UST Students Travel for Summer Courses
Summer is a time of rest, relaxation and yes, traveling. Adventurous University of St. Thomas students chose to postpone the first two and combine their traveling with their schooling. This summer more than 100 students participated in study abroad excursions to Jerusalem, China, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Most courses began with a week or more of curriculum and courses before traveling abroad. Students earned credit in core courses and electives while giving their education a global perspective.
In the Holy Land students studied archaeology, history and politics while discussing what theology and scripture said about Israel. Sister Paula Jean Miller, FSE, director of Catholic Studies, led the course, Mapping the Holy Land, a special topics class in theology, while the Rev. Dempsey Rosales-Acosta provided spiritual guidance and celebrated Mass each day.
The two-week course began May 22, when they, along with 15 students, visited the Cape of Elijah, and traveled through Caesarea, Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee.
“It was a wonderful group,” Miller said. “They were into the spiritual and archeological aspect of the trip. I called them my ‘climb every mountain group’ because that is what they did. They had a great experience, particularly at the Magdala archeological site.”
At the end of the trip students wrote a paper on a topic that integrated the theology, scripture, archaeology, history and politics of a specific location.
Marcus Walden, senior, theology and environmental science major, said it was great being able to see the archaeology and make the connection to the theology and the events they correspond with in the Bible. “It was affirming, the fact that our faith is the only faith that can be recognized in a place and time, there is physical evidence of what went down there,” Walden said.
Dr. Joe Ueng, Cullen Foundation Chair of Finance, along with 17 business students, began a two-week study abroad trip across China on July 7. Throughout the trip students were provided with the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the globalization of business management in China and be introduced to several types of business models, including that of the China National Petroleum Corporation.
As part of their course work, students analyzed the activity of select business and non-business entities and composed a comprehensive business analysis that included a thorough analysis of the Chinese business environment and a description of one of the businesses visited during the trip.
“I think it will be a good opportunity to see how business in handled in China,” Maria Moncada said. “Being a part of that culture and knowing how things work with a foreign corporation, that is what I am going to gain from this experience.”
Dr. Janet Lowery, professor of English, led 10 students through a two-week travel writing course through Greece and Turkey. The trip began in Athens where they visited the Acropolis and continued across Greece and into Turkey where the students visited the ancient city of Ephesus.
“This odyssey by land and by sea brought home to all of us fellow travelers the splendor and wonder of the ancient sites where so much of the action dramatized or described in ancient or classical Greek literary works take place,” Lowery said. “Since the English department’s introductory literature classes include a study of the ancient epics of Homer and the tragedies and comedies of Athenian playwrights, a journey to the setting of these literary treasures enhances students’ knowledge of the culture that gave us the first democracy, raised lyric poetry, mathematics, science, and philosophy to new heights, and gave us drama."
Students toured several landmarks with professional guides and were given a crash course in Greek cuisine and dining, with an olive oil and wine tasting among the highlights. Students were required to complete journal entries on their choice of topics ranging from architecture, food, culture and art.
Czech Republic and Hungary
Dr. Pierre Canac, associate professor of economics, and Dr. Rogelio Garcia-Contreras, associate professor of international studies, led 22 students through a three-week trip between Prague, Czech Republic and Budapest, Hungary to study the different cultures and attitudes of Eastern Europe. They also studied the transition from communism to capitalism and democracy, the benefits of European Union membership, the differences between Western and Eastern Europe, and the local politics and economic conditions of each country visited.
The courses offered during the trip were International Economics, International Politics and an economics and international studies special topics course, Study of Europe. Students visited the Bishop’s Palace in Prague and met with Dominki Cardinal Duka. The students also met the U.S. Ambassador to Czech Republic, Norman Eisen, watched a presentation by the European Institute for European Policy and visited the SKODA car manufacturing company and museum. The opportunity to meet Eisen and Cardinal Duka was made possible by Rev. Paul Chovanec '68, an UST alumnus and board member of the Czech Center Museum Houston.
“All young people should spend some time in foreign countries," Canac said. "They will learn not only about those foreign countries they visited but also, and more importantly, about their own country and about themselves."
Northern Ireland and Ireland
Lori Gallagher, director of the Center for Irish Studies, led six graduate and five undergraduate students on a three-week study abroad trip, Northern Ireland: Conflict and Peace. Students studied different approaches to peace building and reconciliation in light of Northern Ireland’s history of conflict.
“My goal in leading study abroad is to expose students to Irish and Northern Irish leaders who excel in their fields, whether they be politicians, religious leaders, business executives or scholars,” Gallagher said. “I also want them to experience the beauty and mystery of all parts of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In three weeks, the students experienced more historically, politically and culturally than I was able to on my own for a full postgraduate program in Ireland.”
While in Ireland students held personal interviews with community leaders from all walks of life and experienced first-hand the efforts put forth in conflict resolution and reconciliation. In addition to their studies, students visited many archaeological and historical sites on tours led by Irish scholars. To complete their course work, the students wrote journals on their experiences in Ireland and Northern Ireland and a research paper on a topic of their choice relating to the course.
Biology major Alizeh Yusuf, senior, said the program was able to encompass education and cultural excursions in a way that allowed them to learn about the Northern Ireland conflict from an insider’s perspective. “To learn about the conflict and peace process in Northern Ireland from people who were directly involved was truly an invaluable learning experience and one I would recommend to all UST students,” Yusuf said.
In late June Dr. Robert LeBlanc, dean of the School of Education, led a different study abroad trip to Ireland for the class, Irish Education and Culture. The class sought to compare key issues in Irish and American school systems – especially supporting student cultural diversity and issues of separation of church and state in schools.
“International travel and study brings to life the multi-cultural sensitivity that is a crucial part of teacher preparation by being the ‘stranger in a strange land,’” LeBlanc said.
This was the first time this nine-day course in Ireland was organized. The students traveled along the Irish countryside and visited Trinity College in the city of Dublin. Students maintained a journal of their travels and completed an assigned reader for their coursework.
Check out more photos of the UST students' experiences in their respective Summer Study Abroad Photography Gallery on Facebook.