Tag Archive for: study abroad

SOU students to study Blue Zone in Costa Rica

SOU offers study-abroad opportunity to Costa Rican “Blue Zone”

Southern Oregon University will offer an innovative study-abroad opportunity in Costa Rica this summer that explores the intersection of health, longevity, culture and the environment. The program focuses on the Central American country’s “Blue Zone” on the Nicoya Peninsula – one of a handful of locations worldwide where residents’ life expectancy is highest.

Students who participate in the trip, from July 21 through Aug. 18, will be eligible to earn a total of six academic credits in two core courses – Health and Longevity (HE 399) and Environmental Health (HE 331). They will study the factors that contribute to healthy aging – from diet to community engagement – and also will engage with local communities, visit historical sites and experience Costa Rica’s rich cultural heritage.

The application deadline for the Costa Rica program, which will cost $4,725 for SOU students, is April 15.

SOU classes offer Blue Zone exploration in Costa RicaThe trip is being coordinated through SOU’s Study Abroad program and is offered in partnership with Academic Programs International, an independent study abroad provider that offers academic opportunities in more than 20 countries worldwide.

Financial aid options, including scholarships totaling $4,000 from Academic Programs International, are intended to make the program accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. Non-degree-seeking students and those from other universities are also eligible to participate.

The trip will include excursions to the 11,000-foot Volcán Irazú, Costa Rica’s highest volcano; the famous Monteverde cloud forest; and several days on the Nicoya Peninsula and National Park Reserve. There will also be opportunities for city walking tours, a visit to an organic farm, a local dance class, surf lessons and a cooking class.

Students will immerse themselves in Costa Rican culture through host-families, while exploring Costa Rica as a living classroom with a strong global reputation for health, happiness and environmental protection. Participants will practice experiential and service-based learning, and will learn evidence-based practices in health and wellness as they study the Nicoya Peninsula’s Blue Zone.

The original five Blue Zones – in Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California – identified populations that are among the healthiest and longest-living in the world. The practices of inhabitants have been studied to find common keys to healthy aging, including a sense of community, culture, diet, lifestyle, activity, religion and agriculture.

Most centenarians on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, for example, have a strong sense of purpose, focus on their families, maintain their social networks, continue to practice physical chores and remain relatively free of stress by embracing their common traditions. They enjoy light dinners – typically of squash, corn and beans – early in the evening, take in vitamin D through sensible sun exposure and drink water that is high in calcium.

Those who are interested in the Costa Rica program are encouraged to contact Crystal Stroud, an SOU adjunct instructor in Health, Physical Education and Leadership, at stroudc@sou.edu.

Passport grant to make study abroad opportunities more accessible

SOU receives passport grant – student applications open through June 7

Southern Oregon University has been selected by the Institute of International Education (IIE) to receive an IIE American Passport Project grant that will pay for as many as 25 SOU students to obtain U.S. passports.

IIE’s American Passport Project is a key initiative under the institute’s Center for Access and Equity, and demonstrates the organization’s commitment to create more equitable access to study abroad opportunities. The program prioritizes first-year students receiving Pell grants – for whom this may be their first passport – in order to remove a barrier to future study abroad participation.

Adult passports currently cost $130, plus a $35 execution fee at the passport facility.

“While $165 may not be a large amount compared to other costs associated with study abroad, like plane tickets, students without a passport and with limited financial resources are often hesitant to spend that money until they know they absolutely need it,” said SOU Education Abroad advisor Ariel Bloomer.

That certainty may come too late, and result in a missed opportunity. Routine processing of passports currently takes 10 to 13 weeks. Many international programs will not be able to process an official acceptance until the student’s passport information is received, and then students may need to account for a student visa process that could take another two to 12 weeks, depending on the destination.

“Removing this barrier is as much about timing as it is about the cost,” Bloomer said. “We want students to be able to say ‘yes’ to international opportunities when they arise, and not have a lengthy administrative process waylay them.”

To apply for the IIE American Passport Project Scholarship, students should check their eligibility and fill out the brief application on Scholarship Universe by June 7. Student nominations will then be confirmed with the Institute of International Education.

All applicants will receive information on the passport application process from the Office of International Programs, which also operates as a Passport Acceptance Facility serving students and the community Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. Selected students will be able to take passport photos and complete their passport application all on campus with the support of International Programs staff.

IIE awarded passport funds to 48 institutions in the IIENetwork this year, including both Southern Oregon University and Oregon State University, which will help up to 1,200 students across the country obtain passports. IIE aims to reach 10,000 U.S. students by 2030 through the IIE American Passport Project, with the overall goal of increasing diversity and inclusion of students studying abroad.

