Branch Out: Travel Abroad

Have you ever considered traveling abroad through one of the IU South Bend programs? The study abroad programs take you beyond the classroom to experience an entirely new environment – new sights, smells, sounds, and way of living. I took part in IU South Bend’s Mexico program last summer.

Lowell Ritter photo

Personal photo – Hierve el Agua

As soon I got off the plane, it was obvious I was in a different country. Bits of conversation in Spanish were heard and I attempted to translate the directional signs. Four weeks later, each member of our group had grown in their Spanish skills and felt comfortable in the country. Things that were unusual at first (like not flushing toilet paper!) were the new normal.

On the Mexico trip, students stay with a host family, which not only makes it necessary to utilize your foreign language skills, but lets you see what it is truly like to live in Oaxaca, Mexico. The house where I stayed with one other IU South Bend student was large and also had students from Stanford University staying. The family was friendly, the neighborhood was extremely safe, and there was a festival almost every weekend, most notably the Guelaguetza. In addition, we visited famous archaeological sites, such as Teotihuacan.

The trip combines studying Spanish at the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca, visiting archaeological sites, and staying with a host family to create a rich experience. The institute also allows you to take cultural classes, such as cooking (my personal favorite), salsa dancing, or creating Alebrijes.  My one piece of advice is to not be afraid to try the trip. If finances are holding you back, remember there are scholarships available and you should speak with the Office of Financial Aid. If you are nervous about what you may experience, take a leap and travel overseas because you will be thankful you did!

Remember, there are many trips. If Mexico is not the right trip for you, consider traveling to Germany, Costa Rica, Berlin and Prague, Florence, or London.

This post is by Lowell Ritter (lbritter@iusb.edu), who graduated in May 2014. 

 

Diary of a Young Girl

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

August 1, 2014 was the 70th anniversary of the last entry in Anne Frank’s infamous diary. On June 12, 1929, Anneliese Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany and moved to Amsterdam in 1933, the year that the Nazis gained control of Germany. The Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, and by 1942 started to deport Jews. For two years, Anne and her family hid in a secret room, with only a small window to see the outside world, until the family was “discovered” after a tip from a still unknown informant. The family was deported to Auschwitz and then Anne and her sister Margot were then transported to Bergen-Belsen, where they succumbed to typhus in March 1945, just a few weeks before Allied troops liberated the camp. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only member of the family to survive. After moving back to the Netherlands, Otto was given Anne’s diary from Miep Gies, who helped keep the family safe during their two years in hiding. Otto was surprised at the depth of his daughter’s thoughts and Anne’s written desire for it to be published. He sought a publisher for it, eventually succeeding in 1950. The Diary of a Young Girl has become one of the best-known pieces of Holocaust literature.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

Anne Frank, May 1942

Since its publication, an edited version has been used throughout the US high school as a valuable learning tool in both literature and history classes. In the mid-1990s an unabridged version was published that created controversy because of Anne’s discussion of sexuality amongst other things. The controversy continues, but unfortunately another problem has been occurring: schools have stopped using The Diary of a Young Girl. As someone who loves history and plans on attending grad school in that field, this concerns me. American high schools are doing students a disservice when they stop using first-hand primary resources concerning history. History is more than fact based memorization; it is a dialogue between historians, both trained and untrained. I feel that, if anything, more primary resources should be employed in high schools. That is bare-boned history and it needs to be taught in that manner. Too many students feel that history is boring; utilizing primary resources is an important step in rectifying a problem that most likely stems from a lack of delving into primary resources as the core teaching material.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

The Continued Adventures of the Foreign Local

Intern Staci Barke is still in Japan doing independent research, and she has several new posts about her experience up on her blog, The Foreign Local. Here’s a list of her posts to date, by date:

May 17:
The Foreign Local
Onward to Tokyo!

May 18:
Taking the Backstreets

May 22:
Party Time! Oh, and Possessed Dolls 
Antiques, Festival, and 2nd Tallest Structure in the World
Strangers? Never Heard of Them!
Let it Go, it is Only Honey

July 21
The iPad Struggle is Real…
Monomachi
Osaka Pt. 1

Take a look at her posts, and get a taste of life in Japan.

Tokyo

Tokyo

SONY DSC

Osaka

 

 

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A group of 15 IUSB students began their study abroad experience after arriving in Mexico City last week along with Prof. Vanderveen and Prof. Davis. Above is the group photo taken in the indigenous site of the world’s largest pyramid (in terms of volume) in Cholula, Mexico. Later in the week, the group visited la Casa hogar hijos de la luna with Piñatas and tres leche cake. Recently, the group spent half the day in Monte Alban learning about the Precolombian archaeological site. If you are interested in knowing more of the 2014 Oaxaca study abroad program, follow our group on Facebook! ¡Oaxaca 2014!

