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Going to Class Around the World
Academic opportunities at St. Lawrence can be found in more and more corners of the globe—and not just through our traditional international programs.

By Macreena Doyle

Despite - or perhaps because of - daily news reports about international tensions and conflicts, American college students are more interested in studying abroad than ever before. The numbers of American students studying in another country during their college careers has increased some 126 percent since 1991, according to the Institute of International Education, and it is estimated that about 170,000 college students study abroad annually.

While many opt for the traditional semester- or year-long study-abroad program, often during the junior year, colleges, including St. Lawrence—where about 40 percent of all students study abroad during their time at the University—have added a variety of other options for students interested in spending at least part of their college careers studying in another country. For example, there are programs to which students may apply to conduct independent research in a foreign country, either during the semester break or during the summer months, or during vacation periods while they participate in one of the more traditional programs.

Amy Earl ’05, of Acworth, N.H., traveled to Madrid, Spain, in May of 2004, with assistance from a travel/research grant awarded by the Center for International and Intercultural Studies on campus. Her research was also conducted as her Senior Year Experience project.

A participant in the University’s program of study in Spain in 2003, Earl returned in order to conduct 15 interviews with people affected by the March 11, 2004, bombings at the Atocha train terminal in Madrid, and created a Web site to document the event and the effect it had on the city, the region and many individuals.

Earl states, “What I wanted for the outcome of this project was to impart the importance of this event to my University community. I wanted Americans around me to recognize March 11 as it meant to Madrid: not as ‘Madrid’s September 11th,’ and not as a statistic communicated through numbers in the newspaper, but as an attack uniquely experienced by the Spanish populace. I had the desire to use my knowledge of the culture and language to build a bridge from my community to theirs, a country thousands of miles away, by which the people around me could better understand and empathize with what Madrid's people felt when their loved ones died in a moment without explanation, forewarning or reason. I felt that this was a realistic endeavor because September 11, 2001, while a separate event, has afforded us the emotional capacity to understand Madrid's tragedy. My project does not attempt to compare the two events, but rather to garner a fresh response toward March 11 that uses as its foundation a universal, human connection.”

To learn more about Amy Earl's research in Madrid, visit her Web site.

Awards for travel/research have been granted recently for projects in Kenya, islands of the Caribbean, New Zealand and several countries in Europe.

Another option for study abroad is as a component of a course taken on campus. During the fall 2004 semester, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Jon Rosales taught the course Climate Change Policy and Advocacy, and he and his eight students attended the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Buenos Aires in December. Among the activities that students participated in at the conference was staffing a booth representing the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the Earth Council, conducting a survey and distributing educational materials. Back on campus for the spring 2005 semester, Rosales and the students gave a public presentation on what they learned at the conference, and updated the community on the Kyoto Protocol, a global climate change agreement.

Still another choice at St. Lawrence is designed to enable first-year students to study internationally. The spring-semester program is especially for students who have one semester of college French or two years of high school study, but who would like to gain fluency through immersion in French-speaking cultures. The program is open to:

  • first-year students who will be able to complete their required second-semester First-Year Seminar while in France.
  • sophomores and juniors interested in strengthening their French language skills but who are not prepared for the more intensive fall semester program.

The program focuses on comparative Francophone cultures and includes:

  • A two-week residence in Quebec City, incorporating intensive study of French at Laval University and introduction to Quebecois culture.
  • Study in Rouen, France, that involves home stays, two units of intensive French language and conversation, and two courses taught in English.
  • Field trips to Paris and Versailles, Normandy, Chartres, Mont- St. Michel and chateaux of the Loire valley, all in France.
  • A week-long excursion to Francophone Africa (Senegal).

“I never understood World War II until I stood on Omaha and Utah Beaches, enveloped by a cloud of dense fog, forced to reflect on the atrocities that had taken place there and the lessons they taught,” says Jessica Lea Sullivan ’08, a spring 2005 participant in the program from El Dorado, Kan. “I never understood the EU until I engaged in a casual conversation about it with a group of British, Danish, French and Austrians on a train. I never understood French until I looked out my bedroom window at a city that had been bombed out in World War II before going downstairs to eat dinner with a French family who has accepted me as their newest member with a funny accent.”

Sullivan continues, “This semester, above all else, has shown me different perspectives, taught me understanding, and broadened my depth not only of knowledge but of comprehension as well. Although this learning process began in a classroom in Canton, with my global studies and French courses, my experiences in France constituted my true growth.”

Asia is increasingly becoming a focus for faculty from across the disciplines, thanks in part to a grant the University was awarded from the Freeman Foundation, to strengthen its offerings in Asian studies. During the semester break in 2004-2005, two different projects involving faculty and student research groups were funded through the initiative.

Four students conducted research in China in December and January, with Dana Professor of Biology David Hornung. The group explored the interfaces between traditional Chinese medicine and allopathic (Western) medicine, with the goal of integrating the two healing traditions. Hornung and the students have in common some training in the use of the scientific method and an interest in allopathic medicine. All four students involved plan to attend medical school in the United States following graduation from St. Lawrence. Research was conducted at three primary locations in China: Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.

Hornung, who is also on the research faculty of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, as a specialist in disorders of the taste and smell senses, says, “Chinese medicine looks at the body as a garden in which each section is a part of the whole. Thus each section of the body cannot be fully appreciated without a consideration of the whole. On the other hand, allopathic medicine views the body as a machine made up of parts that can be studied and replaced. It is not always necessary to consider the whole when evaluating function.”