“A passport is the first thing that opens up their world to the possibility of study abroad,” said Courtney Temple, IIE Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer.

Current or future students who want to learn more about studying abroad while at SOU can explore the International Programs web page, the Outdoor Adventure Leadership international expeditions page, or read about recent faculty-led programs such as Criminology in Ireland.

Story by Ariel Bloomer, SOU Education Abroad advisor 

New exchange program links SOU and Universidad Católica del Uraguay

SOU adds first exchange partner in Southern Hemisphere

Southern Oregon University in Ashland and the Universidad Católica del Uruguay (Catholic University of Uraguay) in Montevideo are launching a new student exchange partnership in 2023 that will be SOU’s first such arrangement in South America and the Southern Hemisphere.

Bilateral exchange programs, like the one developed between SOU and UCU, function as affordable study-abroad opportunities for participants. Exchange students pay their usual tuition and fee rates at their home university, while spending a semester or year abroad at the partner institution. SOU students keep their financial aid package intact while on exchange, creating opportunities for students of limited financial means to pursue international experiences.

Students on SOU’s Ashland campus will also benefit from the addition of Uruguayan students in the classroom. Exchange students visiting Ashland bring their unique perspectives, histories and cultures to enliven classroom discussions, group projects and creative showcases. UCU offers majors including business, communication, computer science, economics, nutrition, performing arts, psychology, recreation, sociology and visual arts, and exchange students are welcomed from across all fields of study.

SOU students applying to study at UCU in Montevideo will need to have at least a B1-level of Spanish language proficiency, and expect to immerse themselves in Spanish language through their coursework in Uruguay. Students may take courses such as Spanish language, Uruguayan Culture, Latin American and Uruguayan Thinking, or a service-learning course in addition to classes alongside UCU students in their areas of study.

“Uruguay is highly regarded internationally for its stances on environmental stewardship, sustainability, human rights, and democracy. It ranks highly as a safe destination for LGBT travelers,” says Ariel Bloomer, SOU’s Education Abroad advisor. “I’m excited about the diversity this location brings to our existing exchange portfolio, and what that means for cultural exchange opportunities on our campus.”

For SOU students interested in the exchange opportunity in Uruguay, or in other exchange destinations, the application deadline for fall exchanges is Feb. 15. All partners can be explored on the Office of International Programs page on Inside SOU, or at the upcoming Study Abroad Fair from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Jan. 25 in the Stevenson Union, Room 323. Students can contact the Office of International Programs at studyaway@sou.edu.

Story by Ariel Bloomer, SOU Education Abroad advisor

Gilman Scholarship recipients

Two SOU students awarded prestigious Gilman Scholarships for study abroad

(Ashland, Ore.) — Two Southern Oregon University students have been awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in the spring 2022 scholarship round to support their upcoming study abroad programs. The prestigious scholarships support U.S. undergraduates of limited financial means in pursuing study or internships in countries around the world.

Zion Blackburne of Rogue River, who is a digital cinema major with a minor in business administration, will study at Dankook University in South Korea. Tiana Gilliland of Grants Pass, who is double-majoring in business and healthcare administration, will study at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

The Gilman Scholarship Program, one of the largest scholarship programs for study abroad, is part of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It has supported more than 34,000 Gilman scholars traveling to more than 155 countries since its inception in 2001.

“We know that studying abroad can have a significant positive impact on students’ academic and career journeys, but many students automatically write-off the opportunity as financially out-of-reach,” said Ariel Bloomer, education and abroad advisor for SOU. “I’m glad that programs like the Gilman scholarship exist to boost access to international education and help our students grow critical skills, like language, cultural agility and comparative analysis.”

Blackburne, an SOU senior, will participate this year in Dankook’s seven-week summer program, which provides a unique opportunity for students to gain professional skills and attend classes. He will lead Korean university students in conversational English lessons during the first three weeks, followed by a four-week academic program in which Blackburne will take Beginning Korean Language and Design Strategy and Planning courses. He will have opportunities outside the classroom to explore Korean culture through activities such as kimchi-making, K-pop dance class, Korean tradition knot art and a Buddhist temple stay.

SOU has a longstanding relationship with Dankook University that dates to an original “Institutional Friendship Pact” in 1970. The connection is celebrated in spaces on the SOU campus including the Stevenson Union’s Dankook Room, which features Korean art and mementos exchanged from visiting dignitaries over the years. Dankook University students visit Ashland on exchange during the academic year, while SOU students primarily participate in their English-taught program over the summer.

