Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Why Students Should Study Abroad Early in their Academic Careers

By Annie Gibson

Studying abroad instills a lifelong passion for engaging in intercultural connection. In my opinion, the earlier this experience happens, the better. My first experience going abroad without my family happened when I was 13 years old. I spent the summer in Mexico working as an au pair, and that experience marked the course of the rest of my life: It influenced me to want to become fluent in Spanish and to be engaged with international education, leading me to the career that I have today.

Because of the influence that traveling abroad had on me during my early life, I am a huge proponent of immersion education. To fully grasp any subject to the point of being able to apply and manipulate that knowledge, you must be immersed in learning so fully that all senses are engaged. We try to replicate this learning on the college campus, but sometimes college can end up feeling like an academic bubble. When classroom learning is integrated with “living” the information being discussed in class, the learning outcome is much greater. The life skill of becoming culturally bilingual, of learning to both understand and embrace differences in order to draw objective conclusions and build alliances, is one of the most important skills to develop—and it is best learned and practiced in the real world.

Living abroad gives students the opportunity to learn to adapt their body language, their spoken language, and even their written language based on cultural contexts in order to communicate more clearly who they are and what they want. If students can learn this adaptation skill it makes for more aware and more confident scholars who are better equipped for any class, career, or experience that may arise during their lifetimes.

This fall I have had the chance to meet four freshman and two sophomore students whose spirit of adventure led them to make the decision to study abroad at Tulane’s first ever Early Experience Abroad in Costa Rica program. Tulane students in Costa Rica are studying and living in dormitories in CIAPA (Centro de Investigación y Adiestramiento Político Administrativo), a social science research institution located in the Curridabat neighborhood of San José. They are taking classes at CIAPA as well as at the University of Costa Rica. The classes are designed as experiential learning classes, using the urban and natural environments of Costa Rica as the classrooms.

Early experience abroad programs are a recent trend in many colleges across the country. The programs are geared at giving freshman (and some sophomore) students an exposure to international exchanges from the get-go in their college careers in order to build a more globally aware campus. Studying abroad inevitably brings the classroom outside of the Ivory Tower and into the streets, museums, buildings, and forests, creating students who see engagement with community and environment as part of the educational process.

A successful study abroad experience fosters an interest in lifetime learning that goes far beyond the four years of undergraduate higher education. Have you ever heard of a student who returned from a study abroad trip and did not have at least one life-changing experience to talk about? I haven’t. Traveling inevitably makes students have to think on their feet and learn the skills of budgeting, navigating new ways of socializing, and quieting the internal clashes that arise when living outside of our comfort zones. I feel lucky to be able to experience those emotions vicariously with my students this semester. I wish there had been a program such as this when I was a freshman in college; I would have surely signed up. When I studied abroad in Brazil my junior year, I came back with a whole new worldview that I wished I could have applied to my studies much earlier.

Students should study abroad as early as they can in college so that their experiences can have the greatest impact on the course of their academic lives over the next three or four years. These six students here in Costa Rica who decided to begin their college careers by studying abroad will now have the space and time to carve out an academic path back at Tulane’s main campus with the new knowledge that they have gained during the inevitable life-changing moments happening while living in San José. By studying abroad freshman year, these students will be able to use their later years to focus on their major requirements or on doing more in-depth research for their senior thesis, all with the added advantage of having learned the tools of being a world citizen while living abroad. Or, even better, they could use their junior year to once again go abroad, and this time with a greater focus and purpose to their studies.

The cohort of students in Costa Rica is a self-selected group that understood the importance of global education from the moment that they filled out their college applications. It was a smart decision because the experiences that they have had in Costa Rica will add to their careers upon returning to Tulane. These students have gained a new sense of independence while navigating life in another culture. Every day events such as learning the bus schedule to get to class, finding new social groups, making purchases in another language, and learning to plan weekend trips have been activities that have built confidence and aided their maturation.

