Academic study trips are intensive, enriching
Relatively short-term abroad experiences grow in popularity; this year's groups heading to Costa Rica, Quebec, Denmark, England, Ireland and Wales
Faculty-led academic study trips at Saint Michael’s College are intensive short-term experiences that take students abroad to learn about a certain subject while immersed in the culture of their program’s destination. The 2022-2023 academic study trip offerings include a field tropical ecology program in Costa Rica, a French language and Quebecois culture program in Quebec City, Canada, a business, government, and healthcare program in Denmark, a preservation of the human experience program in England, a coastal biology program in Ireland, and an environmental study of sustainable places program in Wales.
Peggy Imai, director of the study abroad at the College, said that since the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down, she has seen a lot more interest in short term trips. “Not many students studied abroad during the height of the pandemic, so I think students are still looking for ways to get out there and study internationally,” said Imai.
Most academic study trips operate in tandem with a class taken prior to the trip. In the past, with four credit stand-alone trips, faculty and staff have felt as though some kind of preparation for their international study is necessary, said Imai. “Most trips start with a two-credit course taken at Saint Michael’s during a semester. Then, the trip usually occurs during a break and completes the other two credits for the student,” said Imai. “Faculty and staff like to have a pre-course before the trip so that students know what kind of study they’re going to be doing on the trip.”
For example, on December 30, students will be traveling to Costa Rica to study different tropical ecosystems. During the fall 2022 semester, students have engaged in a tropical ecology class that introduces them to the curriculum they will use to investigate Costa Rican ecosystems during winter break.
While most academic study trips have an attached course that is required for a student’s inclusion on the trip, each study trip has different prerequisites; some trips have no prerequisites at all. For example, students interested in attending the trip to Ireland to study coastal biology must take BI-151, BI-152, or ES-107 prior to attending the trip. Alternatively, students interested in attending the trip to England to study museums, libraries, and galleries do not have to do anything to qualify for the trip.
Imai said that the intent of the short-term study trips is not only to utilize the expertise of the faculty and staff leaders, but also to introduce students to ideas, concepts, and cultures that they cannot be exposed to on Saint Michael’s campus. Some students are unable to engage in a full semester study abroad program due to financial or personal reasons, she said. Therefore, these programs are a way for a variety of students to take advantage of what Saint Michael’s has to offer.
“We don’t like to see the programs cost more than about $4,200,” said Imai. Trip costs cover airfare, food, lodging, and other necessary expenses. Imai said that program coordinators are interested in finding ways to decrease the cost of the trips without decreasing the quality of the program.
Dr. Francis Politi, a close friend of the priests of the Society of Saint Edmund, wanted to encourage students to study internationally, so he generously provided some funding for programs, said Imai.
Students may apply for a scholarship from the Politi Fund and Student Financial Services will determine what level of unmet financial need a student has through their FAFSA. The maximum scholarship amount for short-term study trips through the Politi Fund is $2,000, although scholarships range from $500 to $2,000, said Imai.
“We’re trying to make it so that funding is not an issue for students,” she said. “A study abroad experience is required for majors like media studies, journalism, and digital arts (MJD) and anthropology. So, these short trips offer some more options for students who have to have an experience abroad.”
Imai said that she has seen a lot of openness and desire to engage from the faculty and staff leaders who take students on these trips. They are leading these trips because they are interested in the subject matter, the destination, and the students, she said. “I often hear how students learn about a subject in a new place which opens them to the experience of seeing how a concept might be interpreted differently in another culture and perspective,” Imai said. “The faculty and staff are interested in educating their students in a new, hands-on way which is really valuable.”
Imai encourages any students who are interested in joining an academic study trip to reach out directly to the trip leaders. To view a full list of the 2022-2023 trip offerings and those trip leaders, visit https://www.smcvt.edu/academics/study-abroad/programs/ (click the Academic Study Trips box). Imai reminds students that application deadlines for most of the upcoming academic study trips are quickly approaching, so she recommends taking action with any interest soon.