Study abroad helps students gain cultural insight
Published: Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Updated: Friday, August 20, 2010 14:08
What did you do this summer? Did you hang out with friends, work, or lounge by the pool? Or did you travel to a foreign country to take classes and immerse yourself in an entirely new culture? Many Southern Miss students spent their summer doing exactly that.
Southern Miss offered five major study abroad programs this summer, each lasting several weeks: British Studies in London, Religions of India, Writers Workshop at the Abbey in France, Music or German Language Studies in Vienna, and Spanish in Spain.
Elizabeth Fucich, a junior biochemistry major from Bay St. Louis, Miss., traveled to Spain to spend five weeks studying the Spanish language and learning about Spain's rich history and way of life. She stayed with a host family, which she said was difficult because privacy was limited. The classes were also long and grueling, but weekend trips to places like Italy and Valencia provided a well deserved respite, she said.
"[There were] opportunities available to us in the city, like being able to hop on the metro or the bus and go to a bullfight, a flamenco show, a mall, or an art museum," said Fucich. "There was always something to do."
Spending five weeks as a member of a different culture was her favorite part, she said.
"It's a great test of your independence and comfort zones," she said. "It's so much more enriching than sitting in a Spanish class in America. [You] learn countless things not only academically, but also about yourselves and the world."
Dylan Harris, a junior religion and political science double major from Hickory, Miss.,
spent two months in India with the Religions of India program as well as on his own. The group visited sacred religious sites, such as the birthplace of Krishna, a main Hindu god; and the Ganges River, where Krishna's footprint is said to be. The group also visited landmarks such as the Taj Mahal and celebrated Saka Dawa, the day of Buddha's birth and enlightenment.
After the group left in early June, Harris spent seven weeks in Indian communities talking with ex-political prisoners and teaching an English class to monks. Harris originally traveled to India to conduct research for his Honors College thesis, but it evolved into something even more meaningful.
"One of my favorite things in general is meeting and getting to know people, get to hear
their stories," Harris said. "I did a lot of interviews [with prisoners] and heard their torture
stories. You just realize how fortunate we are. It inspires me to come here and help."
Jessica Lamb, a coordinator in the Office of International Programs, oversaw the British
Studies and Abbey programs. She encourages students with an interest in studying abroad to get a head start and talk to an international programs coordinator, their academic program advisors, and someone in the financial aid office.
"USM students have a lot of opportunities to study abroad," said Lamb. "We do everything we can to help a student to study abroad. It just opens your mind and gives you an appreciation for what you have at home."