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Study away summer courses enable students to expand their global experience

Posted on May 25, 2012
UW-Superior students are taking their learning around the globe this summer.

Summer can be a time to relax and get away from school but for some students it also offers the best opportunity to spend a week or more studying in another country.

Faculty-led study away classes during spring and summer offer many students an opportunity to study abroad in an affordable, timely, and practical manner. This summer, UW-Superior students enrolled in study away programs are traveling to Spain, Bosnia, Scotland, and France while individual students are studying in Germany, Costa Rica, and Scotland.

Joining the pilgrims

Dr. Jeanette Pucheu,an assistant professor of Spanish, and Kim Kelly, ASSIST/Early Warning Program Coordinator with Student Support Services, are traveling with nine students to Spain to journey the Camino de Santiago for "The Culture of Pilgrimage in Spain" course.

The camino, or Way of St. James, is a traditional Christian pilgrimage that ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. Tradition says that the remains of St. James are buried at the cathedral, marking it as an important religious landmark.

Cultural immersion

Pucheu, Kelly, and their group will hike for 10 days and cover 113 miles. The students will be immersed in Spanish culture and meet Spanish-speaking pilgrims as well as pilgrims from other countries. Students will look at what draws people to the camino today and what drew pilgrims in the past.

"Getting out and walking the countryside - you see Spain in a way you never would otherwise," Pucheu said before departing. "It's a more intimate way of experiencing the culture."

Broadening their worldview

Stephanie Burgroff, a senior English major from Superior, looks forward to improving her skill in speaking Spanish as well as to the walk itself.

"It's exciting to have your eyes opened to different cultures," she said. "I'm hoping to bring a little bit back."

Puchue agrees. "It eradicates stereotypes," she said. "Students may have a certain idea of what Spain is like, but this will broaden their worldview, change their perspective - perspective of the world and their own country."

Math in Scotland

Heather Kahler, math specialist and director ofthe Math Tutoring Lab, and six students will study in Scotland for three weeks. Kahler will teach "Mathematics in Everyday Life," the first mathematics course taught through the Wisconsin in Scotland study abroad program.

The first week of the course will focus on fair division and math vocabulary. During the second week, the class will visit Bletchley Park, where mathematicians and other people worked to break enemy codes during World War II. Finally, students will learn about the math behind UPC codes, how computers are able to recognize codes, and Scottish math applications.

"I want them to understand how to think mathematically and to see math in a different way," Kahler said. "I want them to feel challenged."

Feeling connected

Kahler hopes to get to know her students better throughout the course. "I think a big part of education is students need to feel connected with the people they're studying from and with the material," she said. "That it's not just a checklist, but to get just a deeper appreciation for education."

Jennifer Patton-Lawson, a senior sociology major, said she is looking forward to refreshing her math skills and to learning a little bit more about her family heritage since her great-grandfather came from Scotland.

"I'm looking forward to Princes Street and to take public transportation and actually have it available," she said. "And for being on my own and getting lost - getting lost in the experience."

'Something different'

John Linné, a senior math major from Duluth, wanted to do something exciting and different, influencing his decision to go to Scotland.

"I want to experience something different. My ancestry is kind of close to there," he said. "It's a little bit of where you came from."

Learning about war and peace

Another study away course is the long-running "War and Peace in Bosnia," taught by Dr. Karl Bahm, professor of history,and Dr. Khalil Dokhanchi, professor of political science. They will accompany six students to Bosnia for four weeks to study the factors that plunged that country into war in the 1990s and how people there are rebuilding their lives and cities since the war ended.

"Most of us have simple notions of war and peace," Dokhanchi said. "We think that if there's not war, then there's peace, but we see that the war drags on through other means and there's a host of issues."            

Bahm agrees. "We hope to convince the students that Bosnia is a whole lot more than war," he said. "It has a thousand-year history that is mostly peaceful and quiet."

Meeting survivors of war

In Bosnia, the students will meet war survivors, family members of people who were lost in the war, government leaders, Bosnian Serbs, and Bosnian Muslims. Students will also visit political buildings, mosques, and churches.

"Students who participate in the Bosnia course already have the book-learning and are familiar with what happened," Bahm said. "This gives students hands-on experiences on the effects of war and what people have to do to recover."

Dokhanchi said they don't want to push students one way or another in their thinking about the war. Instead they want students to understand, "that they too can be agents for change, that there is hope, and that there is a common humanity that binds us together."

News Contact: Al Miller | 715-394-8260 | amiller{atuws}
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