Traveling the world is a dream for many students. For the first time in two years, 37 students got the opportunity to travel to study in a different country with the university’s faculty.
After the two-year hiatus of faculty-led study abroad groups due to COVID-19, the Office of International Education offered students the opportunity to travel to Italy, Iceland, France or Spain in the summer of 2022.
Ina Marshall, programs abroad coordinator, says there is a long process for each program’s development and approval. Many steps have to be completed by a certain time during the semester for a program to be fully approved for summer.
“There are multiple stages including meeting with Erin Heidkamp [the director of International Education], obtaining approval from the department chair and school dean, completing a proposal, developing aspects and a submission with signatures,” Marshall says.
While these steps may seem easy, developing all the required aspects can become a lot for the faculty creating these programs. According to Marshall, they need to provide descriptions of housing, what each day will consist of, food services, estimated budgets, and which courses students will be studying.
One student who was able to travel abroad to Spain for a month was Elizabeth Kita, a senior Spanish secondary education major.
“Although I am a Spanish major, I had never been to a Spanish-speaking country before. My family does not speak Spanish, so I needed to immerse myself in the culture to improve my language skills,” Kita says. “Unfortunately, I did not have space in my schedule for a full semester abroad, so I chose to do the summer program offered at Southern. We lived in Salamanca for 3 weeks, and traveled around Andalucia for the last week of the trip.”
Kita says she took two courses while abroad: SPA306, a class about Spanish language practice and culture, and SPA405, which is Spanish Grammar Analysis.
“We had classes in the morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a 10-minute and a 30-minute break in between,” Kita says. “After class we would usually go to the cafeteria in our dorm for lunch. In Spain, the people eat lunch and dinner very late. They also have a siesta time, because it gets very hot in the middle of the day. Most businesses are closed during siesta time, so I would do my homework and study during siesta. When the siesta ended at about 5 p.m., I would go out with friends.”
Students who traveled to Spain with Associate Professor Miaowei Weng explored many cities including Madrid and Salamanca.
“We did a cooking class, escape room, and a dance class through the language school where we studied,” Kita says. “We also went shopping and visited the many museums and cathedrals in Salamanca.”
Kita says she learned a lot more about the history of Spain that she did not know prior to the trip.
While Kita took many Snapchats and kept photos for memories, Olivia Strelevitz, senior, English secondary education, documented much of her journey on Instagram, @livinparis2022.
Before going on the trip, Strelevitz posted on her Instagram account. The caption read: “as this Paris trip wasn’t my original plan, I am super excited that it ended up as my plan b! I am really looking forward to exploring the city, trying new food and meeting new people. I can’t wait to see the Eiffel Tower (obviously), but also the smaller things like the bakeries. I also want to make a point of going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to see the view of the city.
“I am planning on doing a weekend trip to London and seeing a Shakespeare play at The Globe which is something that I can’t wait to do! I am a huge foodie as well as a carb-lover, so I cannot wait for the bread! I’m also incredibly eager to try the French onion soup, cheese, crepes and croissants!”
Strelevitz also says she was excited to explore somewhere new with the guidance of a small group from the university, and that she became friends with the other students on the trip.
Within the first week, Strelevitz says they saw some of the greatest landmarks. During this time, she posted again on Instagram: “since our arrival, we’ve gone to most of the landmarks that define Paris including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Seine, Saint Chappelle, the Conciergerie, and more. I’ve been aware of most of these monuments, but haven’t known much about them. For example, I’ve been dreaming of going to the Eiffel Tower since I was a little girl, but never for reasons that meant anything. Now I know that it was built for a World Fair and that it was used to intercept German radio intel in the 1920s. Now, I have a real reason to admire it beyond just the fact that it is big and in France.”
According to Strelevitz, food was a big part of the culture and trip. She says that at first she had anxiety about eating because of her limited knowledge of the language and because she did not want to be offensive. She noted on her Instagram she would overthink little things because she was trying not to be offensive.
Strelevitz also said she was surprised
by the different food cultures the French have versus those of Americans, such as not putting butter on bread and getting lemon juice instead of lemonade. However, by the third week, she was “absolutely in love” with the cuisine.
“I loved the pastries and the fresh bread while I was in France. They also made single-serving quiches that were to die for,” Strelevitz says. “I ended up really liking frog legs and escargot! I’m an adventurous eater, so I wasn’t too surprised when I liked them, but it was definitely an experience eating both of those dishes.”
Strelevitz says she took a French culture class while abroad, a class that is also available to students during the semester.
Marshall says she wants other students to know that there are other study abroad options beside these summer programs. Students have several options, even ones that can open up new pathways.
“Studying abroad with a faculty-led group is certainly different from just going on your own during the semester,” Marshall says. “If a student comes in and says they want to study abroad in Fiji, I would say ‘yeah we could figure that out.’”
By: Sarah Shelton