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School adds a look at French food, culture to its study abroad lineup

March 01, 2013

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, more students are seeking experience as global citizens by turning to study abroad programs.

The payoff appears to go beyond the obvious. According to a 10-year study known as the GLOSSARI Project, students who study abroad not only increase their cultural knowledge, but they also fare better academically upon their return and have higher graduation rates than students who stay stateside.

Recognizing the far-reaching value of study abroad programs, Arizona State University offers numerous options. Some of the most diverse and well regarded are facilitated by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Designed and led by world-class faculty, these programs give students hands-on opportunities to learn about real-world issues in settings that challenge and inspire.

This summer the school unveils its latest study abroad offering, “France: Food and Culture.” This timely program, which examines the links among food, culture and health, is led by genetic anthropologist Anne Stone, part of the school’s global health faculty. Based in central Paris, the eight-day, three-credit program allows students to experience France via walking tours, museum visits, daytrips and – obviously – culinary adventures. Participants will learn about the origins of French cuisine, along with food systems and dietary globalization, as well as how the French diet has evolved through the ages and how its ever-changing components impact social ties, cultural meanings and human health.

The France program follows on the heels of the debut of "Switzerland: Global Challenges, European Solutions." Danielle Brancato, a special education major minoring in family and human development, participated in the program last summer and believes that she will be able to use everything she learned about different cultures and sustainability in her future classroom and in educating her students.

“The program is wonderful because you are put in a country with a totally different culture and multiple languages, and you learn to adjust and interact with people from all over the world,” Brancato says. “I think one of the most beneficial parts of the trip, and probably all study abroad trips, is that students are able to get out of their comfort zone and experience a country completely different than the U.S. I gained a whole new outlook on the world and life, and I learned there is so much more to gain from visiting other countries and interacting with the locals that it doesn’t even compare to reading it in a textbook or on the internet.”

The School of Human Evolution and Social Change offers students over a dozen experiential learning prospects at a variety of global destinations. They can choose to study social, cultural and environmental change in China or health, environment and culture in Fiji. For the London program, two tracks are available, one focusing on museum studies and historic places and the other designed to investigate the relatedness of health, environment and technology.

This summer, for the second time, sociocultural and ecological anthropologist Jim Eder will guide students through the school’s Australia program. Eder has seen first-hand how profoundly study abroad affects students. He has heard one student refer to it as a “life changing experience,” and several marvel about how they made closer friends during the three short weeks in Australia than during their entire careers at ASU.

The Australia program focuses on human dimensions of sustainability in the past, present and future while providing uniquely Down Under opportunities that leave lasting impressions.

Eder explains, “Different students, of course, liked different things the most. For several, it was the night walk in the rain forest; for others, it was looking for crabs in a mangrove swamp with an Aboriginal guide; and for still others, it was the dive experience on the Great Barrier Reef.”

Also returning for a second year is associate professor Jameson Wetmore, who describes the New Zealand program as “an exploration of 800 years of environmental and health changes on two remote islands in the South Pacific.” He is excited to help students explore the last place on earth that was settled by humans.

“The trip involves a handful of lectures from local Kiwi professors, but most of the learning happens outside the classroom,” Wetmore says. “Students will get a chance to explore the Waikato River from a jet boat, hike through the native New Zealand flora and fauna in a protected forest and paddle through the Marlborough Sound in a kayak. Students will not only meet Maori people, but will spend the night on a Marae.”

The final deadline for applying to the New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and China programs is March 8. The final deadline is April 1 for the London, France and Switzerland options. All programs are open to a variety of majors.

Learn more about these programs at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change study abroad page.