Monday, March 23, 2015

"My Future is in My Own Hands": A Student's Decision to Go Abroad


Summer Drum is a student at the Lloyd International Honors College at UNCG. Born and raised in North Carolina, she is currently on the adventure of a lifetime studying history and education abroad at Plymouth University in Plymouth, England. You can learn more about Summer and her journey abroad by following her travel blog at summerdrum.wordpress.com.

I believe that a heavy fear of mediocrity rests within many of us. For me, this fear has crawled to the forefront of my mind and constantly whispers into my ear. The first semester of my freshman year in college, I was sitting in a classroom at UNCG, fighting sleep as my professor droned on about a topic I had no interest in. That night, a wave of worry washed over me. “Sure, I’m only 18,” I thought to myself, “But I feel like life is so much more than this.” I pictured myself sitting through more uninteresting classes in the future, the sole purpose to check off a box so I’d be able to graduate; I saw myself with my college diploma, rushing to get a job; images of a house and a family began to surface; and, soon, I was in a fit of uncontrollable tears. That illustration of my future depicted me settling for a life of mediocrity, a normal and expected path, and it frightened me. I realized what I was craving- risk. Deviation from the norm. Adventure.

At the Oxford University School of Divinity, used as the
Hogwarts Infirmary in the Harry Potter films
Shortly after this little breakdown freshman year, I began planning my study abroad experience through the Honors College and the IPC Office. I’d always been interested in travel, and yet I had very little experience with it. Study abroad sounded like the perfect prescription for challenge and exploration.

Today, I am writing this from a dorm room at Plymouth University in England. It is my second semester of my sophomore year, and I am currently 19 years old. I am living in a country 3,000 miles from the comfort of home, an entire ocean apart from the people I love. I almost can’t believe that I’m actually here.

When I gave my teary goodbyes to my family members and boarded my plane to the UK, I envisioned something close to a perfect vacation; endless traveling, incredible food, crazy stories, and consistent activities. However, study abroad is grittier than a glossy vacation ad. It’s hard. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s emotional. It’s frustrating. It’s… incredible.

Plymouth is a port city on the southwestern coast of England, located in the county of Devon. The Pilgrims left from Plymouth on their famed Mayflower voyage. The weather is typically cold, windy, and cloudy. Because it rains so often, the grass maintains a vibrant green color year-round. The city is close and compact, so you can travel almost everywhere on foot. The university is one of the world’s leaders in sustainability. 33,000 students learn here. With such large numbers, one would assume the campus would be quite large. Instead of growing outward, however, the campus grows upward. Most school buildings are very tall, but that means that I can cross the entire campus in five minutes.

Plymouth was bombed heavily in WWII, so the city center consists of mostly modern buildings with the occasional historical treasure thrown in. The harbor area is called the Barbican, and its streets contain some of the oldest buildings in Plymouth.

View of Plymouth Sound
English culture has its similarities to American culture, but the differences are what make things interesting. Fridays are for eating fish and chips, while Sundays are for traditional English roasts. Instead of saying hello, strangers greet you with, “Are you alright?” Because British drivers travel on the opposite side of the road, you must be extra careful crossing the street. When someone says “That room is on the first floor,” that means the second floor to Americans. Most courses have only two graded assignments scheduled for the entire term. Coursework is submitted anonymously to a faculty office and not to the specific instructor. The steady accumulation of these little observations is what has made me fall in love with England.

The challenges I’ve experienced so far are what have sparked growth and change. I live in the cheapest dorm on campus. The ceiling in our bathroom fell in, the lock broke, and the flat above and below mine stay up until six in the morning blasting music. However, given the chance, I wouldn’t move to another dorm. I am simply thankful to have shelter and a place to stay, and in a nicer dorm, I probably would not have as much of an authentic experience. I spend a lot of money on groceries every week, and have had to learn how to cook all of my food. I have to balance my schoolwork alongside my other endeavors, as well as an online class through UNCG. On a bus trip to Oxford, the bus broke down seven times. We spent twelve hours on the bus and only managed to have three hours to explore the city. It was a miserable feeling, but when the group of Germans behind me cracked open some hidden beers and toasted to the tragic adventure, the whole bus fell into hysterics.