The courses that the students are taking are made more practical by being applied to field trips and to their lives in San José. By having a core group of classes that focuses on using one’s surroundings, learning at CIAPA has direct repercussions in students’ daily lives. For example, when we discussed differences in colonial architecture in
Costa Rica versus other parts of Latin America, we walked through the churches of Orosi and Ujarrás, looking at how the building materials had been influenced by Costa Rican indigenous culture. The students got to secretly lift the skirts of the saints on the altar to discover that the statues were no more than a head and hands, a testament to the fact that these colonial statues had to be brought via ship and then horseback to the central valley region. The next weekend they themselves had the butt bruises to prove that they rode horseback for four hours to arrive at the Rara Avis Biological Research Center, making references to our discussions about transportation in colonial Costa Rica. They got to study climate change by walking through both rain forest and cloud forest and holding in their hands frog species that are on the verge of disappearing due to climate changes in the region. They later saw photographs of frog species that have already
disappeared. Another weekend they got to feel Costa Rican national pride by listening to President Laura Chinchilla speak at an Independence Day celebration and then another evening they experienced national pride by seeing the rivalry soccer game between Costa Rica and Mexico.

These students are also living Tulane’s commitment to community service by working weekly with Fundación Acción Joven, a non-profit agency that seeks to boost high school retention rates by teaching at-risk high school students lessons that cultivate an awareness of civic identity and social responsibility. Each Tulane student has independently designed a project that forges relationships and influences directly the young students at Napoleón Quesada and Julio Fonseca high schools. Some of the projects that Tulane students have worked on are: teaching English classes, setting up a pen pal system between the high school students in the US and those in Costa Rica, creating a bilingual bookmaking project, designing the set for the theater program, and preparing a field trip for a day of games and activities at CIAPA’s campus for the high school students in the program.

So when I get asked the question of whether or not I think that studying abroad early is a good idea for these kids, my answer is a strong yes. One of the most frequently asked questions that I received from parents this summer as they were deciding whether or not to let their child spend their first semester of college abroad was whether their child would be able to readjust to life at Tulane after spending their freshman fall semester abroad. In terms of personal adjustment, this cohort of students in the CIAPA Fall 2012 program has learned to navigate and make friends in another culture; making friends at Tulane is going to be a breeze. As they have begun to learn about Costa Rica, not only are they getting a clearer picture of Costa Rica’s connectedness to the rest of Latin America and the world, but they are also getting a clearer idea of themselves. This will help them build relationships wherever they go. Plus, the students have the added benefit of having created bonds with each other. Going through the experience of living out of the country and travelling together is the best bonding experience that there is. I am almost certain that these students will remain close over the course of their college careers, even as they take their separate paths. Each one has benefitted from the diversity of the others and they have gone through experiences together that will give them a connection that will last.

In terms of their adjustments academically, students benefit from small classroom size, interest-oriented field trips, and daily access to their professor here at CIAPA. These students are going to return to Tulane worldlier and more engaged than if they had spent their freshman fall on campus and this is going to greatly benefit Tulane. On top of that, after their freshman fall they have already forged a personal relationship with a faculty member that most students only develop after many semesters if they have the chance to develop it at all. I see this group of students every day. We eat meals together, take trips together, have classes together, and share the same common spaces. I can sit down with each one individually to talk about their writing or to discuss a reading. I learn when they had a bad day or when they are having family trouble. I know these students inside and outside the classroom just as they know me. This means that, not only do I know their strengths and weaknesses as scholars in my classroom, but I also know their interests beyond disciplines and even beyond academics. This gives me a position to be able to advise them about other faculty, classes, clubs, and programs back at Tulane that they may not have ever discovered on their own.

In this blog you will hear from these students who were brave enough to sign up for Tulane’s first ever-Early Experience Abroad program. You will hear first-hand about the enriching experiences that studying abroad in Costa Rica at a young age has provided for these young scholars as academics and as people. I hope you enjoy their stories!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Annie Gibson

    Administrative Assistant Professor - Department of Global Education

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Newcomb Art Museum Exhibit Features Modern Sculptures Inspired by Mexican Ceramics

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Come celebrate the opening of Newcomb Art Museum’s latest exhibitions Clay in Transit featuring contemporary Mexican ceramics and Clay in Place featuring Newcomb pottery and guild plus other never-before-exhibited pieces from the permanent collection.The exhibit presents the work of seven Mexican-born sculptors who bridge the past and present by creating contemporary pieces using an ancient medium. The exhibit will feature works by Ana Gómez, Saúl Kaminer, Perla Krauze, María José Lavín, María José de la Macorra, Gustavo Pérez, Paloma Torres.

