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Study Abroad Fair offers unforgettable opportunity

August 29, 2008

Most agree that participating in a study abroad program is a tremendous opportunity for students, broadening their understanding of other cultures and their own cultures. It challenges them to develop skills of independence, self-reliance and problem-solving, all of which are essential in today's workplace, and it does so in an intercultural context.

But what are the benefits for the faculty who lead many of those programs?

When the ASU Study Abroad Office hosts its semi-annual Study Abroad Fair on Sept. 10, faculty, as well as students, who attend will be able to consider why participating in or leading a study abroad program has become an increasingly valuable, and in many cases, essential part of the academic experience at ASU.

"Studying and volunteering in another country are priceless and unforgettable learning experiences that cannot in any way be emulated in the classroom," says Mirna Lattouf, a senior lecturer in the School of Letters and Sciences, who has directed the school's London, Belize and South Africa internship programs.

Victor Teye, professor of recreation and tourism management in the School of Community Resources and Development at the Downtown Campus, has been leading study abroad programs for the past 18 years. “They definitely have been the highlights of my career, he says. “These programs provide opportunities to travel with 20 to 40 highly motivated students and interact with them in ways that are not ordinarily available on campus. One of the most exciting benefits is to see students grow, mature and gain confidence in themselves within a short period while seeing the world in a whole new way. And from a professional standpoint, I believe my teaching back on campus also has benefited from the wide array of instructional resources I’ve acquired on these programs.” Teye currently directs two summer programs to Australia and Fiji and Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as a winter program to the Caribbean.

Pier Baldini, professor in the School of International Letters and Cultures, says he knows many colleagues who are eager to teach in a summer program abroad, and that his Florence summer program is fully booked through 2010. “The reasons why faculty consider this a good experience are many,” he says. “The course subject is very much reflected in the Italian environment in which they and their students are immersed, making it seem much more ‘real’ and immediate. And in my experience, students who take courses abroad feel encouraged to continue their studies in those areas well after returning to campus, which is beneficial for any faculty member interested in program building, recruitment and retention.”

Baldini also notes that, as a member of a small group of program faculty, one can develop valuable interdisciplinary connections with colleagues—national and international—and may remain in a country for a period after a program’s end to pursue individual research agendas.

Alexandra Brewis Slade, professor of medical anthropology in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, says there seem to be a lot of misconceptions about faculty who run study abroad programs. “For one,” she says, “it’s about as far from a vacation as travel can be, and not the easiest way to make summer salary. One of the main reasons I run programs is because I discovered it was an incredibly powerful way to get undergraduates to actually think.”

Brewis Slade led an interdisciplinary program to New Zealand and Fiji this summer, focused on culture, health and environment. “You get to be there as the most lost, distracted, disengaged student becomes curious, engaged and starts to take responsibility for his or her own learning,” she says. “That’s something I rarely get to share so directly with students on campus, and it is central to why I wanted to teach undergraduates in the first place.”

Along with offering an opportunity to meet faculty leaders of past and future programs, the fall Study Abroad Fair will include informational presentations and materials about more than 250 programs in 63 countries, Study Abroad Office program coordinators on hand to answer questions, the ASU Passport Acceptance Office on site to take passport photos and receive passport applications, world music and a raffle.

The fair will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Arizona Ballroom of the Memorial Union. For more information, call (480) 965-5965 or visit