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Traveling Forward – Study Abroad’s Impact

Fulmer in Urbino Italy
Photo: Allison Fulmer in Urbino Italy
Surrounded by elephants in his office overlooking the Tennessee River, Professor Sam Swan describes the study abroad experience for students as their vehicle to “get ready for the world.” Most  students feel their study abroad experience is among the best experience of their lives. To provide students with this critical opportunities, UTK’s study abroad program offers a broad range of study options with trips as short as a few days to as long as a full semester.

At present, about 20 percent of CCI students have a study abroad experience while at UTK. In contrast, 100% of MBA students study abroad. Swan hopes to increase CCI’s participation rate to at least 25%.  To make this happen, endowments are needed to help fund international travel and other student expenses related to studying abroad.  “We prefer that students pay a significant portion of their study abroad fees so they have ownership of the experience,” said Swan.  Given the rising cost of airfare coupled with other cost increases, having an endowment to help support this program, would make the experience available to more students.”  Given the overall costs of studying abroad (i.e., a ten-day trip usually runs $4 to $5 thousand and a semester-long trip can easily be $10 to $12 thousand), having one or more endowed funds of $25 to $50 thousand dollars would provide funding for several additional CCI students’ to study abroad each year, according to Swan. 

This summer, School of Communication Studies Assistant Professor Ken Levine will once again be taking a group of students to Europe.  The four-week study abroad course includes three weeks in Paris and a week in Belgium.  Levine’s course is CCI’s oldest study abroad course. It focuses on the similarities and differences in communication between the U.S. and Western Europe and  is in the fifth year of being co-sponsored with Michigan State University.  “This is an excellent program for students who are preparing themselves for positions with multinational or global firms where international communication knowledge and skills are critical to being successful,” said Levine.  “Past participants in this program have found positions both domestically and internationally that take advantage of the unique knowledge that comes from experiencing communication in other places.”

School of Advertising and Public Relations Associate Professor Candace White’s second year of teaching a study abroad course will once again occur in Urbino, Italy starting on June 30. Taught in conjunction with the UTK’s Italian language program, her fourteen students will study public relations at the University of Urbino.   “My students experience an adaptive process through observation and assignments, which makes them more marketable and changes the way they view the world,” said White.  “Intercultural communication experience can only be obtained through travel to other countries and experiencing the culture firsthand.”  The trip and course work cost each student from $4 to $5 thousand.

Allison Fulmer (B.S./ADVPR ’10) said, “Studying abroad was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.  It provided me with a chance  to step out of my comfort zone to learn more about public relations and about an entirely different culture and way of life.  Because I had to adapt to many different situations and experiences, I learned things about myself that have changed me for the better.  I also met life-long friends and saw historical sites that I thought I would only get to see in history books. Those memories will forever be embedded in my mind.  I will be forever indebted to Dr. White for providing me with the opportunity to study abroad.  I highly recommend and encourage anyone to take a semester or summer to study abroad  to learn how much is out there for us to see, experience and learn.”  

Dr. Bob Legg and Students in CyprusPhoto: Legg with students in Cyprus 2010

Similarly, School of Journalism Associate Professor Bob Legg will lead a group to the island of Cyprus for the third time.  Cyprus has a rich and intriguing history, which dates back to antiquity and includes periods of occupation by the Egyptians, Persians, Ottomans, and British among others. Located in the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey and east of Greece, Cyprus has been called the crossroads of the world. Students are immersed in the culture through their culinary and tourist experiences. They produce documentaries and travel writings and must meet hard deadlines. Last year’s documentary can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPuRUJlNIvc . Because the culture is part Greek and part Turkish, the course provides students with a four-week transformational experience. Legg noted, “Students usually begin to realize how insulated Americans are about week three. They will travel a small distance, move into an area with a different language, a different monetary system, a different culture and it requires a passport.”  Because this semester-long course requires a commitment of tuition for two summer classes, airfare, lodging and program fees totaling around $8 thousand, only thirteen students could afford this experience for 2011. No financial help was available for any of this year’s students. Legg commented, “I really feel every student should have this experience available to them. It is that important. It is that valuable.”

Swan is not resting on the college’s past success. In the future, he hopes to create a program for Croatia; in 2012. A group from the School of Journalism and Electronic Media will be studying British Media in conjunction with the 2012 Olympics in London; he hopes to develop additional faculty-led courses to Australia, Spain, and China among others.