This year, increased study abroad options will be offered during the J-term giving students the opportunity to travel to other countries at a cheaper rate than last year. Mercyhurst worked to create a shorter and cheaper study abroad experience for the students during the J-term in response to the interest shown in semester-long study abroad trips.
Students will study on campus for one or two weeks out of the J-term before spending the remaining weeks in whichever country they are going to be studying. There will be classroom preparation ahead of time, where students will be learning about the things they are going to see when they are over abroad. Then they will take the trip and go to different sites that are relevant to their subject matter.
“Part of the reason behind it is because we are making the J-term an experience where the students can have something unique and different that you normally wouldn’t get throughout the whole course of the year,” said Assistant Vice President of Academic Services Michele Wheaton.
Wheaton describes traveling abroad as an expensive experience. If the students do a smaller, shorter trip during the J-term, it becomes more affordable, because they are not looking for housing for an extended period of time. The university is offering scholarships to help students afford these opportunities.
Mercyhurst offered the “Mercy Travels” study abroad scholarship for the J-term and spring term of 2015. Two anonymous donors offered ten scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000 for students who have been accepted to the Mercyhurst University Faculty-Led Study Abroad Program (FSAT). This will provide the students with the opportunity to travel, even if they cannot afford it.
“[J-term] abroad should be beyond what you normally get in the classroom in the regular 14 sessions,” said Wheaton. “If you do something new, different and innovative, students will get excited about learning something different and they will get an awareness of other cultures and what’s out there in the world, because unless you travel you really have no clue.”
Currently all courses are full. Last April was when the classes were first announced and reached capacity soon after. The study abroad classes for the 2016 J-term will be announced this upcoming March. Heidi Hosey, Ph.D., who is in charge of the FSAT programs and will be taking a group of students to Spain, encourages other students to be on the lookout on when to register for the next J-term.
The courses offered include “Narrative, Film & Spanish Civil War” and “Intro to Spanish Civilization,” in which students will travel to Spain for nine days, three days in Portugal and one day to Morocco.
“We are focusing on the different ways that the Spanish civil war was talked about: in literature, in media, in film. We are going to read a lot and watch some movies, but we are also going to look at the various sites where a lot of the battles took place and follow General Franco’s conquest of Catalonia,” said Hosey.
The other classes include, “Learning Guyana/Society and Culture” who will be taught by Peggy Black, Ph.D., in which students will engage in various types of community work, all while learning about the society, culture and people of Guyana. Campus ministry has taken students here for the past 11 years, but it is the second time students are going in as a class. Students will be volunteering at the local orphanage.
“We are really going to be working with the people, it’s not just learning about the country, but we are going to be working with the families and the children in particular and organizations in Guyana that are helping the poor,” said Black. “Our students will provide support for the mission that’s there.”
There is also the “Travel & Tour Design/Theater in Context” in Ireland with Jodi Staniunas-Hoper and Brett Johnson, Ph.D., “The Mayan or Aquatic Ecology & Lab” in Belize with Sara Turner Ph.D., “Haiti Public Health & Medicine” in Gros Morne, Haiti with Thomas Cook Ph.D., “Volcanos & Lab” class in Costa Rica with Nicholas Lang, Ph.D., and Tauna Hunter will teach “Dance Appreciation Paris” in France.