Education - Page 2 - Immersed in another culture

- Page 2
Immersed in another culture
Programs abroad broaden students’ horizons

By Emily Parks, Contributing Writer

The opportunity to study or serve abroad in another country can complement the learning experience for college students. Studying coursework abroad allows students to enjoy the combination of traditional academic study with an immersion in the culture of the country. Learning the course material while immersed in a culture adds a depth and breadth of study that students can’t get in the classroom alone. These international experiences leave students with a greater understanding of global economies and relationships.

Psychology students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) can take PSYC 230: Exploring Psychology and Culture course in Havana, Cuba. According to the UMBC website, the 11-day course builds on basic concepts and research methods in contemporary American psychology and explores how those ideas vary in a different culture. The course is offered at the end of the spring session, in May 2019.

The course addresses concepts such as but not limited to culture and history; culture, education and social behavior; as well as enculturation through a mixture of field trips, lectures and guest speakers. Upon returning to UMBC, students must develop an oral presentation and research paper that summarizes critical information learned in the course.

Led by Jasmine Adams, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and director of global community health promotion network, she notes the importance of students to be able to develop a greater awareness of their surroundings and undergo a critical analysis of items they take for granted. For example, students will go on a scavenger hunt with one of the items being finding a free newspaper. “I’ll ask them to look in the paper for a particular type of story or to look for a political cartoon,” she says.“We’ll analyze the content of the cartoon in an effort to examine the political interaction between Cuba and the United States. We’ll also examine the political climates in the United States and Cuba and how those conditions impact daily life and psychological constructs.”

She notes the main benefit of the course is to be found in the experiences a student can’t get in just the classroom. “Getting out of the classroom for a real ‘hands on’ learning experience and seeing the world around you is so valuable,” she says. “Having conversations with local people while thinking about course topics can help students recognize unique factors that shape cultural context and provide exposure to another way of life. I really want them to grasp why the situation is the way it is in Cuba and the role the United States has played in shaping social and cultural conditions in Cuba.”

Another study abroad opportunity at UMBC isPSYC346: Industrial/Organizational Psychology to be offered in Israel. This compressed two-week winter session course frames the study of psychology of the workplace within an international context. Outside of the classroom, the course will feature field trips to a hospital’s innovative (Ethiopian) nursing training program, as well as government and non-profit employers in Ashkelon, which is Baltimore’s “sister city” in Israel. Students will also learn from guest speakers who are seasoned Israeli human resources professionals who work in corporate and consulting sectors. The course is offered within the existing partnership of UMBC and Tel Aviv University.

The course will be led by Elliot Lasson, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, professor of the practice and director, I/O psychology graduate program. He notes how seeing the course’s themes in a different country will add to the breadth of learning of the subject matter.“We sometimes study I/O psychology based on familiar experiences in workplaces around our two Beltways, and implicitly assume that is the way people roll in other countries,” he says. “But, while there are some commonalities, there are also differences. Through the course abroad, students will learn and appreciate nuances of organizational behavior that are culturally grounded.”

Lastly, professional graduate students obtaining their masters in business administration (MBA) within the Sellinger School of Business at Loyola University Maryland can take part in the Chilean Study Tour. The tour consists of coursework as well as visits to organizations such as a winery, and a local hospital that has a hyperbaric chamber – a steel vessel in which atmospheric pressure can be raised or lowered by air compressors – and is used to treat miners. While on the nine-day study tour, MBA students enjoy the added benefit of being able to interact with alumni from Loyola’s MBA program in Chile at networking events.

The Tour is led by Nan Ellis, J.D., professor of law and social responsibility and Gerard Athaide, Ph.D., professor of marketing. Before the students leave for the trip they must complete presentations on the companies they will visit on the tour, in an effort to obtain critical contextual information prior to networking with contacts in Chile.

“The opportunity to learn so much more from an environment that’s different yet effective is so powerful,” Nan says. Gerard agrees. “There is great value to learning, sharing information and networking in a different cultural environment,” he says. “The fact that the Chilean managers are so willing to share information about the good and the bad, their failures and successes is so different and so powerful.”

James Steirhoff credits his time abroad with the Chilean Study Tour in giving him a greater understanding of the global marketplace. The information learned from the student presentations completed prior to the trip gave him with a greater depth and understanding of the region. “Being so well informed about the culture made it for a better experience,” he says. Currently, James is a portfolio manager at Brown Advisory and found the experience useful upon examining investment opportunities in Latin America.

“When it comes to investing in emerging markets, I was able to develop a much stronger grasp of the region and appreciate how the opportunity set and investment landscape varies in Latin American countries such as Chile,” he says.

Study abroad programs also provide service opportunities. Towson University has a chapter Students Helping Honduras, a national organization that provides volunteer opportunities to hundreds of students each year to raise funds and awareness for impoverished towns in Honduras. So far, volunteers have aided in funding and building schools, homes, clean water and sanitation systems, and soccer fields. The chapter at Towson University in its eighth year, and has built schools and Boys & Girls Homes.

Laura Sullam is the student director of the Towson chapter. Her responsibilities as student director include serving as a point of contact with chapter leaders at other universities as well as managing student questions about the program. Student chapters must raise $29,000 at the start of each school year, often to fund the building and completion of projects such as a three-room school in a small town in Honduras.The construction is launched during the students’ winter visit in January. Construction is to be completed by the next January in time to inaugurate the school.

For Sullam, working with the people of Honduras is what brings her back year after year. The buy in and participation of the Honduran people to build schools for the children of their community is nothing short of amazing. “The people of the town are creating change for their kids and for future generations,” she says. “We’re giving them a hand where it’s greatly needed.” •

PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Above left: Left to right: Towson University students Laura Sullam, Megan Kammerer, Chloe Lissauer and Victoria Damico overlooking the mountainous view on the worksite Jose Trinidad in the village of Alexander Lopez. Towson University broke ground on the project January of 2017 and it was inaugurated the next January trip in 2018.

A greater understanding

Benefits of the Chilean Study Tour at the Sellinger School of Business at Loyola University Maryland include:
• Learn about international business, international marketing and ethics in Chile.
• Learn about Chile through the opportunity to interact with alumni to obtain information tailored to the learning objectives
• Develop a network as well as lifelong friends.

Highlights of the Towson University
Chapter of Students Helping Honduras:
• Towson University has raised over $158,000 in only two years to fund the Villa Soleada Children’s Home and bilingual school.
• Towson University student chapter members have taught English, spent time with the children, visited an orphanage and built the foundations for both the Bilingual School and Children’s Home.
• In spring 2015, the students raised $30,000 to open a transitional home for the children of the girls and boys home in which to move in to when they are older. •