Study abroad programs offer small academic value

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Students question the study abroad program’s ability to ascend cultural value and offer academic significance.

Nicole Weisbrich, a senior communication major from Inyokern, California, said her experience studying at a college in Bremen, Germany, did not directly help her in her major. However, she learned better ways to be a student.

Weisbrich said she used to have trouble preparing for class but learned how to show up prepared while studying abroad.

“School in Germany was structured really differently,” Weisbrich said. “It was more like trade school because you don’t have to take general education.”

There are two travel abroad options currently available at Dixie State University. First, students can choose to spend a semester in another country, primarily China or Germany, in the exchange program. Second, students and community members can participate in a faculty-led trips. The longest trip this summer is a Spanish submersion trip to Guatemala that lasts 31 days.

“No student wants to spend an entire semester somewhere and not make progress toward a degree,” Career Center Director Kathy Kinney said. 

Colleges in other countries may not offer course descriptions that explain their classes in detail. This sometimes presents a problem. If a student expects to get credits transferred to DSU, the course he or she took abroad must resemble the DSU course they hope to replace. This is not typically an issue for students replacing elective credits, but those who want to earn DSU credit could be let down when they return, Kinney said.

“We want you to go, and we want you to learn, but we need you to understand that, however rare, sometimes things don’t come back as you want them to,” Kinney said. “We try to get that in place before you leave, but we can’t make a definitive answer until we see a detailed course description, syllabus and grade.”

In contrast to the exchange program’s laissez faire approach, every faculty-led trip has a course attached to it.

“The trips are developed around academics,” Kinney said.

Ashlee Millett, a senior communication major from Washington, said her 20-day trip through Europe may not have helped her with her major, but it did help her become a more mature person, and that changed her life. In addition to Europe, Millett also visited Ibigawa, Japan.

“Japan helped me a lot with my major,” Millett said. “We were all given a job before we went over. My job was to film and edit the trip for Ibigawa travel awareness.”

Kathy Cieslewicz, Sears Art Museum Gallery curator, leads art tours in Los Angeles, San Francisco and across Europe. Each of the art department’s art tours is open to students and community members, and the tours are structured in a way that allows the participant to choose what knowledge they leave with.

“You can get a really good education on these trips from antiquities up to contemporary art, and it changes people’s lives,” Cieslewicz said.

Millett said you only spend roughly two days in each country during the Europe trip, and it is impossible to see everything that you want. She will be going on the Europe trip again soon.

“It’s like living in the art history book,” Cieslewicz said. “Isn’t that academic? I studied art history for 10 years, but it could not come to life to me until I was there.”