Short-term study abroad programs give students an experience of a lifetime


Melinda Yoho

Melinda Yoho in Santorini Greece. Submitted photo.

Jackie Bergeron

Jeff Dynda has been on an airplane only once, but this summer he is going to spend 10 hours on a flight to Israel for college credit.

“I’ve never really been anywhere,” said Dynda, sophomore pre-finance major. “The first time I went out of the country was in January to Niagara Falls, and now I’m going halfway around the world.”

Dynda is part of a Comparative Religious Thought I class that will be spending two weeks in Israel this May, much like a field trip. The class has weekly meeting times during the semester, and while in Israel, the students will have to document their journey by keeping a journal of their experiences. The journals can be written or in photographs.

In the course this spring, students are learning about what they will be seeing in Israel, such as the Dome of the Rock, a shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, and where it is said Jesus Christ was baptized along the Jordan River in Yardenit.

“I wanted to go somewhere that had a whole host of culture,” Dynda said. “It’s thriving and alive there, and I love world religions. It just seemed like a perfect fit.”

Dynda’s trip to Israel is one of 32 short-term study abroad programs offered by Kent State University this academic year.

“These are shorter than semester-long programs, and most of them happen during the May intercession, spring break or winter break,” Ediz Kaykayoglu said.

Kaykayoglu, the academic program coordinator for the Office of International Affairs, said trips can be incorporated with either existing programs or entirely new courses. A program can also form when faculty won’t meet formally as a class, but students will still have to do readings, projects or papers to earn credit.

Faculty develop the programs and decide where they will go and what topics the trip will cover. They are also responsible for making any arrangements for programming once they leave the United States. The Office of International Affairs collaborates with the faculty to make sure everything is planned for and to help in preparing students for departure.

Only 27 short-term programs were offered last year, and only 15 were offered five years ago. Kaykayoglu said the number increased because the Office of International Affairs has increased their interaction with faculty members to get them interested in planning these trips.

Barbara Yoost, professor in the College of Nursing, has experience planning a short-term trip for an existing course. She planned a trip to Geneva, Switzerland for public health and nursing students after she had a profound experience there.

“Geneva is like the hub for world health,” Yoost said. “It is rich in health-related activities. Once, I had personally experienced [the World Health Assembly] as a nurse and faculty member who’s been in the profession for many years, I sat there and thought to myself that this was an experience our students needed to have.”

The trip Yoost leads to Switzerland coincides with the World Health Organization’s annual meeting. Yoost said Kent State students are the only group of university students with official observation credentials for the assembly.

The idea of allowing students to have their own study abroad experience is what drives some other faculty and staff members to host their own short-term programs.

Deborah Davis, international programs coordinator for the College of Communication and Information, said she was transformed into a different person after living in South America and Europe when she was in her 20s, and that she wanted to share that experience with students.

Summary of Short-Term Study Abroad Programs:

College of Arts

  • KSU Fashion Design & Merchandising: France
  • Art and Design Education in Florence: Italy
  • Art Program: Netherlands and Belgium
  • Art and Culture in Italy: Italy
  • Art History in London and Paris: United Kingdom and France

    College of Arts and Sciences

  • Field Experience: Cambodia
  • Field Experience: Ireland
  • Exploring Experience: Costa Rica
  • Classics in Italy
  • Comparative Religious Thought I: Israel
  • German Political History in Germany
  • Tropical Environment and Conservation: Costa Rica

    College of Business Administration

  • International Business Experience: Switzerland and France
  • International Experience in Marketing: United Kingdom and Ireland
  • Responsible/Sustainable Management: France
  • Accounting/Finance Study Abroad Trip: United Kingdom and France
  • European Economic Issues: Belgium, Luxembourg and France
  • Executive MBA: China

    College of Communication and Information

  • Global Advertising and Public Relations: England
  • Museum Origins: Italy
  • Comparative Global Media Systems: France and Italy
  • International Story Telling: India

    College and Graduate School of Education, Health and Human Services

  • Educational Psychology: Italy
  • Ireland Educational Leadership: Ireland
  • Ghana Study Abroad: Ghana
  • Design and Delivery of Study Abroad: Italy and Switzerland
  • Relational Learning in Cuba: Cuba
  • International Leadership Program: China
  • Europe and the Wider World: Italy

“I love being able to help provide that for students,” Davis said. “It’s such a powerful experience. I like the excitement and trepidation of getting ready to go.”

Chaya Kessler, director of the Jewish Studies program, feels the same way but has a more personal relationship with the trip she leads. Kessler is one of the faculty members who takes students to Israel, where she grew up.

“It’s like showing something that you love to someone who’s never seen it,” Kessler said.

Yoost, Davis and Kessler all said students tell them the trips have changed their lives.

Davis worked out a photography trip through the College of Communication and Information to Greece and Turkey after Melinda Yoho, junior photo illustration major, suggested a trip. The trip was lead by Bryan Rinnert, a professor for the school of visual communication and design, last intersession. Students only had a few meetings before the trip.

“There wasn’t a specific photography study abroad trip,” Yoho said. “I told [Davis] what I would love to do, which was just get to travel somewhere exciting and exotic and just shoot photos the entire time.”

“My grandma loves watching the travel channels, and she would show them to me as a kid,” Yoho said. “I would always say ‘I want to see that.’ Now, I’ve seen some those things that inspired me as a child through my own eyes.”

Katherine Armstrong, junior information design major, attended the Greece and Turkey trip with Yoho. “We went basically to just take pictures,” Armstrong said. “We had to capture the difference in cultures between Turkey and Greece, as well as the landscapes.”

The trip was Armstrong’s first trip abroad. She said although it was a culture shock at first, she eventually became used to the different atmosphere.

“At several different stops, we went to bazaars [street markets], and the people there would always try and stop us to talk to us. They wanted our business. That made me nervous. You’d go into this big, huge market, and they would grab you to get you to look at their stuff.”

Armstrong and Yoho said the trip changed their life. They were able to bond with their group, take great images of differences and grow as people because of the two-week program.

“I’m much more adventurous,” Armstrong said. “I crave traveling now and would love to do it again, whether it’s for school or on my own. I’m a lot more open now, to new things and new cultures.”

Contact Jackie Bergeron at [email protected].