July 2011—Walden University’s College of Undergraduate Studies, through the BS in Interdisciplinary Studies program, led its first study abroad trip May 18–25 to London, England. Ten students, enrolled in a variety of undergraduate programs, were led by Dr. Lianne Williamson, the program director of the Interdisciplinary Studies program, on an eight-day trip that included walking tours of the city, exploration of ancient archeological sites and two community service projects.
Students enrolled in the course IDST 4004 Seminar with Study Abroad participated in the trip. Its purpose was to allow students to experience firsthand how culture, politics and history shape their perspectives. “Our goals were to educate our students about globalism, multicultural communication and what it means to be brought up in American culture,” explains Dr. Williamson. “The majority of the students who participated had never been outside of the United States, so it was a great opportunity for them to have a practical, academic and cross-cultural adventure.”
“Just experiencing another country and its culture opened up my eyes to how much the world has to offer,” says Christine Sourek, a BS in Child Development student. “It gave me a new respect for how people in other countries live and a fresh perspective on how to treat people in my daily life.”
Geneva Hayes, a student in the BS in Business Administration program, agrees. “The most inspiring lesson I learned on this trip is that people are the same all over the world. We may communicate differently, but in the end, we are all more alike than different.”
The trip included an array of opportunities to explore the city, including visits to Windsor Castle, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square and a trip to the British Museum to see its collections, including the Elgin Marbles of the Athenian Parthenon and the Rosetta Stone of Egypt. “The most moving part of the trip was our visit to the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone,” explains Linda Krouse, a student in the B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies program. “It was a very spiritual experience to see a piece of history that changed the Western world.”
Students also participated in community service projects. At the Queens Crescent Community Centre, a group painted a community room that is used for meals and as a playroom for children. At St. Mungo’s, an organization that offers support to the local homeless population, students toured the garden and contributed to its upkeep.
“The highlight was talking to some of the homeless people who had been helped by the program,” Dr. Williamson says. “The realness of St. Mungo’s made a deep impression on the group.”
“It was a wonderful experience,” Sourek adds. “It showed me how important it is to give back. It also made me appreciate what I have.” For Krouse, the experience at St. Mungo’s inspired the subject of her capstone project. “I am now exploring how to identify the autistic population among the homeless and how they are provided services,” she says.
Students were required to complete a two-part literature review and a final project as part of the course. Hayes studied the relationship between currencies based on her experience with the exchange rate and how to stay within a budget while traveling.
“Studying abroad is the hallmark of undergraduate study,” Dr. Williamson explains. “Becoming a ‘citizen of the world’ is a must in today’s society. Access to the global stream of experience is what Walden’s study abroad program is all about.”