Student Success

Students find personal and educational growth through faculty-led study abroad courses

Illustration of leaves, camera and pottery with words "World Traveler"

Office of Global Engagement

icon of a calendarMay 17, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Kelli M. Warshefski

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Clink, clink, clink. A trowel digs into the red, dry earth as Shaina Browning wipes sweat from her brow. It’s been a long day, kneeling and digging in the Israeli soil. A task both challenging and rewarding for this double major in anthropology and history.

“The blood, sweat and tears that go into these operations is something we only see staged glimpses of in documentaries or read in articles,” Browning, CAS ‘19, recalls. “Until you are on the ground with a shovel in your hand do you really understand the weight of being able to unearth the vast history that surrounds us. You feel a sense of responsibility to respect the history beneath your feet.”

Browning travelled to Israel in 2018 and 2019 with a study abroad course led by OU faculty Michael Pytlik, Ph.D. The class takes students to conduct excavations near Jerusalem, Israel, as well as excursions to historical and cultural sites.

The Israel Archeological Field School and Tour course is just one of a handful of faculty-led study abroad programs found in Oakland University’s College of Arts and Sciences. The gamut of programs range from immersing into British culture and literature in Oxford, to studying geological formations in Ontario, to exploring the art and architecture of Italy.

A study abroad course offers students immeasurable opportunities for personal growth as well as an important credential to include on a resume or graduate school application,” explains Donna Voronovich, special lecturer for Summer in Volterra, Italy. “Study abroad is one of the smartest investments a student can make in their future. With a variety of scholarships and other financial assistance available, these opportunities are within reach for every student.”

“It is one thing to read about all these topics but to immerse yourself in them truly gives what you are learning about a whole new meaning,” says student John Hart, environment science major. Hart initially had reservations about studying abroad due to the amount of time spent away from his core coursework. However, after stumbling across a study abroad course taught by one of his favorite professors, Scott Tiegs, Ph.D., Hart was hooked. He spent two weeks with Dr. Tiegs and classmates exploring Costa Rica’s rich ecology.

“The tropics harbor some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet and for ecologists and students of ecology these are fascinating and beautiful places to visit.,” says Dr. Tiegs, who has been running his course in Tropical Field Ecology twice a year for a decade.

“As environmental science majors, we learned about the different biomes of the world and the great biodiversity of tropical regions in our classes,” says Jasmine Mancuso, CAS ‘18. “To be able to experience those things firsthand in a country that hosts a wealth of ecosystem types and species was truly an unmissable opportunity.”

Studying abroad does not necessarily mean travelling thousands of miles away, however. “Michigan and Ontario are unique in their geologic history,” says Fabia U. Battistuzzi, Ph.D., associate professor for Co-Evolution of Life and Earth. Dr. Battistuzzi runs a study abroad course that journeys just hours away to examine geologic formations that exists in only four other places in the world.

Across the Atlantic, the British Studies at Oxford course comes with a unique disclaimer for students: “Participants often feel homesick for Oxford when they return to the states,” warns program director Susan Lynne Beckwith, Ph.D. This course allows students to experience the best of England, while they live and study at the world-renowned University of Oxford. “The program is structured so the participants are not ‘tourists’ on a quick visit, but experience England as residents do,” Dr. Beckwith says.

Whether studying near or far, these faculty-led study abroad courses are a means to expand a students’ worldview beyond the classroom. It’s a life-changing experience that fits any major, any curriculum, or any financial situation. It’s an opportunity attainable to anyone willing to reach for it.

“It is a true hands-on experience that you may never have the opportunity to do otherwise,” says Browning. “Regardless of the degree or career goal you have, a study abroad course will help you in more ways than one. It is not just an educational experience it is a personal growth and appreciation for the real world around you.”
group of students in Costa Rica

Students in the Tropical Field Ecology course in Costa Rica. Left to right: Shane Kolinski, Autumn Carden, Blake Jansen, Michael Tinsley, Andrew Maynor, Brianna Walter, Katie McGee, Kylie Page, Megan Jamison, Taylor Knickerbocker, Alana Mehay, Madi Briggs, John Hart, Stephanie Peters. Photo by Kennedy Bommarito

Female student digging

Shaina Browning at a dig site in Israel. Photo by Michael Pytlik

Group of students sitting in Greek stadium

Students awaiting the beginning of Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes at the Ancient Amphitheater of Epidaurus. Photo by Karen Sheridan, co-director of Classical Theatre Study in Greece course

female student looking out over town in Great Britain

Sophia Williams in Great Britain. Photo by Cecily McPherson

Costa Rica landscape

Costa Rican landscape. Photo by Allison Kulka

group of student standing alongside hill in Israel

Israel dig site.

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