Getting global on a faculty-led study abroad mini-break

FDU students can take in the sights and sounds of Italy while taking one or more month-long summer courses. This panoramic view of Bergamo was taken from the top of the bell tower in Citta Alta (upper town). (Photo courtesy of Gloria Pastorino)

By Kenna Caprio

Exposure to a “social, cultural and academic experience,” as Metropolitan Campus criminal justice professor Robert Vodde calls it, is what one week, two weeks, one month or a semester abroad offers to Fairleigh Dickinson University students.

“Although a full semester abroad is viewed by some as the best model for study abroad, many students are unable to spend that much time away from home. A short, intensive trip can be a more reasonable and affordable alternative,” says Jason Scorza, vice provost for international education.

“They also give students an opportunity to travel with an experienced faculty member who can help them make the most of their limited time abroad.”

Mini-study abroad class options for undergraduate students include:

  • Western Front in WWI and Western Front in WWII

On this biennial trip run by Gary Darden, associate professor of history and chair of the social sciences and history department at the College at Florham, most students opt to take both classes.

“We visit hand-selected battlefield sites in the Somme, Verdun and Normandy as well as relevant national military museums in Paris and London," says Darden. “The students are very moved by the memorials and cemeteries, which include more than 20,000 immaculately maintained and lined graves.” The trip runs seven days in France and eight in England, based out of FDU’s Wroxton College. In each course, students read period novels, memoirs and historical texts as they learn about the Western Front from both world wars, whether the trenches of the first or the occupation of France and the London Blitz in the second.

“Experiential learning brings everything much closer. You can sit there and read about D-Day landings or watch ‘Saving Private Ryan’, but until you go there you don’t get a sense of the geography or the memorials. Going to the sites is better than 10 hours in the classroom,” says Darden.

This trip will be offered again in 2015. On “even” years, Darden takes his Pacific Worlds class to East Asia. Neither Western Front in WWI or Western Front in WWII require prerequisites and both are open to all majors.

“Traveling elevates and develops your intellect and makes you a better global citizen,” says Darden. “It’s vital that FDU students get out of their comfort zone and go overseas.”

  •  Cross Cultural Issues in Psychology

Before Lona Whitmarsh, associate professor of psychology at Florham, revived the cross-cultural psychology course, it “hadn’t been taught at FDU in a long time,” she says. “And with the (University’s) global mission, that course should be in the curriculum. Wroxton is probably the biggest jewel in the FDU crown and I wanted to find a way to get our students there.”

Starting in the spring semester, students tackle the academic components of the course, which are then supplemented by an experiential learning component at Wroxton during the summer.

As part of one assignment, students enrolled in the course observe school and teaching environments, while interacting with young students, in both the United States and England. Then they compare.

“So many schools in England are organized by the Church of England, but students observed religion did not feel like as much of a social issue in those schools as compared to how it feels in our culture,” notes Whitmarsh.

Lectures presented abroad are on topics including: Anglo-American differences, the British Monarchy, British humor, the British education system and an introduction to Shakespeare. “We visit different cities, London, Oxford, Birmingham, Banbury and Stratford upon Avon, to experience British life in very different geographical differences,” she says.

This class, which had an initial cohort of 18 and is open to all majors, will run again in Spring 2014. “The program could easily double in size,” says Whitmarsh. “I hope to extend this course to students enrolled on the Metropolitan Campus. I do not want them to think it’s just a Florham course.”

Summer abroad courses offered in history, psychology and criminal justice are all based out of FDU’s Wroxton College in Oxfordshire, England. Pictured here Wroxton Abbey's Great Hall. (Photo courtesy of Codi Scarpello)
  • Criminal Justice Seminar

Robert Vodde launched the Criminal Justice Seminar — which features three class options including Comparative Criminal Justice Systems: United States & United Kingdom, Global Terrorism and History of Crime and Punishment — twelve years ago. Three courses are offered so students can elect to take advantage of the seminar more than once.

Before the cohort, usually capped at 15 students, leaves for the United Kingdom, they attend three classes, which provide them with a baseline, foundation and history of what they’ll be studying. Recent guest speakers included the chief inspector for terrorism and homeland security for Great Britain.

Students taking Global Terrorism learn about terrorism not just from a political perspective, but also from cultural, social, religious and ideological standpoints. “It all depends what lens you are looking through, of course,” says Vodde. “Our students are exposed to the perspective of the West as the terrorists.”

During the experiential portions of the class, students visit the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Old Bailey (London’s central criminal court), London Metro Police and Scotland Yard. “We recently incorporated into the program the Jack the Ripper guided walking tour about the Whitechapel murders in London. Students love that,” says Vodde. “It’s led by academics, (who are) leading criminologists.”

Adding to the social and cultural experience are trips to Stratford upon Avon, Oxford, Stonehenge and Bath.

Vodde describes the seminar as a “holistic experience,” allowing students to become “totally immersed” in the culture abroad.

  • Beginning Italian I and Italy: Land of Migrations

“This is a new version of a trip that I used to offer in the past. We used to go to Alassio, on the Italian Riviera, for three weeks and then travel to Milan and Venice,” says Gloria Pastorino, associate professor of literature, language, writing and philosophy at Florham, of the language and culture classes currently offered in Italy.

“Now, we spend three weeks in Bergamo, taking excursions to Milan, Venice and Genoa, and one week in Alassio, so that students can experience life in two very different places as they study hard,” she continues.

In the elementary language course, students are immersed in the culture and language as they begin learning Italian. Italy: Lands of Migrations is a history, literature and film course covering the past century.

“My philosophy has never been to take the students on sightseeing tours, but rather have them live as Italians do and truly absorb and understand the culture — as much as anyone can in as limited a time,” says Pastorino.

FDU students studying abroad as part of this program can also elect to take one class at the University of Bergamo, at no additional cost. The agreement worked out between the partner universities allows Bergamo students to do the same with an FDU course offered abroad.

“Students can take two summer courses for the price of one, spend four weeks in a beautiful country on their own, grow intellectually and spend time on one of the most beautiful beaches of the Italian Riviera, while eating great food from several different regions,” adds Pastorino.

“There is no substitute for the immediate experience of life in another country or culture. No matter how brief this experience may be, it holds the promise of refreshing our view of the world and our place in it,” Scorza concludes.

Visit the Study Abroad home page for more information on summer study abroad or semester abroad options, or call 973-443-8086 or 201-692-7218.

More coverage of study abroad:

Savoring Bergamo, Italy, gelato in hand

Italian students study abroad at FDU

Hop across the pond this summer to study abroad at Wroxton

FDU students embark on Vietnam, Cambodia adventure

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

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