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Easy 'A' abroad

By Caitlin Huston, Daily News Editor
Published October 16, 2011

The center offers the traditional study abroad experience through the Michigan Global Academic Programs, Spring or Summer Language Study and two faculty-led programs of the Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates and Global Course Connections.

In the GCC program, students take an on-campus course and later take a two to three week trip abroad that offers an intimate view of a country. A Russian course may culminate in a trip where the professor takes students to remote Russian villages.

“It’s an opportunity you can’t ever get as a tourist,” said Nicole Bonomini, communications coordinator for CGIS.
For pre-med, Nursing or Engineering students who don’t have time in their course schedule for traditional study abroad, there’s GIEU. With this program, Dennis Beste, an intercultural programs advisor, said students can apply their learning to real world situations.

“We want to offer programs that kind of cater to them and their interests and will also be beneficial in the long run,” Beste said. “They’ll get this international experience, and it won’t just be going to Italy and eating a bunch of spaghetti, they’ll also be going to China and doing some engineering work.”

By studying HIV and AIDS in Zambia or transportation studies in China, Beste said students in GIEU programs are also adding valuable skills to their résumé.

“Everybody wants to do something abroad and that’s really a way to catch head-hunters’ attention,” Beste said. “A way to set yourself apart from the rest of the applicants.”

But during any study abroad program, Patrick Morgan, program assistant at the Center, said students learn time management and improve study and communication skills.

“You get to see other ways of studying and engaging yourself in a subject in a way you haven’t thought about it before,” Morgan said.

And by navigating the often vastly different class structures and overcoming problems like navigating a city in a foreign language, Morgan said students are prepared for life post-graduation.

“The way these classes are structured it’s almost like the way real life is structured,” Morgan said. “Things come at you that you don’t expect, and it’s unpredictable. You really have to take a risk and go out there to succeed.”

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In the Greek capital of Athens, the steps to her classroom were already well-worn by generations of famous scholars and philosophers, as LSA Senior Caitie Cooper, got her humanities credits out of the way among ancient columns and stone sculptures.

Though she’s a neuroscience major, Cooper said she was pleasantly surprised to find that she enjoyed humanities, when they were positioned against the backdrop of an ancient empire.

“Actually being there and going on site was a completely different experience than sitting in a classroom and seeing pictures of these things,” Cooper said.

With five days of classes during the first section of the trip and seven days during the second section, Cooper said the classes focused on the history of the architecture of the Grecian sites. But grades didn’t matter in comparison to the time spent outside the classroom.

“I think it was easier in the sense of they don’t grade as hard and it was more focused on us learning about the experience as we were there rather than just grade-based,” Cooper said.

As she walked past white-washed houses on the island of Santorini, which she says is “the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen,” explored the Peloponesse peninsula and saw the revered site of Olympia, where the Romans of yore held the Olympics, Cooper said she learned more than she would have if she had taken classes counting toward her major.

“I feel like if I would’ve done science classes there, I wouldn’t have come away with a better understanding of the culture that I did,” Cooper said.


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