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Globalizing their studies

February 18, 2008

Ecuador, Ghana, Romania, Brazil and Cyprus are among destinations this summer for Arizona State University students who will earn credit hours while globalizing their education through study abroad courses.

Titles of the courses are as diverse as the regions of study – Amazonian Ethnobotany, Contemporary Africa in Global Perspective, and Portuguese Conversation and Composition.

“Students get to experience the most biodiverse region of the world,” says Tod Swanson, an associate professor of religious studies and director of the Andes and Amazon Field School.

Swanson oversees summer study abroad course offerings in Ecuador, where students are housed with other ASU students and faculty in the Quichua community of Venecia Derecha on the banks of the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon.

“We have interdisciplinary resources on different levels,” says Swanson. Scholars and experts participating in this summer’s field experience will include a medical anthropologist, a linguist, indigenous ceramic artists and Amazonian shamans, he says.

“Students will be immersed in Quichua life, camp in virgin rainforest and study indigenous cultures and their affect on the environment,” says Swanson, who was raised in the Ecuadorian Amazon as the son of missionary parents and is fluent in Spanish and Quichua. He has directed the Andes and Amazon Field School since 1999.

“In our summer study abroad courses, ASU students have the opportunity to expand their boundaries; to discover the world,” says Gerry Corey, assistant dean of student and academic programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Many of the liberal arts and sciences summer programs are open to all ASU students, no matter their major, she adds.

“In almost all courses offered abroad, the faculty who are directing the program have an intimate knowledge of the location and the culture,” she says. “It’s not a tourist knowledge, but a deep understanding of the area. Faculty know those regions; they know the academics in those regions. When students tour museums, our faculty are with them.”

“Many of the students who study abroad are transformed by the experience. You can literally see it happening to them,” Corey says. “There’s a sense of growth, a sense of intense discovery, every single day, as students learn about other people and other cultures. When you study abroad, it’s the ‘doing’ as well as the reading.”

In addition to earning credit hours, the experience often helps students in their career plans and job searches.

While the initial registration deadline for summer study abroad courses has passed, space in many of the programs is still available, says Ara Pachmayer, associate director for the program.

Information about the program is available at, or 480-965-5965.

Carol Hughes,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences