Before last spring, all Miriam “Mimi” Abadie of Hattiesburg knew about Africa was what she had seen on television or read in books.
After four months in Senegal, Abadie now knows firsthand about daily life there. And she realizes that although there’s a world of difference between Senegal and Mississippi, there are also similarities.
“The program was truly unforgettable,” said Abadie, a philosophy and English major in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. “I met an eclectic group of people, Senegalese and American, whom I now consider my family. From the directors of the program to my host family, and from my new friends to the peanut lady and the bread man, I have met and been touched by so many friendly, inspiring personalities.”
Direct experience with different regions of the world is a key aspect of study abroad. Each year, College students take classes overseas, learning a different perspective on life, the world and themselves.
The number of UM students participating in study abroad has more than doubled over the last four years, with a total of 598 students in the 2005-06 academic year. College students make up 82 percent of study abroad students for the spring 2007 semester.
There are several types of study abroad opportunities. In the traditional study abroad program, students enroll in a foreign university for a semester or two.
Many students also take advantage of study abroad courses taught by College faculty, an increasingly popular option. About 74 programs were proposed for winter intersession and summer sessions of 2007, many from the College.
For example, Andrew Long, assistant professor of political science, offered “Britain and the World” last summer in London, where students studied Great Britain’s influence on international political and economic systems.
For “Watercolor in Sicily,” art professor Paula Temple and her students spent a few days exploring the culture, history and art of Sicily for inspiration. Later, they set up a location in Syracuse, Sicily to work on their watercolors, which the students will show on the UM campus during the spring semester.
Since 1996, Gary Gaston, professor of biology, has led 20 study abroad trips that have focused on ecology in Belize, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands and Australia. After morning lectures, students go into the field.
“It’s the way to teach ecology,” said Gaston. “The students are isolated from other distractions and are immersed in biology. Until they get into the water or walk through the rain forest, they don’t know what they have missed. It’s a thrill for me to watch them find new species.”
Other examples include Caribbean Literature taught by Adetayo Alabi in St. Croix; African Music Cultures taught by George Dor in Ghana; and Environmental Psychology taught by Laura Johnson in Tanzania.
“Our students will be living and working in a world in which international relations assume increasing significance,” said Ronald Vernon, associate dean of Liberal Arts. “Study abroad can contribute to an early understanding of another country and culture, as well as the relationship of that international experience to a particular academic discipline.”