This year’s Study Abroad program groups recently returned to Salt Lake City from their respective travels to England, Japan and China. The trips were held between May 5 and 27.
Unlike watching it on “the telly” [the television] or reading of it in books, international study through Salt Lake Community College’s Study Abroad program is what the British may say is “the full monty” — the real thing. The program offers three weeks of direct experiential immersion into another country’s culture, geography, people and language.
“There are just so many things that the books don’t teach you about until you actually experience it. There are actually a lot of hidden cultures you don’t know about, and so that became a theme for the program,” said SLCC geoscience department coordinator Adam Dastrup, who led this year’s Japan Study Abroad group.
Each destination offers a unique learning experience for both the student participants and the instructors who lead the groups.
“London is my favorite city,” said David Hubert, a political science professor at SLCC since 1994.
Hubert returned from leading his fourth Study Abroad program to London, England, where the group visited sites such high profile tourist spots as Westminster Abbey, Stonehenge and Parliament.
“History, culture and politics”
For the participants, however, the program is more than frivolous fun. The program is set up as a full-credit course. Faculty instructors administered assignments and held meetings in the spring term in preparation for the May trip.
According to Sandra Kikuchi, director of the Study Abroad program, the faculty group leaders also must apply to the program and are selected by application. Faculty applicants submit a letter of intent which outlines what that individual may bring to the program, what they would teach the students and why they wish to go to that particular country. The letters are then committee reviewed for selection.
“I initially applied to lead the program for the first time because…the thought of using [London] as an educational site really intrigued me. It has so much to offer in terms of history, culture and politics,” Hubert said.
Japan Study Abroad
Dastrup’s focus was on the geography of the Japan, so he centered his teaching on climate, landscape and hazards such as earthquakes. He also taught about Japanese culture.
SLCC students that attended the Japan Study Abroad program, as with the other programs, were required to do research. They partnered with Shitennoji University students to investigate various aspects of Japanese geography, culture and history and then compile the research into a website.
This year, students visited the large wooden Todai-ji Buddhist temple in Nara, participated in a traditional Tea Ceremony and attended one of the university’s weekly “meditations,” which Dastrup describes as festive and closely resembling “going to church.”
Though it is not a requirement to fluently speak the native language to attend the Study Abroad program (only half of the 13 Japan attending students spoke Japanese), it is an opportunity for those studying a language to improve and put their skill to use.
Students from the host country’s partner university have the equal opportunity to improve their English speaking skills as tour guides and as hosts.
“There is an experiential side to learning that we sometimes miss in academia,” Dastrup said. “Once you actually go there to Japan, since it was my first time, it actually solidifies what you may have read or heard, such as how densely compact are the cities, or how full are the subway trains, or their immense regard for nature.”
It is the experiential side of the Study Abroad program at SLCC that makes it unique.
“[it’s] unusual for two-year state colleges to have a study abroad program,” Kikuchi said. “Most often, we think of these programs at larger universities.”
Another priceless element to the program may have an impact that is “shougai niwataru”, or ‘lifelong’ in Japanese.
“When you live there for three weeks, you begin to actually become part of the society. You become less of a tourist. You start to see the day-to-day life versus the tourist attractions,” said Dastrup.
“We were amazed how emotional many of our Japanese student friends were on our last day during the farewell party. They didn’t want us to go,” said Dastrup. “We had no idea over three weeks the kind of friendships that would develop with people from another country.”
PHOTO #1 CAPTION:
SLCC England Study Abroad program students at House of Parliament, London, in May, 2012.
PHOTO #2 CAPTION:
SLCC Japan Study Abroad program students at Todai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan, in May, 2012.