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A Study Abroad That Won't Break the Bank

CLAS students travel internationally over spring vacation

This article was originally printed in the March 2006 issue of CLASnotes.

UF students huddle together for warmth in Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz next to a small remnant of the Berlin Wall
UF students huddle together for warmth in Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz next to a small remnant of the Berlin Wall. Political Science Associate Professor Ido Oren takes students in his War and Peace in World Politics course to Germany each spring break to enhance the material covered in class.

Like many students, political science senior Matt Williams had never traveled outside the US until a spring break trip in college. But his first international experience was not on a beach in Cancun, but rather a visit to the remnants of the Berlin Wall guided by one of his favorite professors.

As one of 15 students to participate in Political Science Associate Professor Ido Oren’s Berlin Study Tour during spring break last year, Williams had the chance to visit the German parliament building, as well as the Red Army victory memorial, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, Hitler’s bunker, and the site of the 1942 Wannsee Conference. He also enjoyed a performance of the German Symphony Orchestra in Berlin’s spectacular philharmonic concert hall—all while other American college students were working on their suntans.

Due to their affordability and shorter time commitments involved, spring break study abroad programs are growing in popularity at UF. “They are great ways to visit new places, spend less money and make for an atypical but fun spring break,” says Williams. There are currently five university-sponsored study abroad opportunities held over the break, three of which are led by faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“These are popular for many reasons,” says CLAS Associate Dean for Centers, Institutes and International Affairs Angel Kwolek-Folland. “They do not require such a huge investment of time, money, and preparation for students—who are often short on time and money. And sometimes the thought of that first trip outside the US is frightening and intimidating for both students and their parents. A shorter trip with a group seems more manageable and safe. Once over the initial hurdle, the next trip is easier.”

In Oren’s Berlin tour, the visit is paired with his INR 4083 course, War and Peace in World Politics, and is aimed at bringing to life the places, events and names covered by the material studied in class. “It introduces students to alternative interpretations of the origins of World Wars I, II and the Cold War,” Oren says. “And Berlin was at the epicenter of all these great conflicts of the 20th century.”

Center for Latin American Studies professors Elizabeth Lowe and Bernadette Cesar-Lee, as director and assistant director of the center’s translation studies program, take a group of students to Brussels, Luxembourg, Paris and Strasbourg each spring break on a multilingual, multicultural tour of Europe. To participate, students must be fluent in at least one language other than English and come ready to observe the intersections of languages and cultures in the immerging European Union (EU). The experience includes not only visits to cultural sites, but also formal meetings with EU officials and representatives from Brussels University.

“Our students understand that experiencing how other societies function and how multilingual and multicultural societies develop mutual respect prepares them to become better competent leaders in our current geopolitical world structures,” says Cesar-Lee.

Another exciting study abroad opportunity offered in CLAS is the Paris Research Center’s “Intensive Weeklong Study Over Spring Break” program, which provides an in-depth international experience at the university’s own classroom site at Reid Hall in Paris’ Montparnasse Quarter. UF students travel to Paris where they take part in courses offered by UF faculty. This year, Associate Professor of English Andrew Gordon taught Americans in Paris, while English Professor Brian McCrea taught Frances Burney in Paris: Revolutionary Women, Imperial Men and the Invention of Ideology.

In addition to spring break, students also have the option of studying abroad during the intersession between the spring and summer semesters. The Paris Research Center is offering a program May 7–13, 2006, before the Summer A term begins on May 15, with the course HUM 4956/WST 3930, Seeing the Other: French Representations of Non-Western Culture. There are also a few two-week trips being organized this summer, including the Center for African Studies’ “UF in Senegal” experience.
For Matt Williams—who, after his spring break trip to Berlin in 2005 immediately participated in a summer-long study abroad to Fez, Morocco—shorter excursions give students a taste of international travel and usually ignite a desire for more world experiences. “It was great preparation for hopefully a life of travel to come.”



Buffy Lockette


Courtesy Nicole Boyle

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