5:30 PM
Private VIP/members reception featuring catering by Araña, a tequila tasting, specialty cocktails, and music.

6:30 PM
Curatorial talk with Nuria Rodriguez Sadurni, Director of Special Projects at the Cultural Cooperation office of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Free and open to the public.

7:30-9:00 PM
Public reception.

Exhibition curator and artist Paloma Torres explains, “In this contemporary moment, clay is a borderline. It is a material that has played a critical role in the development of civilization: early man used clay not only to represent spiritual concerns but also to hold food and construct homes.” While made of a primeval material, the exhibited works nonetheless reflect the artists’ twenty-first-century aesthetics and concerns as well as their fluency in diverse media—from painting and drawing to video, graphic design, and architecture.

The exhibit will run from January 18, 2018, through March 24, 2018. For more information on the exhibit and the artists, please visit the Newcomb Art Museum’s website.

Clay in Transit is presented in collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Jennifer Wooster (NC ’91), Lora & Don Peters (A&S ’81), Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University, Andrew and Eva Martinez, and the Newcomb Art Museum advisory board



LSU and The Modern History Colloquium and the Ogden Honors College: Lecture Series

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The Modern History Colloquium and the Ogden Honors College invites you to a series of lectures hosted by LSU

Father Perez’s Revolution: Constitutional Catholicism in 20th Century Mexico
Professor Matthew Butler (UT-Austin)
Thursday, January 18th at 6:00 PM
French House, Grand Salon

Dr. Butler is one of the preeminent scholars of the Catholic Church and politics in 20th century Mexico. He is the author of Popular Piety and Political Identity in Mexico’s Cristero Rebellion (Oxford, 2004) and Faith and Impiety in Revolutionary Mexico (Palgrave, 2007). Butler will speak about his forthcoming book, describing religious change and adaptation during and after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1940).

Provincializing 1968 Mexico: A Historiographical Critique
Professor Jaime Pensado (Notre Dame)
Friday, January 19th at 3:30 PM
French House, Feature Classroom

Dr. Pensado is the author of Rebel Mexico: Student Unrest and Authoritarian Political Culture During the Long Sixties (Stanford, 2013). His new book project takes up a set of research questions that have not been addressed in the historiography of modern Mexico, but which he argues, will complicate our understanding of the turbulent, combative, and at a times contradictory character of the Cold War era: how did conservative and progressive sectors of the Catholic Church—particularly those invested in education, student politics and entertainment—respond to the contentious environment that emerged inside Mexico’s most important universities during the postwar era? How did young Catholic students respond to the rise of leftist militancy that came to characterize their schools in the wake of the Cuban Revolution?

All Events Open to the Public
For more information on the event, click here.

Professional Development Opportunity: Latin American Resources for the K-12 Classroom

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S.S. NOLA, in collaboration with the Latin American Resource Center, will be hosting a professional development opportunity for K-12 educators on Saturday, January 20, 2018, to examine the ways in which educators can utilize and share resources on Latin America in the classroom. This is a free workshop for K-12 educators and refreshments will be served. Visit the official event website for more information and to register.

S.S. NOLA was created to support K-12 social studies teachers in the New Orleans area by showcasing student-centered lesson plans, loaning classroom supplies free of charge, and hosting professional development workshops. To learn more about the mission of S.S. NOLA, visit their official website, and don’t forget to follow them on Twitter and Facebook! S.S. NOLA is run by Brooke Grant, a professor of practice in the Tulane Teacher Preparation and Certification program.

Stone Center for Latin American Studies to Host 10th Annual Workshop on Field Research Methods

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Join us at the Stone Center for Latin American Studies for the 10th Annual Weekend Workshop on Field Research Methods on January 27, 2018. The application deadline is January 20, 2018.