Gilliland will spend her entire sophomore year abroad through an SOU exchange with the University of Nottingham, where she will be based in the Department of Philosophy. She hopes to learn more about the United Kingdom’s publicly funded healthcare system, the National Health Service, and use her study of ethics as a foundation for a career in healthcare leadership. Traveling from Grants Pass to Nottingham, Gilliland plans to make the most of her UK experience by joining student societies around her interests – particularly the University of Nottingham Skydiving Club, the largest of its kind in the UK.

The exchange with Nottingham is one of the newest in SOU’s portfolio. Ashland welcomed its first two exchange students from Nottingham during the 2019-20 academic year. The University of Nottingham is one of the UK’s elite research universities, with approximately 40,000 students in a dynamic city in central England. Exchange students to SOU come from Nottingham’s multidisciplinary Department of American and Canadian Studies, and take courses such as American Legal History, U.S. Foreign Relations, Health Care Policy and American Indian Identities while living in Ashland.

The Gilman scholarship is named for the late U.S. Rep. Benjamin Gilman of New York, who received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2002. “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views but adds an enriching social and cultural experience,” Gilman said. “It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”

The Gilman scholarship is among the most competitive national programs for undergraduates seeking to fund their study or internship abroad experiences. Its scholarships are intended to make study abroad more accessible to outstanding and diverse American students who have high financial need and may not otherwise be able to fund an international, academic experience.

Applicants for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship must be undergraduates in good academic standing who receive a Federal Pell Grant as part of their financial aid package. Successful applicants receive as much as $5,000 to apply toward study abroad program costs.

Those who apply must identify a study abroad program that is the best fit for their academic, personal and professional goals, and complete a scholarship application that consists of three essays. Deadlines are in March and October of each year. For more information on eligibility and the application process, students can connect with the SOU Office of International Programs via email (studyaway@sou.edu).

Prior SOU Gilman scholars include Starlie Bertrand ‘22 of Ashland, who completed her bachelor of science in communication at the University of Calgary in Canada through National Student Exchange. While in Calgary, she took classes including Global Communications Governance, Communications History and Digital Rhetoric, and took advantage of her proximity to Banff National Park to spend plenty of time in the scenic Canadian Rockies. She hopes her experience abroad will help her launch an international career.


Ruggerio-oviedo-study abroad

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Alena Ruggerio’s study abroad adventure in Spain

Through a recent study abroad program, 18 Southern Oregon University students and one professor set out to explore and experience the richness of Northern Spain’s culture.

Communication professor Alena Ruggerio organized and led the students on a three-month study abroad excursion to Oviedo, Spain. Ruggerio says the time she spent with her 18 “tesoros” (her treasures) was truly life-changing for her.

Ruggerio teaches courses in public speaking, argumentation and critical thinking, persuasion and other courses in rhetoric. She has received multiple honors and awards, including being voted “Most Warm and Welcoming Professor” by the Associated Students of SOU, and being a recipient of the AHA International Outstanding Visiting Faculty of the Year Award.

How do you believe study abroad experiences benefit students?
I think it’s one of the most important experiences that a student could have. Let’s start with how it enhances your coursework; it was amazing to be able to study something in the classroom and then be able to walk outside, and there’s the thing we’re talking about. We were watching movies in the rhetorical criticism class that were shot in Oviedo and everybody went “Oh my word! We were there! We lived there, right there!” So it brings learning alive in a way that you just can’t do while at a regular college campus.

Benefit number two, obviously, is that it helps you to be more marketable professionally. Because today you aren’t just competing against other college graduates in the United States, you’re competing against everyone across the globe. International study proves that you have an international perspective, and that you can engage in intercultural communication. The kind of person who has the courage, the tenacity and the open-mindedness to succeed in a study abroad program is the kind of person that employers want to hire. So it’s a really nice way to enhance your portfolio when you’re going out on the job market. 

And then the most important, as far as I am concerned, is that study abroad makes you a different person. You are not the same person when you come home as when you left and part of it is you see the world differently. You see your own culture differently, you see your own self differently and you come back with so many more personal connections.

During this study abroad experience, what was your favorite course to teach? Why?
I refuse to choose between the two courses because they were both great, but in different ways. One course I taught was called “Asturian Environmental Persuasion.” Asturias was the name of the region in north-central Spain that we were in, and they’re famous for their wildlife preservation and national forests. So wildlife protection and eco-tourism are big deals in this area. In that class, we studied those issues, and then I brought to the students my knowledge about persuasion strategies and theories. Then each student or group of students created an original persuasion campaign for their term project, where they created original artifacts of persuasion on behalf of a client to try to help them meet their persuasion goals. 