Summer Session I Trip to Berlin and Prague: Histories of Both Cities

Panoramic photo of Prague from the Pražský hrad ‘Prague Castle’ gardens

Self-taken panoramic photo of Prague from the Pražský hrad ‘Prague Castle’ gardens

I can safely say that this short whirlwind of a study abroad trip was the most fulfilling and adventuresome experience I have had in my life thus far. If I had one word to describe my trip it would be this: magical. Prague and Berlin have momentously different histories and I was unable to overlook the juxtaposition in how both cities showcase their pasts and presents. Prague and Berlin showed me one main theme that I will never be able to forget: the way they embrace or ignore their history. It begs the question: What are these cities proud or ashamed of?

Prague has a nearly 1,000-year-old, rich history, and you are surrounded by this reminder of the past as you walk down the cobble stone streets and gaze up at the Gothic architecture. Prague is a city that screams, “Look, there’s history here! And here!” The two sites in Prague that help to explore the answer to this question are St. Vitus Cathedral and the Jewish quarter. St. Vitus Cathedral has been a central monument in Prague since the early 1300’s and its Gothic architecture and grandeur are something that Prague is most certainly proud to display. However, the Jewish quarter has a much different historical feel. In the Jewish quarter, you can see the revered Old Synagogue and the magnificent and morbid Jewish cemetery with its layers and rows of Hebrew inscribed tombstones. Alternatively, the strange aspect of the Jewish quarter is that it now has been turned into a swanky, upper-class shopping district for the wealthy tourists of Prague. To me, the Jewish quarter is the most glaring evidence of the Czech people not being so proud of their history.

In comparison with Prague, Berlin has a much different historical feel. Berlin is not nearly as old as Prague and has had a much more recently tumultuous past of destruction and subsequent reconstruction. Two sites are literally feet away from each other and could not be more polar opposite in remembrance: The Holocaust Memorial and Adolf Hitler’s underground bunker where he committed suicide. The Holocaust Memorial is located right in the heart of Postdamer Platz and next to the Brandenburg Gate. This site for the murdered Jews of Europe is impossible to ignore and I believe that is a reflection of German memory and willingness to look at their terrifying past with World War II and the Holocaust and learn from it. Nonetheless, Hitler’s underground bunker is mere feet away from the Holocaust Memorial and is barely given a mention other than one short informative plaque. Clearly, this speaks to Germany’s willingness to accept and confront the two driving forces behind their guilt surrounding their most recently (in)famous history.

At the end of my travels, it is still hard to reflect on and remember all of what I had seen and experienced. Additionally, I know that both Berlin and Prague have aspects of their history that they are either not ready to fully confront or have immense pride in being able to remember and learn from. These magical cities will forever hold a place in my heart.

Study Abroad: Holistic Learning

My last two posts, What is High Impact Learning? and Study Abroad: A High Impact Educational Practice, explored and elaborated on the research presented by International Programs Chair Dr. Lisa Zwicker, intern Brigitta Szocs, and me at the 2014 Midwest Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Conference this past April. This final post on the subject will explore how study abroad benefits students holistically. I will briefly demonstrate how study abroad as high impact education incorporates student engagement, which encompasses intentional strategies to develop intercultural relations. Holistic student development and engagement, as described by Braskamp, Braskamp, and Merrill (2009), includes cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal developmental objectives which can be used to explore how holistic learning relates to study abroad and high impact learning.

Study abroad fosters cognitive development such as cultural knowledge and global awareness. It accomplishes this through engagement and interaction, as students studying abroad are encouraged to collaborate with peers, professors, and the people from their host country. Study abroad also encourages engagement as students are immersed in a new environment and culture. It is not unusual for students to become less engaged as their surroundings become increasing familiar, but study abroad participants must have higher engagement with their surroundings and people when in an unfamiliar place or culture. Study abroad programs allow students to experience diversity and internationalize their education, incorporating and integrating international perspectives, while expanding students’ minds and helping them appreciate not only foreign culture, but also American culture and how it fits into the world.

Mexico 2012

IU South Bend students in Mexico, 2012

Study abroad also promotes students’ intrapersonal development. Study abroad leads to more integrative and reflective personal exploration. It requires some personal reflection as typical participants learn to evaluate elements of their own culture in an unbiased manner, allowing multicultural interactions in other settings to become more natural. Additionally, study abroad leads to more social awareness, allowing participants to understand themselves and their culture better. Participants in study abroad programs typically have higher self-confidence, as they learn to interact with people who are both similar and dissimilar as human beings with emotions and desires. These interactions make study abroad participants feel more mature as they learn to properly interact with a differing culture. This is what Van Hoof and Verbeeten (2005) mean when they state that study abroad participants typically learn to evaluate elements of their own culture in an unbiased manner, allowing multicultural interactions in other settings to become more natural.1 Because of these diverse interactions and growing global awareness, study abroad participants will also understand their own values more clearly.