How will you get the data you need for your thesis or dissertation? Do you envision immersing yourself for months in the local culture, or tromping the hills and farms seeking respondents? Sorting through dusty archives? Observing musicians at work in the plaza? Downloading and crunching numbers on a computer? For any of these approaches: How might you get there, from here?

This workshop aims to help you approach your data collection and analysis for your thesis or dissertation topic, and to adapt and refine your topic to be more feasible. You will take your research project ideas to the next stop—whatever that may be, include raising travel grants. Learn to:

  • Plan more efficiently, feasible, and rewarding fieldwork
  • Prepare more compelling and persuasive grant proposals
  • Navigate choices of research methods and course offerings on campus
  • Become a better research and fieldwork team-member

Format
This is an engaged, hands-on, informal workshop. Everyone shares ideas and participates. We will explore and compare research approaches, share experiences and brainstorm alternatives. You will be encouraged to think differently about your topic, questions, and study sites as well as language preparation, budgets, and logistics. The participatory format is intended to spark constructive new thinking, strategies, and student networks to continue learning about (and conducting) field research.

Who is leading this?
Laura Murphy, PhD, faculty in Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, and affiliate faculty to the Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

Who is this for?
This workshop is targeted to Stone Center graduate students as well as graduate students from other programs (GOHB, CCC, humanities, sciences, and others) if space is available. The workshop will be particularly helpful for those who envision research with human subjects.

Sign up
Sign up as soon as you can! Apply by January 20, 2018, at the latest to confirm your stop. Send an email with the following details:

  • Your name
  • Department and Degree program
  • Year at Tulane
  • Prior experience in research, especially field research
  • Academic training in research design and methods
  • Include a 1-paragraphy statement of your current research interests and immediate plans/needs (i.e. organize summer field research)

Light breakfast and lunch will be provided. Not for credit.

For more information and/or to apply: Contact Laura Murphy at lmurphy2@tulane.edu or Jimmy Huck at jhuck@tulane.edu.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Foreign Language Pedagogy and Research

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Call for Papers: Foreign Language Pedagogy and Research: New Approaches to Old Challenges
The goal of this symposium is to bring the Tulane University foreign language instructor community together by sharing foreign language teaching ideas, methods and practices. The symposium is open to all foreign language instructors and graduate students are strongly encouraged to submit a proposal.

Submissions:

  • Deadline for abstract submission: January 31st, 2018
  • Proposal should include a one-page description of the presentation and the name(s) and contact information of the (co)-presenter(s).
  • Presentations will be organized with a general format of 15 minutes for topic presentation/hands-on demonstration and 5 minutes for questions/discussion.
  • Interactive presentations are strongly encouraged. Presentations should be in English, however examples/exercises can be in the target language.
  • All submissions should be sent to rjudd@tulane.edu.
  • Notifications of acceptance will be sent by February, 20th 2018.

For more information about the symposium, guidelines, or requirements, please email:
Ryan Judd at rjudd@tulane.edu:mailto:rjudd@tulane.edu,
Roxanne Davilá at rdavila@tulane.edu:mailto:rdavila@tulane.edu, or
Charles Mignot at cmignot@tulane.edu:mailto:cmignot@tulane.edu.

Global Read Webinar Series: Diverse Social Justice Books for the High School Classroom

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Once a month, the World Area Book Awards (Américas Award, Africana Book Award, Middle East Outreach Book Award, South Asia Book Award) sponsor a free 60 minute webinar on a book recognized by one of the awards and facilitate a discussion with the author on how to incorporate the book into the classroom. The 2018 Spring Webinar Series focuses on social justice. We encourage educators to read the books with your colleagues, students, and community, and then join us to hear more from the author.

On Thursday, February 8, 2018, join us for a 60 minute webinar/chat focused on Margarita Engle’s recent book Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words. In this haunting yet hopeful novel in verse, award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who became a champion of civil rights. The webinar will be available through Blackboard Collaborate. The book is appropriate for students in grades 8-12.