International friends
It’s extremely easy to become homesick, but the amazing international students I have met serve as the best medicine. Study abroad tears down the walls of comfort zones and envelops students in vulnerability. Each student is going through similar challenges, so it forms connective bonds between us. We travel together, eat together, and go shopping together. I now have a priceless network of friends from all across the globe. I could not ask for anything better. The best part? I still have three full months left in Plymouth, which means that those friendships are only going to strengthen.

The risks I’ve taken studying abroad have opened my mind to trying a whole variety of new experiences. I’ve gone mountain-biking, joined a weight training class, attended church services for various religions, booked spontaneous trips, and tried new cuisines. I even got a tattoo to commemorate my experience. It says “fearless,” and it inspires me to give everything new and interesting a try.

Exeter Cathedral
While study abroad isn’t the vacation I dreamed of, I think it’s better. Without this experience, I
would be still fighting the desire to sleep through a boring lecture. I wouldn’t have stood in awe on a busy London street corner. I wouldn’t have spent an hour in solitude, overwhelmed by the beauty of the Exeter Cathedral. I wouldn’t have spent Valentine’s Day stuffing my face with pizza with fifteen other amazing souls around me. I wouldn’t have a twenty-day trip around Europe on my itinerary. I wouldn’t have the ability to ask random strangers for directions. I wouldn’t know how to rely solely on myself. I wouldn’t know just how strong I actually am.

My time here at Plymouth has lit a spark within me, one that pushes me to constantly better myself. I’m in love with this area, these people, and this opportunity. I feel more connected to myself than I ever have before. I am no longer scared of living a mediocre life, because I realize now that my future is in my own hands. There is no limit to what I can achieve, and I am going to consistently push myself toward success. I believe that a heavy fear of mediocrity rests within many of us. For me, this fear has crawled to the forefront of my mind and constantly whispers into my ear… except now, when I look around me at the beauty of England, it is silenced.

To learn more about study abroad opportunities, visit the International Programs Center website at uncg.edu/ipg.

To learn more about Lloyd International Honors College, visit honorscollege.uncg.edu.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015







Global Engagement QEP Newsletter
March 17, 2015

Registration for Global Engagement Summer Institute, Funding Deadlines Friday
________________________________________________

Global Engagement Summer Institute Registration 
As part of UNCG’s Quality Enhancement Plan on Global Engagement, a summer institute for faculty development will be offered through the University Teaching and Learning Commons May 13-15, 2015. 
  
The purpose of the institute is to provide professional development opportunities for faculty to build new knowledge about intercultural-global topics; to develop coursework or teaching applications for use in delivering global engagement student learning outcomes; and to build campus participation through faculty sharing of expertise.  


In addition to speakers, activities, and panels, the heart of the experience will be project based.  All participants will work with a facilitator and other group members each afternoon to develop a course, or redesign a course, or create a teaching application that supports the delivery of the global learning competencies using QEP student learning outcomes. 

Please fill out the application below by April 1, 2015 to register.

________________________________________________

Upcoming Funding Deadlines
The final funding deadline for 2014-15 Global Engagement QEP Course Development Awards and Kohler Awards is Friday, March 20. Please see links below for application information, or email globalqep@uncg.edu.

March 20: Global Engagement QEP Course Development Awards

March 20: Kohler Awards

April 1: OLSL Service-Learning Global Course Development Faculty Grants
To download a brochure with all International and Global funding opportunities, please visit http://www.uncg.edu/ipg/intlgebrochure.pdf
________________________________________________

Global Engagement Partner Button Unveiled
Want to show your support for Global Engagement at UNCG? Now you can!

