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The Daily Wildcat


Short term study abroad gives students new learning experience

Alex McIntyre
From left to right, Olivia Haddad, Sean Horan, and Khas Ochir look out from the edge of Orvieto, Italy on Saturday, May 23, 2015. The had arrived in Orvieto the day prior for the annual Arizona in Italy summer study abroad program through the University of Arizona. (Alex McIntyre)

UA will add more short-term study abroad programs for students starting in 2018 in response to positive feedback from students and instructors alike.

Short-term study abroad programs, which take place over UA’s summer and winter breaks, give students an opportunity to expand their learning experience.

“The world is their classroom,” said Harmony DeFazio, director of study abroad and student exchange.

The Rainforest Biodiversity in Ecuador is one program available during winter break where students visit the heart of the Amazon to discover the variety of plants and animals that live there.

Short-term study abroad programs will also take place in Italy and England and travel to Egypt is currently being discussed. More information on those programs will be available during the fall 2017 semester.

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The purpose of the upcoming programs is to open up more opportunities for students involved in other major programs.

“We are seeking to create new, different programs to ensure that for every student interested in going abroad, they can find a program that speaks to their educational and personal interests,” DeFazio said.

Study abroad inspires a level of awareness through hands-on educational activities that may not be addressed on vacation trips to other countries, according to Katie Van Wyk, who coordinates the study abroad programs in Europe and South America.

“Study abroad is a way of immersing oneself in another country and learning how people from there live life,” Van Wyk said. “A vacation is often experienced only from an outsider’s perspective.”

Prior to departure, students participate in a workshop to better understand the culture of the country they are entering.

For students in the Ecuador program, learning in the rain forest gives students an opportunity to identify environmental challenges.

“Students see and learn about this incredible species richness and also human pressures and if and how impacts can be addressed,” said Hans Herrmann, a UA research scientist who studies plant science and leads the Ecuador expedition.

Students who decide to enroll in a short-term study abroad program complete assignments before and after returning from overseas.

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“Students spend time conducting their own research,” Van Wyk said. “Due to limited time, days are long and filled with educational activities from early morning until late in the evening.”

Herrmann said learning in another country is an intense experience for both instructors and students.

“Students and instructors are exposed to new cultures, the elements and are out in the field during the day and at night,” Herrmann said. “It is very adventurous and also academically very rewarding.”

Van Wyk said UA offers day trips or weekend trips within Arizona, but students gain much more experience from the study abroad programs.

“In contrast, being in the field becomes your lifestyle,” she said. “International students see what they know already, but experience new aspects—most importantly new people with different cultures and sometimes different values.”

Van Wyk encourages students to explore situations and countries that are unfamiliar. She believes a more global understanding is key to developing solutions to the issues we face as a species.

“If we really care about the planet and nature I think the most meaningful approach is to understand people and their motives,” she said. “Understanding people and environmental challenges on a global scale help to find perspective and ultimately understanding ourselves.” 

Follow Phil Bramwell on Twitter.

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