theatre
Using my experience, knowledge, and expertise, how can I, as a UVU advisor, help students become globally competent citizens in the 21st century?
As an advisor, I can encourage my students to engage globally, not only through study abroad but through learning about other cultures and countries. This is not merely a socially responsible thing to do, it is imperative to future success in a global economy. Our world no longer consists of the area in closest proximity to us. Our daily routines require the ability to communicate with people from other cultures, backgrounds, and nations. We don’t have to travel to be globally engaged, the world is here. In order to develop global competence, I encourage my students to participate in International Center events such as Ramadan and the New York Times reading group. I get them excited about international internships and the competitive edge their international experience will give them.
That said, the most effective way to appreciate and understand other cultures and nations is to EXPERIENCE them, not only for the opportunity to appreciate the other culture but to have the experience of being the “other”— to see that our “universal and natural” reality and paradigms are quite different from others. This transformational experience cannot be replicated in a classroom. It is not real until a student is engulfed in the smells, tastes, sounds, and environment of a different world. I tell my students that studying art in Italy is completely different from looking at a 2”x 2” picture in a textbook. Learning Portuguese in a classroom is completely different from conjugating verbs while bargaining in a marketplace in Sao Paulo. To truly engage, you must be immersed in it.
I have never experienced this immersion. In college, I signed up for a British Study Abroad trip that was canceled due to the SARS scare. Because I crave this experience so passionately, I challenge my students to seize the opportunity.
Study Abroad Program: Italy - Art History
Tom Sawyer never said anything about white wash burning and eating away a person’s flesh. But I figure the white wash Tom used was more of a watery paint mixture. The calcium mixture we were slopping onto the adobe huts of the Tarahumara dried on our skin and slowly gouged holes into our arms, legs, hands and any skin we left bare. We spent the better part of two days in the hot Chihuahua sun, splattering white wash onto small stucco huts, curing the mud and preventing deterioration. In many ways it was miserable: hot, painful, and tedious. Yet it was here I discovered I wanted to do this every single day.
In college, I struggled to identify a major I felt committed to. I finally found a fit with sociology, yet with my decided major, I still had no idea what career to choose. I applied for a sociology study abroad as a confused 19 year old, hoping to do something fun and apply my education in a hands-on experience in an unknown land. We spent the better part of the semester observing poverty and racial stratification and participating in humanitarian service. Somehow leaving all of the distractions of home behind and dedicating myself to improving the problems I actually studied in class narrowed my focus. I had an epiphany and knew I had to find a career where I could empower those who lacked opportunity. I became a counselor.
I never met anyone who participated in an international educational experience who regretted it. Most actually seem to credit study abroad as one of the pivotal points in their lives. For me, my white wash scars have faded to the point where I am the only one who knows they are there. But, I will forever celebrate the knowledge I received in Mexico, not only about sociology in action, but even more, a little bit about myself.