The Global Engagement QEP Office has created a 'button' you are encouraged to consider adding to all appropriate pages on your office's web site so visitors to your site can link directly to us.  Simply copy and paste the button (shown below) to your site and then hyperlink it to our page at globalqep.uncg.edu



If you need technical specifications, please email globalqep@uncg.edu. Thank you for showing your support as a Global Engagement Partner!
________________________________________________

Please direct questions to the Global Engagement Office at globalqep@uncg.edu or contact David Nelson, QEP Director, at david_nelson@uncg.edu

Monday, March 9, 2015

Global Engagement QEP Newsletter: GE Summer Institute, Partner Button, Audio Spotlight







Global Engagement QEP Newsletter
March 4, 2015

Registration for Faculty Global Engagement Summer Institute, Partner Button Unveiled, First Audio Spotlight
________________________________________________

Now Open: Global Engagement Summer Institute Registration
As part of UNCG’s Quality Enhancement Plan on Global Engagement, a summer institute for faculty development will be offered through the University Teaching and Learning Commons May 13-15, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day, including lunch. 

The purpose of the institute is to provide professional development opportunities for selected faculty to build new knowledge about intercultural-global topics; to develop coursework or teaching applications for use in delivering global engagement student learning outcomes; and to build campus participation through faculty sharing of expertise.  

In addition to speakers, activities, and panels, the heart of the experience will be project based.  All participants will work with a facilitator and other group members each afternoon to develop a course, or redesign a course, or create a teaching application that supports the delivery of the global learning competencies using QEP student learning outcomes. 

Please fill out the application below by March 17, 2015.  Selected participants will be notified by March 23.

________________________________________________

Global Engagement Partner Button Unveiled
Want to show your support for Global Engagement at UNCG? Now you can!

The Global Engagement QEP Office has created a 'button' you are encouraged to consider adding to all appropriate pages on your office's web site so visitors to your site can link directly to us.  Simply copy and paste the button (shown below) to your site and then hyperlink it to our page at globalqep.uncg.edu

If you need technical specifications, please email globalqep@uncg.edu. Thank you for showing your support as a Global Engagement Partner!

________________________________________________

Introducing our First Audio Spotlight
This week, we’re trying something new… our first-ever audio Global Engagement Spotlight! 

Visit globalengagementqep.blogspot.com to hear Dr. Corey Johnson and Dr. Jay Lennartson discuss the joys and challenges of taking 9 UNCG students overseas to Thailand and Cambodia.

Click below to view their talk on YouTube.

________________________________________________

Upcoming Funding Deadlines
________________________________________________

March 16: OLSL International Service-Learning Course Development Faculty Grants

March 20: Global Engagement QEP Course Development Awards

March 20: Kohler Awards

April 1: OLSL Service-Learning Global Course Development Faculty Grants

To download a brochure with all International and Global funding opportunities, please visit http://www.uncg.edu/ipg/intlgebrochure.pdf
________________________________________________

Please direct questions to the Global Engagement Office at globalqep@uncg.edu or contact David Nelson, QEP Director, at david_nelson@uncg.edu

Monday, March 2, 2015

Spotlight: Geography Department Study Abroad Field Experience - Thailand and Cambodia


Led by Dr. Jay Lennartson and Dr. Corey Johnson, a group of 9 UNCG students journeyed to Thailand and Cambodia over the 2014 Winter Break.

Along with touring the two countries, the students met with the Governor of Bangkok to discuss issues the city was facing that related to topics the students were jointly investigating with students from Thammasat University.

Dr. Lennartson and Dr. Johnson shared the challenges and triumphs of planning their international adventure with the Global Engagement QEP. This is their story...



CJ: I’m Corey Johnson, I’m an associate professor of Geography at UNCG.

JL: I’m Jay Lennartson, I am a senior lecturer in the department of Geography. 