Each student also conducted independent research on a sub-topic of their own choosing. Kristen Ross ’05, of Altona, N.Y., an ROTC student who will attend military medical school in Bethesda, Md., researched the effects of traditional Chinese medicine on battlefield and garrison medicine, considering how the emphasis on preventive medicine affects the way military physicians deal with acute and chronic problems in military personnel.

The experience was, Ross says, “phenomenal. I learned so much! You can read about someplace, but until you are there, you really have no idea what it’s actually like. We would never have been able to go on a trip like that without the research money.”

For Ross, who says she had never traveled beyond North America prior to the trip, the insight gained into another culture, one so different from her own, was an eye-opener. “We've all heard of acupuncture and herbal medicines, but here in America they're called ‘alternative' therapies,’” she says. “There, they are mainstream, and to see how they are used was fascinating.”

Ross also says that she was somewhat concerned about how this group of Americans would be viewed by the Chinese practitioners they visited, given reports of anti-American sentiment across the globe. Thankfully, she reports that she needn't have worried.

“In the clinics, we were treated like we were famous – the president of one of the hospitals came in on his day off to show us around, because they do not get very many visitors from the West,” Ross says. “They are so polite. They are flattered that Americans are interested in what they're doing, and eager to share what they know. They really would like traditional Chinese medicine to become more accepted throughout the world.”

The viewpoints that students encountered differed from their own in ways beyond the academic, Ross says. “Our guide, a woman, said that she would never go to a female medical professional there; they trust men more. And there, because knowledge of and skills in ancient practices are acquired over many, many years, the older a medical professional is, the more respected he is likely to be. Here, we think older doctors haven’t kept up with technology. It's such a different way of looking at things,” Ross says.

Six students traveled to Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta in China to conduct a research project in January, working with Professor of Government Alan Draper. The group researched the general topic “Change at Warp Speed: The Political, Econom-ic, and Environmental Transformation of the Pearl River Delta,” and each student also researched specific topics of his or her own interest. They were hosted by the American-Hong Kong Center and traveled throughout the region.

“My pre-trip thoughts and feelings were excitement and anxiety about the unknown,” James Maswick ’06, of Scotia, N.Y., said. “I did not know what I was getting into, but I was excited to see Hong Kong. The Pearl River Delta is a rapidly growing economic zone and we were able to see firsthand the dynamic economy in its infancy.”

According to Kaia Klockeman ’06, Dundas, Minn., the experience also helped to break down some stereotypes the students had about China. “I thought, starting out, that I would be visiting places that were visibly struggling with poverty,” Klockeman says. “But I was pleasantly surprised by the modern feel of Hong Kong and the culturally rich experience of visiting Guangdong.”

Yet another option for international study is Summerterm courses conducted abroad. In 2004, programs took place in Kenya, Thailand and Peru. This summer, science courses are available in Vienna, Austria, and San Salvador, the Bahamas.

Artur Poczwardowski, a former psychology professor at St. Lawrence who is now on the faculty at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., is teaching the course Psychology of Creativity in Vienna in May and June. According to the course description, “the content of the course, assigned readings, field experiences and biographical case studies will capitalize on the resources naturally present in Vienna as a city that, for centuries, has produced some of the world’s greatest artists, composers, thinkers, scientists and performers. Guest lectures by Austrian professors and built-in cultural encounter tasks will aim at enhancing the cross-cultural experience.”

Associate Professor of Biology Brad Baldwin has several times taught courses in marine biology in the Bahamas and will do so again in June. The course Coral Reef Ecology “is designed as an intensive experience for students to learn about coral reef ecosystems, biodiversity and the use of these resources by Bahamians and international tourists,” according to the course description.

Participants don't spend all of their time on the island under water or on the beach, however. Baldwin and the students visit local schools while they are there, giving presentations on their work and getting to know some of what life is like for residents.

“The interaction between our students and these young Bahamians is amazing,” Baldwin says.

Because the area was hit hard by Hurricane Frances last fall, Baldwin and his wife, former faculty member Marilyn Mayer, issued a plea to the community during the holidays for donations to assist San Salvador residents. Books, teaching materials, laptop computers and other supplies were donated by those in the University community and beyond, and have been sent to the Bahamas.

Faculty who conduct research abroad often enlist students as assistants, providing undergraduates not only with the opportunity to work closely with mentors, but also to do so in locations where independent study would be difficult for them. Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Shinu Abraham recently directed a field survey project in the southern Indian state of Kerala, designed to reevaluate early South Indian ceramic and mortuary material culture. In January, Abraham and Drue Bormann ’05, of Elmira, N.Y, traveled to India to conduct a Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based study of proto-historic site distribution.

In its newsletter, the Center for International and Intercultural Study published the following report from Abraham:

“The season was the first phase of a long-term large-scale archaeological survey of the central coastal region of the southern state of Kerala. The goal of the project is to map and collect data from all the major archaeological sites in the region, in order to understand social, economic and political relations during the Early Historic period (ca. 300 BC to AD 300) in South India. This time, we focused on the intensive mapping of a single newly discovered site near the coast, which we think may be an ancient trading port. In the two and a half weeks we were in the field, we mapped [a portion] of the site (which is about 1.5 sq. km in size). In addition, we cataloged about 5,000 pieces of pottery, including Indian, Roam and possible West Asian wares, which will allow me to develop a ceramic profile for this part of India. This semester all our new data is being entered into a GIS database, in order to correlate it with information from other maps, satellite images and previous archaeological surveys in the region.”

(With additional reporting by Danielle Sanzone ’05 and Neal Burdick ’72.)

A few minutes after submitting this article, coordinator of news services Macreena Doyle left for Mexico, to do intensive study on the effects of serious beach time (in March, when the campus is still buried in snow) on someone who works under tight deadlines 48 weeks a year.

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