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Not your typical study abroad

ASU New College students get firsthand experience spreading social justice across the globe

student posing with group of children

May 04, 2016

Strolls along the Seine, coffee breaks in Trafalgar Square, selfies atop the Great Wall — for many students, these are the things that come to mind at the mention of “study abroad.”

But for students of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences’ Social Justice and Human Rights master’s program, the idea is likely to bring about somewhat less expected imagery.

During a two-week study-abroad trip to Ghana in the fall of 2015, ASU grad student Anna Joyave saw people preparing food in the same streets they used to dispose of waste, and children physically fighting with each other for a moment of her attention.

However, in the end, she also saw people “working to combat a problem as big as the ocean by conquering one grain of sand at a time.”

portrait of ASU professor Duku Anokye

Call it “study abroad with a purpose.” It’s what associate professor Duku AnokyeDuku Anokye is an associate professor of Africana language, literature and culture in the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies at New College. (pictured left) had in mind as the director of the Interdisciplinary Global Learning and Engagement (IGLE) program. In partnershipStudents interesting in applying for study abroad opportunities can do so through the Study Abroad Office's website at with the Study Abroad Office, IGLE offers study-abroad experiences tailored especially for New College students that allow them to have international experiences without spending an entire semester or year away.

International experiences can be important for all students, but especially for those studying social justice and human rights. So each fall, Anokye caps off her JHR 584 human trafficking internship course with a two-week trip to Ghana, where students put everything they learned during the semester to work, firsthand, with the non-governmental organization Challenging Heights.

“The purpose of Challenging Heights is to help families become educated themselves, not just about trafficking but also about how to care for themselves and how to care for their families, how to find new industry so that they can afford to care for their children,” said Anokye.

The opportunity to work directly with such an organization was not lost on Joyave.

“The trip was equally learning about ourselves as ambassadors of human rights as well as learning about a community ridden with slavery as a socially accepted feature,” she said. “Much of what I learned concerned the ins and outs of starting and running an NGO. In the social-work field, this is invaluable information.”

portrait of ASU professor Julie Murphy Erfani

The JHR 584 internship course is also offered in the spring, taught by associate professor Julie Murphy ErfaniJulie Murphy Erfani is an associate professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at New College. She also serves as the director of the master’s program in Social Justice and Human Rights. (pictured left), with a focus on asylum seekers. The two-week study-abroad trip capping off this spring 2016 semester will take students to Greece — they’re set to leave Monday — where they will find themselves at the center of what Murphy Erfani calls “the biggest humanitarian migration crisis in Europe since WWII.”

Despite that fact, social justice and human rights master’s student Lujan Tomasini isn’t worried.

“I am pretty sure we’re going to have a great experience and we’re going to have a much better understanding of this humanitarian crisis by the time we are done,” she said.

Tomasini currently works in a behavioral-health agency that works with children but hopes the experience will help her transition to a career related to helping immigrants.

The JHR 584 internship course — in both the spring and fall semesters — also requires students to get firsthand experience working with local social-justice organizations.

“Not only is it important that they get an opportunity to do an internship in an international site, but we want them to understand that human trafficking and immigration crises are issues that occur worldwide, including right here in Arizona,” said Anokye. “So they will have both this local and this global experience so that they can work in the field effectively with the experience and the knowledge, and the observation and the hands-on kind of learning that I think is so important.”

Top photo courtesy of IGLE, depicting an ASU alum during a visit to Challenging Heights in Ghana.

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