I’d been looking for another opportunity to take students abroad to interesting environments in Southeast Asia. I then approached Dr. Johnson and made him aware of what I had, a general sort of idea, and he had a colleague at Thammasat University. And so we made our plans and went over and met this gentleman, Desha, and he helped to plan our itinerary.

CJ: Neither of us were regional experts. In fact, neither of us I think had been to Southeast Asia prior to our scoping trip. And that was actually by design. Part of the message we wanted to convey to the students, for their own learning experience, was that through the methodologies and techniques and approaches that we learn in the classroom in Geography, you can go places and apply those.

JL: We had 9 students, a mix of undergraduates and graduates.

CJ: About half and half, actually. We were there for two weeks, we were on the ground for two weeks with students beginning basically… They were to depart the day after Christmas, the 26th, and then we all returned either the 10th or 11th of January. Bangkok was the base where the students flew into. And pretty much immediately after we arrived, we boarded a train and left for Cambodia, and then after that subsequently returned to Bangkok, and the rest of the trip was spent in the city.

JL: The service-learning piece really involved their interactions with the Thammasat University students. Which is really one of the more satisfying aspects of the whole trip, is to see the relationships and the bonds that developed between the students from Thammasat University. The faculty member, Desha, had maybe 5 or 6  undergraduates that worked with our students and went along on the field trips and worked with them on such things as the sex worker issue, the labor (we met a labor organizer), and…

CJ: …urban environments, political issues. So, basically, each day there was a trip into the city, at least part of it in Bangkok, where we met with local NGOs, we talked about the issues that they face, and the students were very much part of that.

JL: I think they just enjoyed hanging, the kids enjoy hanging out together and seeing the very different, very different cultures. Food kind of caught us. Our students, I was somewhat concerned…

CJ: They latched onto everything, from tarantulas and snakes, which at least one student tried, to some sort of doughnut that they could buy off the street that they found to be the best doughnut they’d ever had.

JL: That doughnut apparently was, yes.

CJ: I will say that I was most impressed by our students also along the lines of not knowing how they’d react to a very, very different environment. That they were open-minded, they went with the flow. We had zero problems, discipline issues, or issues of people not showing up on time, or people refusing to try a different way of transportation, different setting for how… Or different standards of cleanliness, which was something that sometimes I had issues with, but the students, they just went with the flow. It was incredible.

JL: They were quite adventurous, on their own. Their first, when we left them on their own for a little bit, they, one of them organized a little tuk-tuk expedition. So tuk-tuk is a motorcycle with a little cart on the back, essentially. It’s how you get around. So they went out and they rented some tuk-tuks and got taken around, they actually got taken a little bit.

CJ: You know, it’s the standard story of “we’re going to take you to show you some Buddha,” and then after they show you the Buddha, then they take you to a suit shop. I mean, of course that was the first day they were there, and that was in the journals and reflected as, it seems, one of the highlights.

JL: It didn’t faze them at all, they took it as a learning experience.

CJ: The key is, for the educational experience, is be open to living in the place, be open to seeing things that are not on the tourist itineraries. Our students learned far more, and horizons were far more broadened by the experiences in the evening walking around than by visiting the famous tourist attractions in this part of the world.

JL: It was a Friday evening, and we were trying to get back to let the kids go out and have some fun with the Thammasat students, but our host wanted us to go to a Burmese migrant village. It’s a place where they process fish. And it was just, kind of surreal. It was a surreal experience because you’re in a different community with all these different sights and sounds and smells. But we all said we would love to go back again and experience it. It was very special.

As we were going along in the trip, every morning we would get together with the students. Three of them, unsolicited, by the way, you know, would comment, “I wish this is how college was all the time.” They said, “I’ve learned more in the first two or three days that I’ve been there than I have in my whole 4 years at UNCG." They said, “This is what school should be about.”

For more information on Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs, contact Marie Henry at mrhenry2@uncg.edu or visit http://uncg.edu/ipg

For faculty funding opportunities, visit http://globalqep.uncg.edu/faculty/grants.htm