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Ready for the trip of your life? JU Study Abroad deadlines approaching

By Chelsea Wiggs

JU Communications Senior

Each summer, college students face choices about how to spend their break: Take more classes? Get away for something new?

[/caption]At Jacksonville University, they have a third choice: they can do both.

JU’s Study Abroad programs allow students the unique opportunity to enjoy the summer traveling and learning new things while earning a few credits along the way. Deadlines to apply for summer programs are typically in early April, and for fall programs as late as May or June.

Kelly Marton, JU Director of Study Abroad, said students often return from the trips more independent, academically focused and engaged in the community. In addition, studies show that study abroad alumni perform better scholastically than their peers and are more likely to graduate college, she said.

“Students need to bolster their resumes with experiences and skills that set them apart from the increasingly overflowing pool of applicants most employers must wade through,” Marton said. “Study abroad provides the opportunity to gain valuable lifelong skills, many of which are sought after by employers.”

At JU, programs to Ecuador and Shanghai were among those offered this past summer, and each experience gave students and faculty something to write home about. (See a Facebook gallery of photos of the two trips here.)

Students take in the sights during their JU study abroad trip to China in summer 2013. Photo by Dr. Douglas Johansen/Jacksonville University Davis College of Business)Dr. Natasha Vanderhoff, Assistant Professor of Biology and Marine Science, and five JU students traveled to Ecuador to study tropical biology. They were joined by a former colleague of Dr. Vanderhoff’s, as well as JU Assistant Professor of Marine Science Dr. Jeremy Stalker.

The group spent the majority of the three-week program at Wildsumaco Lodge, a remote field station in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, where Dr. Vanderhoff said their “cushy” living quarters consisted of bunk-beds, home-cooked meals and hot showers.

“The field station was very nice,” she said. “We were lucky.”

Each student was required to do an independent study project as part of his or her study-abroad curriculum. Topics included mammal research using camera trapping, the study of hummingbirds, and the comparison of primary and secondary forests, to name a few.

The group had the opportunity to take in the rainforest and get a closer look at unique animals such as the Southern Tamandua, mountain tapirs and even a puma.

A Southern tamandua seen in the jungles of Ecuador during a summer 2013 JU study abroad trip. Photo by Dr. Natasha Vanderhoff/Biology and Marine Science

“A puma was walking the trail at 8:30 p.m., and a couple of the guys were going to do their project, walking that same trail just afterward,” said Dr. Vanderhoff.

Dr. Vanderhoff said plans for the next study abroad excursion in summer 2014 are in the works. The next adventure will most likely take place in the Bahamas, as it did in the summer of 2012. Dr. Vanderhoff encourages students to take advantage of everything the study abroad programs have to offer.

“Do it and keep an open mind,” she said. “When you travel, things aren’t going to be like they are here in the States, and you just have to have an open mind and a laid-back attitude.”

These students are just some of the more than 100 that International Education Programs (IEP) at Jacksonville University sends abroad each year, offering semester, summer and spring break programs all over the world.

Several JU faculty organize spring courses that embed a mandatory travel component over spring break, Marton said. Students enroll in these popular on-campus courses for spring semester and travel with their JU peers and professor over spring break.

“Students and their families often perceive these (study abroad) experiences as an expensive addition to the cost of a college education,” she added. “However, study abroad programs are much more affordable than most realize. Many programs cost the same as taking courses on campus. Furthermore, scholarships are available, and students may be able to use financial aid.”

A summer 2013 JU study abroad excursion into the Ecuador jungle.
The JU study abroad group takes on inclement weather during a day of sightseeing in China during a summer 2013 tripLast year, Dr. Douglas Johansen of the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business (DCOB) and his nine students traveled to Shanghai and Beijing for a month to study international business and global strategy. This opportunity was the first-ever intensive business program abroad offered by DCOB.

The program provides international business students an immersive, hands-on experience in business and strategy in a foreign economy.

“There’s no better way to understand differences in culture and economics than going there and taking a good long look at it,” said Dr. Johansen.

The group was made up of six JU students and three students from other universities, as the program was open to students throughout the U.S. Their curriculum while abroad consisted of a global business course focused on global business strategies, a global business experience class and a Chinese language course.

Part of the hands-on experience included site visits to an advertising agency, a local human resources company and electronics/engineering giant Siemens. The students conducted research, then presented a marketing plan to a U.S.-based company on the potential success of expanding its agricultural equipment business in China, which Dr. Johansen said was “very well-received.”

The hotel accommodations for the trip allowed the group to immerse themselves in the business districts of both Shanghai and Beijing. Throughout their month abroad, they began to familiarize themselves with the metro transportation system, local restaurants, shopping and various museums and cultural sites, including the Great Wall of China.

The program’s intensive structure is the first of its kind for DCOB, and Dr. Johansen was pleased with the result.

“In the end I think everybody was able to develop a deeper knowledge through the intensive and immersive experience,” he said. “It’s a very hands-on program.”

Like Dr. Vanderhoff, Dr. Johansen is also thinking ahead to summer 2014’s Study Abroad opportunities. IEP and DCOB are offering programs in China during the summer, and one in Brazil. Dr. Johansen encourages students to look into studying abroad not only as a way to acquire skills that can one day be used in their chosen careers, but also to form lasting friendships with their peers.

“Having had this experience together, we have a certain bond, and I think that’s something important.”

For more on Jacksonville University’s Study Abroad programs, visit www.ju.edu/studyabroad.