Yes. I participated in THREE undergraduate study abroad
programs, all at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. They included the
Middle East (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey, & Greece), the UK
(England & Scotland), and South America (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina,
Uruguay, Peru, Chile, & Bolivia) They are the reasons I now lead study
abroad programs. Without participating, I would perhaps never had the desire to
run programs of my own. Additionally, study abroad programs represent a superb
way to expose students to the "real" world and experience life in
ways they never thought possible. I tell students all the time, "You may
learn a lot of content on a study abroad, but just as importantly, you'll learn
a lot about yourself".
Because it's a necessity in today's world. Everyone needs to
know how everyone else lives, and learn that we are more alike than different.
People everywhere want essentially the same things, and yet we continually
divide ourselves. Study abroad combats that mental road block, allowing us to
gain insights and understandings that help us gain greater appreciation for our
Small, compact, yet LOTS of stuff to do, explore, research,
and learn. Plus, it's the Caribbean, so that's kinda nice.
Seeing students become excited at the prospect of learning
something new and experience things they never thought possible. In Grenada,
I've had students become so attached to the people that they actually cry when
they leave. THAT is powerful. I've also had students become aware of how little
it can take to be happy. And when that realization hits them, it's powerful,
and they recognize it.
Having the Minister of Tourism call me on my cell phone
while we were analyzing ocean salinity, to ask what we were doing to make sure
it would only put the Island in a good light. I didn't even know she knew me,
let alone had my Grenadian cell number.
They speak English. It's still recovering from Hurricane
Ivan in 2004, but making progress. Grenadians are some of the most proud and
patriotic people I've ever met.
Because we get to study EVERYTHING possible about the
Grenada. Students learn not just history and politics (by exploring actual
sites of recent revolutions), but also about eco-tourism, biology, ecology,
geology, and marine science. It's a small enough Island that we CAN do it all.
Adaptability, flexibility, and patience. And that fieldwork
often changes at a moment's notice and they need to be ready and adapt, be
flexible enough to change directions in the middle of something, and have the
patience to know that it probably will NOT work out the way you initially
thought. That and to learn the importance of "Island Life" attitude.