Global Grenadiers: Traveling the World

24th July 2023
Indiana University 2030 Strategic Plan icon for student success, showing an outline of the two graduates in cap and gowns.

International study-abroad trips roared back into action this summer with four trips led by IU Southeast faculty. Destinations included Belize, Germany, the Philippines, and Sweden with 27 global Grenadiers participating.

Studying flora and fauna in Belize

Dr. Omar Attum, professor of biology from the School of Natural Sciences, led a field biology trip of 10 IU Southeast students to Belize to learn about the marine and rainforest ecology and wildlife of the area. The trip, from April 28 through May 9, featured a night at the Belize Zoo, four days at the Half Moon Caye Island studying coral reefs and marine life, and four days at the Bocawina Rainforest Resort where students observed native wildlife and habitat.

Interacting with a Loggerhead turtle while scuba diving in Belize.

Before the trip, students spent the spring semester learning about the ecology and wildlife of Belize including lectures on island ecology, forest ecology, and coral reef ecology. Students also used satellite imagery from Google Earth to map their itinerary and understand the biogeography of Belize. They conducted a virtual coral bleaching assignment in class to practice for the field bleaching assessment while in Belize.

IU Southeast junior, Alena McMillan, said, “Belize was an amazing experience! I loved seeing all the amazing animals we had learned about in class! My favorite activity that we did was scuba diving! During some of the dives, we got really close to Caribbean Reef Sharks and Loggerhead Sea Turtles. I will always look back on this trip and remember how close I got to the people I experienced it with and how much fun we all had!”

20th-Century Germany

Dr. Michael Hutchins, associate professor of German and international studies from the School of Arts & Letters, led a group of five IU Southeast students and five IU South Bend students to Berlin, Germany from May 14 through May 29, to study the history of Germany during the twentieth century.

Students were challenged with conducting a critical analysis of how Germans interact with their past.  While in Berlin, students visited numerous historic sites including the only remaining flak tower, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and The Reichstag Building, and they saw remnants of the Berlin Wall, among many other cultural sites.

Study abroad students pose in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin Germany
Study abroad students pose in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin Germany

Additionally, the group visited Arzberg, Bavaria, the sister city of South Bend, where they interacted with Germans whose experiences were quite different from the metropolitan community of Berlin and visited sites of local interest.

Each location, whether in Berlin or Arzberg, added a layer of complexity to the understanding of the German practice of “Vergangenheitsbewältigung“, or coming to terms with the past.

Students also had time to plan their own itineraries, visiting museums, the zoo, and attending soccer matches. A group of students even planned and carried out their own expedition to the Polish town Kostrzyn nad Odrą. With each discovery—some planned, some experienced at random—the scope of each student’s world expanded. Perhaps, someday, they will perform their own version of Vergangenheitsbewältigung.

“Participating in the study abroad program in Berlin has been a remarkable journey, offering a range of benefits that have deeply enriched my personal growth,” said IU Southeast junior, John Hatton. “Through exploring iconic landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Unter den Linden, Hohenschönhausen, Sachsenhausen, and even the fascinating Flakturm Humbolthein, I have discovered the profound advantages of immersing myself in a multicultural city, while also cultivating self-reliance and resilience. This experience has broadened my horizons and shaped me into a more open-minded and resilient individual.”

Experiencing Global Education in the Philippines

Dr. Faye Camahalan, Dean of the School of Education, hosted an action-packed trip to her native Philippines for one IU Southeast graduate student and two undergraduate students from May 16 through May 30. 

The students were immersed in the vigor of university life at the University of the Philippines, met with the Chancellor of the university to develop future collaborative projects, and visited Fulbright Philippines where they presented on topics such as K-12 schools’ diversity, mental health, social media, and assessment of learning and interacted with Fulbright scholars. The group also met U.S. diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Manila to learn about what they do for public and cultural affairs.

IU Southeast students meet with faculty at the University of the Philippines.

In addition to learning about education in the Philippines, the group donated 100 classroom chairs to the students of Ormoc City Senior High School. The chairs were funded in part by money raised by the group and through private donations.

While in Manila, Leyte, and Palawan, the group engaged with eight K-12 schools through discussions, presentations, and teaching lessons with several Filipino students, educators, and community members.

“The type of experience you earn from immersing yourself in a different culture is one you can only achieve by getting out there,” said IU Southeast senior, Trisha Fisher. “The people I met and connections that we made were once in a lifetime. Fellow educators gave us the chance to see their world from the inside and to find that teachers everywhere give everything for their students. I will be encouraging everyone to go on an adventure like this at least once. It was truly an experience that I will not soon forget.”

Healthcare in Sweden

Professor Carla Hermann, Director of the MSN program in the School of Nursing, and retired professor of psychology, Dr. Deborah Finkel from the School of Social Sciences, led a team of nine IU Southeast students, one alumnus and two students from other Indiana University campuses to Sweden to better understand how differently healthcare and social services are performed in that country versus the United States.

Jönköping, Sweden

The group attended lectures at the Institute for Gerontology at the Jӧnkӧping University, followed by site visits to state-of-the-art care facilities in Sweden. The course emphasized the health and care of older adults but also covered care facilities and policies related to early childhood and parental leave. Students learned about Sweden’s socialized medicine and holistic approach to healthcare. Students also visited Visingsö, the historic village of Asle Tå, and spent two days in Stockholm, home of the Nobel Prize.

IU Southeast junior, Wade Elliott, said, “As a healthcare professional that is advancing to MD licensure, seeing a different perspective on care creates an opportunity for me to have a well-rounded approach in the future. From a healthcare perspective, preventative health and having a holistic approach can greatly reduce the number of medical encounters for individuals. Because of this experience I will be able to apply what I learned to my future patients.”

The Value of Study Abroad and Global Awareness

Study abroad trips hold immense value, preparing students to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world. These transformative experiences offer students the opportunity to immerse themselves in different cultures, languages, and academic systems, fostering a broader perspective and a deeper understanding of the world.

By stepping outside their comfort zones, students develop adaptability, resilience, and independence. These trips also encourage personal growth, as students often encounter challenges that push them to overcome obstacles and build confidence. Moreover, studying abroad enhances academic learning by exposing students to new perspectives, unique research opportunities, and diverse approaches to problem-solving. The friendships formed during these journeys can lead to lifelong international connections, fostering collaboration and cross-cultural understanding.

“Studying abroad is a life-changing journey of growth and cultural enrichment, where one dreams big and embraces the unknown,” said Dr. Kok Cheow Yeoh, associate professor of Fine Arts and director of the study abroad and global awareness program. “My advice is to start at least a year ahead of time and contact the Office of Study Abroad and Global Awareness. We’ll help you plan for the experience that will shape your life forever.”

To learn more about the short-term and long-term study abroad programs, visit the Study Abroad and Global Awareness website.

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