Significant Lessons Learned During Summer Abroad
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
Summertime is here at East Carolina University, and for a handful of professors and students, that means one thing: Study Abroad.
For months, these professors have been contacting travel agents, organizing itineraries and mapping out lesson plans for a group of students who will soon become traveling companions. In addition to their roles as college professors, they become part tour guide, part health guru, part academic advisor, part clothing consultant, part accountant, part Mother Hen.
“All the little details have been whipping me, but I think it will be worth it,” said ECU history professor David Dennard who, with colleague Kenneth Wilburn, will take eight students to Ghana later this month. “I think all of us will benefit immensely from this trip.”
This summer, ECU has 10 professors who are taking their students to Argentina, England, Turkey, Japan and India. In all, 135 ECU students will travel abroad this summer, and another 140 will spend either the fall or spring semester abroad. This represents less than 2 percent of all students at ECU, and campus leaders hope to continue to increase those numbers.
Terry Rodenberg, ECU’s director of international programs, said a five-year plan is in place to encourage more educational travel opportunities in the future.
“The global challenges facing today’s generation of students make study abroad a key component in their university education,” Rodenberg said.
Derek Maher, a religious studies professor, is leading a group of 16 to India’s sacred sites. Maher wanted to offer his students a view of a country he has come to love.
“India is, simply put, the single most fascinating place on the face of the earth,” Maher said. “This country that values contemplative silence in its religious traditions is also rife with great busyness and delightful chaos.”
Maher hopes a study abroad experience will help students learn a thing or two about themselves and the world in which they live.
“I hope and anticipate each student will come back with a much broader view of what is on the menu of possibilities for being human,” Maher said. “That’s one lesson I hope they learn.”
For Dennard, who teaches African-American history and is a scholar of the late W.E.B. DuBois, visiting Ghana is an important step in understanding the origins of slavery and the land from which slaves were taken. It is also the resting place of the civil rights advocate.
“Most of the slaves from Africa were taken from the west coast before they were brought across the Atlantic and scattered throughout America,” Dennard said. “Ghana, called the Gold Coast, figured prominently in this history.”
John Tucker, professor of history, is taking students to Japan to study its history and culture; interior design professor Yaprak Sagdic is taking students to Turkey to design a marketplace with Turkish students; professor of management Tope Bello is taking students to Australia for exposure to working in an international context. Other professors taking students on study abroad programs this summer include Peter Johnstone (criminal justice); Cynthia Bickley-Greene (art education), Marcia Taylor (nutrition and hospitality), Gregg Hecimovich (English) and Susana Castano-Schultz (Spanish).
Hecimovich will incorporate Podcasting and an online component for his tour of England.
While these professors are going to teach, a few are also going to learn. Robert Ebendorf, an ECU metals professor, will join Maher’s study abroad trip to India with his wife Aleta Braun.
Plans are in the works to offer web site space for each group to post its news at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/summerabroad/programs.cfm.
The India group has already started blog of their travels and activities at http://ecu-in-india.blogspot.com/.