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By: Sthephany Delgado
Tampa, FLA. -As the workplace takes on an increasingly global setting, it is now more important than ever for students to obtain a sense of cultural awareness. Through the USF Education Abroad Office and the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, they offer their students the opportunity to study abroad and gain not only hands-on education in their field, but a chance to become a global citizen.
Studying abroad is a popular choice amongst USF undergraduates. According to a report by the USF Education Abroad Office, the number of undergraduate students studying abroad has increased by 29% from the 2010-2011 academic year, and the EAO saw a significant increase of over 15% in graduate students studying abroad in the 2013-2014 academic year.
“We believe that by exposing our students to foreign and international perspectives, we expandtheir understanding of the world around them, prepare them for an increasingly international workplace, and create more thoughtful and understanding citizens of the world” as stated in the USF Education Abroad mission statement.
Recently, CBCS professors Dr. Larry Thompson, Dr. Rick Weinberg, and Mark Engelhardt have offered courses to students that not only allow them to learn more about their respective field, but also how to immerse and appreciate the culture of their foreign setting.
During spring break, Professor Dr. Larry Thompson taught Global Perspectives of Mental Illnesses and Treatment” in Florence, Italy at the Florence University of the Arts, where students studied the differences and similarities of mental health treatments, attitudes, and philosophies between the United States and Italy.
“It’s important to see what other countries have done so that we can learn from them. They’re very parallel” said Dr. Thompson,
Students participated in interactive assignments such as interviewing locals about sociological topics like underage drinking and mental health care in order to gain cultural perspective.
This course also gave students a chance to participate in field trips and cultural activities, such as a day trip to the Tuscan countryside to visit a local winery and a local architectural walking tour to the Galleria de Academia.
“This year we broadened the trip to include visits to Pisa, Venice and Pad” said Dr. Thompson.
Another course offered in Florence was “Intimate Relationships” taught by Dr. Rick Weinberg, where students learned how people emotionally (and chemically) fall in love, how one forms and maintains relationships, and the ways and means of love in Italy.
With Florence being a romantic place, “there is a lot of reasons why love and courtship fits into a summer abroad trip to Italy, as it is known as the land of love and the basis of world romance” said Weinberg.
Living in an apartment setting in comparison to a residence hall on campus allowed students to assimilate more into the Italian culture.
“The summer abroad course let’s students live in apartments, cook their own food, and become friends with Italian people from the first day they arrive.” said Weinberg.
With a “hookup” culture dominating college campuses nationwide, this course showed a new perspective on love, by referring back to “old school” courtship. One of the many topics they discussed in class was what love and courtship looked like in the mid-and late 60’s.
“When I was a teenager it was the norm for a guy to ask out a girl. The guy would always pay for the date, and after the first date the guy would give a girl a kiss on the cheek and say goodbye at the door. It really was not until about four of five dates before the serious sexual activity would ensue, and if it did, it was with a person you were in a relationship with, or with someone you felt you could learn to love” said Weinberg.
After Weinberg conducted an anonymous poll in his classes, he found that between 84 and 88% of students preferred to live during this 60’s era of romance.
“One of the reasons why I teach this course is to talk about healthy intimacy, which means being in a relationship with deep feelings or seeing yourself with another person exclusively” said Weinberg.
Students had a lot to write about in their extra credit papers, written as commentary following each class, which almost always included personal testimonies and experiences regarding relationships.
“They had so much to say and I would respond to every student” said Weinberg.
Another study abroad course trip took place in Dublin, Ireland this past summer, “Interdisciplinary Solutions to Homelessness in the United States and Ireland” led by Professor Mark Engelhardt, which discussed the historical and cultural similarities of homelessness between Ireland and the United States.
The founder of Pathways to Housing Dr. Sam Tsemeris, a leader in the United States to end homelessness, along with Dr. Eoin O’Sullivan, an internationally known researcher and editor of the European Journal of Homelessness, held lectures for the participating students.
Dr. Tsemeris presented the Housing First Model to the students before they departed to Ireland, and upon their arrival back to the states, led a conversation via Skype about their overall experiences and about issues such as mental health and substance use disorders.
Students were able to learn about the “Housing First” initiative, a strategy to help end long term homelessness and FOCUS Ireland, an organization that helps homeless or at risk homeless individuals all over Ireland.
The Housing First initiative is a community based housing unit where they give support to the needy and focus on placing homeless individuals into housing. This strategy is being tested in other parts of Ireland.
Locals were also very welcoming towards the students.
“Everywhere we went, the Irish locals would always tell us ‘C’ead Mile Failte’ which means ‘a hundred thousand welcomes” said Englehardt.
Prior to the trip, Antonio Morales, a senior majoring in criminology, was unaware of the dire issue of homelessness, and since then has discovered a new perspective on the issue.
“I learned how to work properly with those that have lost everything and I learned how they may affect me in my everyday work as a law enforcement officer” Morales said.
Having the chance to study and live at Trinity College, Ireland's premier research University, Jessica Wall, a junior majoring in sociology and criminology, another participant in the trip, said that overall, it was “enchanting and enlightening.”
“I learned more about myself, a large social issue in the U.S and across the globe, and I got to experience a different culture that had a beautiful landscape. I met incredible people and gained lifelong lessons that I will never forget or take for granted” said Wall.
Going abroad not only gives students advantages in the workforce, but they also bring back newly developed life experiences, which is essentially what college is about.
“We forget that there are great people to learn from and even amazing cultures to learn about. The United States is changing every day and on any given day I will run into hundreds of people that are different from me. I can take my experiences from studying abroad in Ireland and benefit not only in my professional life, but also into my personal life.” Morales said.
In clinical programs such as behavioral health, students have much to gain from studying abroad.
“Students need life experiences, and a lot of the time, they come in with just high school experiences and have not gone into the real world.” said Dr. Thompson.
These CBCS professors encourage all students to take the opportunity to study abroad.
“Beyond life experiences, it’s the cultural diversity and exposure it gives them” said Dr. Thompson.
For information about upcoming study abroad courses, please contact the USF Education Abroad Office.