Michael Hall (center) with students in a previous trip to Peru.

Armstrong Study Abroad Programs See Growth

(May 18, 2011) More than 200 Armstrong Atlantic State University students are headed for destinations around the world as part of summer study abroad programs, representing an increase of about 43 percent in the number of students who traveled last year.

“There are likely a number of reasons why we are seeing a significant increase, including a heightened awareness among students about the great programs that we offer that are designed specifically for the various academic disciplines,” said Kristin Kasting, assistant director for the Office of International Education, which coordinates study abroad programs.

The trips, which are open to the public and led by faculty members throughout the university, are an extension of classroom learning and immerse students in the culture and history of world regions on five continents.

Eighteen students have already left for China in a program led by professors Helen Taggart and Marilyn O'Mallon in nursing and Sara Plaspohl in health sciences. The two-week program is designed to teach students about traditional Chinese medicine and culture. Chinese universities, healthcare centers and museums are among the stops during the tour.

Closer to home, William Deaver, professor of Spanish and Spanish American literature, is in his 11th year of taking students to Cuernavaca, Mexico on a trip focusing on the Spanish language and the culture of the region. The two-week tour in May includes visits to several important cultural and historical sites and while there, students are required to speak Spanish with their host families, helping to maximize the immersion experience.

Kasting thinks it is exciting that Armstrong recently has opened all corners of the globe to our students. She says, “These are opportunities that our students have as a result of Armstrong reaching out to develop partnerships with universities in the Americas, Western, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.”

In all, 15 summer programs are scheduled this year with destinations ranging from Argentina and Germany, to the Czech Republic and Scandinavia. Programs run between two and six weeks, but semester-long programs are also offered, as well as spring break programs.

“These tours are designed with history and culture in mind and are not your typical tourist destinations,” said Michael Hall, professor of history, who enjoys taking his students to Peru and Brazil. “These experiences open their eyes to a whole new world.”

Study abroad programs support the university's strategic plan, which calls for providing transformative educational opportunities inside and outside the classroom and preparing students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world.

“We are excited about this significant increase in study abroad in that it helps our students become culturally fluent, which fulfills one of the primary goals of the University System of Georgia,” said James Anderson, Armstrong assistant to the vice president for international education and head of the Office of International Education.

Scott Runge, a senior art education major bound for Argentina in June, is looking forward to meeting and talking to local artisans in the northwest province of Salta. The trip allows students to focus on the history and art of the region, including traditional crafts and customs that have been part of the Salta region for centuries.

“This is a chance to expand my horizon and meet other artists with very different perspectives and world views,” he said. “It is crucial for college students to be educated and accepting of other parts of the world and the best way to do that is to travel to places to meet people and see things first hand.”