Costa Rica 2012

IU South Bend students in Costa Rica, 2012

Finally, study abroad is interpersonal as most participants are positively impacted as they learn and create skills and behaviors. As already mentioned, numerous studies have concluded that study abroad positively impacts engagement and learning upon return. Study abroad leads to higher cumulative GPAs, student participation, and retention. Furthermore, as Elizabeth Redden reports, minority participation significantly increases retention and graduation rates.2 All of these benefits are linked to both high impact practices and study abroad. Therefore, study abroad should be considered a high impact practice.

As one can see, these three developmental objectives are clearly intertwined with student development. Consequently, like other high impact practices, study abroad develops the whole person and helps students become more engaged and successful. I would argue that study abroad may be the best high learning practice because of all the other benefits that I have mentioned in other blog posts, such as increased job marketability due to an internationalized education.

1 Van Hoof, H. B., & Verbeeten, M. J. (2005). Wine is for drinking, water is for washing: Student opinions about international exchange programs. Journal of Studies in International Education 9, 42-61

2 See the Glossari website [Georgia learning outcomes of students studying abroad research initiative] http://glossari.uga.edu This study is also described in Elizabeth Redden, “Academic Outcomes of Study Abroad,” Inside Higher Ed (July 13, 2010) http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/13/abroad

 

 

Study Abroad: A High Impact Educational Practice

As I discussed in my last post, What is High Impact Learning?, this April, IU South Bend Bend’s International Programs Chair, Dr. Lisa Zwicker, intern Brigitta Szocs, and I presented our research on studying abroad at the 2014 Midwest Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Conference. This is my second post in a three-post series reflecting and elaborating on that research.

I ended my last blog with a question: is study abroad a high impact educational practice? Today I will briefly discuss why study abroad is a high impact practice by briefing looking at elements associated with high impact learning and how they correlate with study abroad. It is commonly accepted that high impact practices involve interaction, engagement, and personal reflection. According to Braskamp, Braskamp, and Merrill, (2009), “[E]ducation abroad has become an increasingly important educational program (experience) in global learning and development, intercultural competence, intercultural maturity, and intercultural sensitivity of students” (101). Furthermore, study abroad is interactive as students collaborate with peers, professors, and the people from their host country. Study abroad also encourages engagement as students are immersed in a new environment and culture. Study abroad requires some personal reflection as typical participants learn to evaluate elements of their own culture in an unbiased manner, allowing multicultural interactions in other settings to become more natural.

IU South Bend students at the Berlin

IU South Bend students at the Berlin Reichstag

According to George D. Kuh, when high impact education practices are implemented in a university, students perform better, respect cultural differences and diversity, graduate quicker and with higher GPA’s, and maybe most importantly, become better world citizens. At least in theory, all high impact practices accomplish this lofty goal. However, I contend that study abroad will accomplish this objective quicker than any of the other practices as it typically combines numerous high impact practices simultaneously. If it is accepted as often written, that most Americans have a limited worldview, study abroad programs allow students to experience diversity and internationalize their education while expanding student’s minds and helping them appreciate not only foreign culture, but also American culture and how it fits into the world.

Over the last couple of years, numerous studies have concluded that study abroad positively impacts engagement and even learning upon return to the States. Study abroad leads to more integrative, reflective, and personal exploration, allowing one to find oneself. Van Hoof and Verbeeten (2005) state that study abroad participants typically learn to evaluate elements of their own culture in an unbiased manner, allowing multicultural interactions in other settings to become more natural.1 Additionally, study abroad leads to increased social awareness, helping participants better understand themselves and their culture. Participants in study abroad programs typically have higher self-confidence, feel more mature, and understand their own values more clearly. Study Abroad leads to higher accumulative GPA, student participation, and retention. Furthermore, as Elizabeth Redden of Columbia University reports, minority participation significantly increases retention and graduation rates.2 All of these benefits are linked to both high impact practices and study abroad. Therefore, study abroad should be considered a high impact practice.

1 Van Hoof, H. B., & Verbeeten, M. J. (2005). Wine is for drinking, water is for washing: Student opinions about international exchange programs. Journal of Studies in International Education 9, 42-61

2 See the Glossari website [Georgia learning outcomes of students studying abroad research initiative] http://glossari.uga.edu This study is also described in Elizabeth Redden, “Academic Outcomes of Study Abroad,” Inside Higher Ed (July 13, 2010) http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/13/abroad