I also taught “Spain in Words and Images,” and basically, that was a Spain-themed version of my rhetorical criticism class. So I taught eight different critical lenses that they could use to analyze examples of public communication. Public communication could run the whole gamut from speeches, to stories, to poems, to songs, to advertisements and billboards, to websites, to social media posts, to architecture, to sculpture, to any kind of example of public communication. And then it was the students’ job every week ‒ and this was my favorite assignment of the entire term ‒ every week I would ask the students to go find some of those examples of public communication that had something to do with Spain and then they would present those to the class. So not only did we learn about how to analyze those examples of communication through these rhetorical criticism lenses, but we also learned a lot about Spain.

What advice do you have for a student who’s interested in studying abroad?
There are all kinds of study abroad opportunities happening all the time, and so my advice to a student would be, do some soul-searching and brainstorming to figure out: “What kind of things do I want to learn? Do I want to take language classes? Do I want to take classes in my major? Do I want to take more general-education university-studies classes? Do I want to have an internship experience? Do I want to have a homestay experience with a family? Do I want to live on a college campus in a dorm? How long do I want to be gone?”

There are study abroad opportunities that are as short as a week or two. So you could do a really short study abroad opportunity, or you could do something that’s a month or two over the summer, or you could do something that’s just a term (like what we did for three months), or you could do something for a year. So figure out how long you want to be gone and then have some idea about what part of the world you might be interested in. Think not just about the location where you will be living, but also where that location puts you in proximity to having additional explorations. And once you’ve thought a little bit about that, my advice would be to go to the Office of International Programs in the SU, and find out what your options are.

I read that you had the chance to visit cathedrals, museums and ancient places in Northern Spain. Were there any locations you weren’t able to visit that you were hoping to?
The travel writer Rick Steves has some really good wisdom about this. He says, “whenever you travel you have to travel with a mindset that someday you will be back in this place.” So that you can do the things that you didn’t get to do, and see the things that you didn’t get to see, because you can’t possibly put pressure on yourself to do and see everything, it’s impossible.

On the hill above Oviedo, on top of Monte Naranco, there’s this enormous statue called “al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús,” sacred heart of Jesus, and it looks over the city. We could see this statue from the university, we could see the statue from my apartment, and the hike up the mountain to get there is beautiful. The view down the mountain from the statue is really beautiful, so most all the students went on this hike up the mountain. I didn’t go, and I really, really wish I had. Unfortunately, I was planning to go up with two students finals week and it was raining. So I didn’t get up Monte Naranco and I really would’ve liked to have done that.

What did you personally gain from this study abroad trip?
My relationship with those 18 students means everything to me. This study abroad opportunity created an environment that is like nothing I have ever experienced teaching at a university in the States. Because it starts with the classroom interaction, and I got to have all 18 of them in both of my classes, which was wonderful because we always had a kind of everyday group meeting together. So we got to all learn the same things together, we had a common base of understanding of where we were at and what we were doing. I’m traveling with them on all of these group excursions, I’m going on all of these tours with them, I’m sitting in on their Spanish class and their Intercultural class. So between them coming to me, and me coming to them, we are each other’s world, basically, for three months. 

I feel like I got to know them in a way that I never get the privilege of getting to know students at SOU. I am certain that every student at SOU is equally as special as these 18, but these are the 18 that I got to know, and the 18 that chose this program are very, very special. And so, long after we come home back to the States, they will still be my tesoros, they are still my treasures, they are still and always will be special to me. That is the most important thing I got out of this trip.

Those interested in venturing into the unknown through a study abroad program may take Ruggerio’s advice and speak to an advisor in the SOU’s Office of International Programs. There are many opportunities waiting for those interested in travel, and SOU offers various forms of support as students explore their options.

Story by SOU student writer Sophie Passerini, @SophiePasserini

New Scholarship for SOU Study Abroad

The Friendship Force of Southern Oregon creates a summer study abroad scholarship
(Ashland, Ore) The Southern Oregon University Foundation received a study abroad annual scholarship from the Friendship Force of Southern Oregon. The organization’s annual gift will provide a summer study abroad opportunity for an SOU student. Junior Christina Burns is the 2011 recipient and will travel to Oviedo, Spain.
“I am honored to receive this scholarship,” said Burns. “Friendship Force of Southern Oregon’s mission is to create relationships with other countries, and learning about other cultures is so important.  I am happy to be a part of this mission.”
An organization rooted in cultural exchange, the Friendship Force of Southern Oregon promotes global understanding across the barriers that separate people through the values of mutual respect, cultural diversity and cultural exploration.
“Sending a student like Christina abroad supports our mission in the best possible way,” said Friendship Force President Amy Lepon. “We want to change the way students see the world.”
For more information about the Friendship Force of Southern Oregon Study Abroad Scholarship and other study abroad opportunities, visit the SOU International Programs website www.sou.edu/international/.  More information about the Friendship Force of Southern Oregon can be found at www.ffsoregon.org.