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FMU faculty, students, to travel abroad

 FLORENCE, S.C. – Three Francis Marion University faculty members have organized study-abroad trips for students this summer. Elizabeth Zahnd (French), Wendy Caldwell (Spanish), and Scott Brown (geography) will accompany students to France, Mexico, and Cuba, respectively.

 Zahnd will accompany four FMU students to France, June 26 to July 20. The students will spend a few days sight-seeing in Paris before heading to Normandy, where they will take part in a three-week study program at the University of Caen.

In addition to taking intermediate-level French courses, they will participate in excursions to surrounding sights such as the D-Day beaches, Mont St. Michel, and Bayeux (home of a famous 11th-century tapestry depicting the Norman conquest).

“I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for students to experience French culture firsthand,” Zahnd said. “As I tell my students, the best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself in the target culture.” Zahnd does not believe that current tensions between the governments of France and the United States will have much effect on the students’ experience. “The French people, and especially those living in Normandy, hold generally positive feelings towards Americans,” she said “The older generations recognize what the United States did to help liberate France during World War II, whereas the young people are fascinated with American pop culture. When I traveled to France last March, everyone was very friendly, despite the political situation at the time.”

Zahnd is currently working with FMU administrators and representatives from the University of Caen to negotiate a permanent student exchange program in France.

Caldwell will be leading the Summer Study Abroad Program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, from May 16 to June 7 at the Universidad Internacional. The three-week immersion program offers students six credit hours in Spanish, home-stays with Mexican families, and excursions to Teotihuacán, Taxco, Mexico City, and Acapulco. Caldwell will accompany 14 students to Mexico.

“Many of the students in our group have never traveled outside of the U.S., and I am so excited for them to have this opportunity. I look forward to watching their transformation as their eyes are opened to a new culture and people. According to Census 2000, the Hispanic population is the largest minority in the U.S., and I am thrilled that so many of our students realize the importance of learning Spanish.”

In addition to this summer’s study-abroad program, FMU already has in place a permanent exchange agreement with the Universidad Internacional, which allows students to spend a semester studying in Mexico. Students interested in participating should contact the FMU Department of Modern Languages.

 Brown will be taking a group of five students and six faculty members to Cuba from May 18 to June 2 as part of a special-topics geography class. A trip to Cuba is an unusual opportunity for U.S. college students, as the U.S. Embargo on Cuba and the Helms-Burton Act make it illegal for U.S. citizens to travel freely to Cuba without a license from the U.S. Treasury Department.

 “Visiting Cuba presents many educational advantages for students,” Brown said. “Its culture, history, and politics make it a living laboratory for student learning. From Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders on San Juan Hill to Fidel Castro’s attempt on the Moncada Barracks to the Bay of Pigs, and many more events, Cuba stands out when it comes to politics.

“It is one of the few remaining communist countries in the world. Its culture boasts everything from Santeria rituals and rich Latin tropical music and dance rhythms to fine Spanish colonial architecture and some of the world’s finest cigars. I think this is a rare opportunity students have to really see another culture and gain insight into a totally different political system and society. It will be a truly enlightening experience.”

#159 / 5-2-03

Last Published: March 5, 2004 11:44 AM
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