CYAF study abroad changing lives

CYAF study abroad changing lives

27 Apr 2016    

Most of us realize that the world has shrunk immeasurably in the last century. With the technology advancements of travel, communications and the internet, we are a much more connected world. But that doesn’t mean our connections are instantly easier. Differences in culture and language remain a barrier to better relationships and our ability to help others. That is why the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies (CYAF) is dedicated to developing cultural and global competence in all its students. Increasingly, that is being accomplished through education abroad opportunities.

“In our global economy today, students need a global perspective,” says Paul Springer, associate professor in CYAF who has taken students on numerous international trips. “As they look for solutions, students need to have experience looking outside of themselves and outside of the U.S.”

Anubhuti school children.
Students at the Anubhuti School were proud to show they successfully completed a learning objective. They figured out the correct objects to place in a scale so that they both had equal weights and the scale was balanced. (Photo courtesy CYAF India blog.)

For many students, a study abroad opportunity is the first time they’ve been out of the country. Springer sees his students undergo positive life changing experiences.

“It’s really transformative,” he says. “They begin to look at other cultures in new ways and assimilate and accommodate these global experiences in their personal and professional lives.”

Professor Rochelle Dalla sees similar changes in the students who have completed internships in India at the Anubhuti 2 School in Jalgaon, Maharashtra. They serve students in grades one through six who come from extreme poverty but are getting their own life changing opportunities at the school. CYAF students lead activities and help children with English language skills. The internship lasts seven weeks—longer than any other university internship programs at Anubhuti.

“Students are away from family and their support system for a long time,” said Dalla. “It’s hard, and they have some difficult days, but they also say, ‘I’m so glad I had those difficult days and worked through it because I now know more about me. I know I’m a stronger person because of this. I can do things that I didn’t think I would be able to do.’”

A group of students returned from Jalgaon earlier this month where they chronicled their experiences at Anubhuti School in daily blog posts. It helps family back home stay connected, helps students process their experiences, and fulfills class assignments that are part of the experience.

Springer has taken students to Brazil, where he used to live, and where he is conducting mental health research. His experience and command of Portuguese language provides unique opportunities for his students.

Visiting the home of an Anubhuti teacher.
CYAF students get to experience Indian culture by getting out to interact in the community. Children near the farm of one of the Anubhuti teachers clamored to see the visitors. The language barrier did not prevent the locals and visitors from learning about each other. (Photo courtesy of CYAF India blog.)

“We do some touristy things, but we are with the people,” said Springer. “We eat where the locals eat. We stay where the locals stay. But it’s not a vacation. They come home and talk about feeling different. Being different. Thinking about the world differently. They come home different than how they left and in a positive way.”

CYAF is making recent progress in providing education abroad opportunities, but barriers exist. Students often fail to recognize the opportunity because they’ve never thought about it. Some are afraid to try something different, while others don’t believe it’s within their financial reach. The College of Education and Human Sciences makes scholarships available to help defray costs and works with families to address a host of concerns. Springer says the barriers often come down pretty quickly.

CYAF is dedicated to the well-being of vulnerable populations, and its students are well-suited for the experiences of education abroad. Dalla sees education abroad as the pinnacle of the department’s mission and gets excited about the response of students.

“They say, ‘What I thought I was going to do with my life, I now know has to incorporate some form of serving underserved populations in a way I didn’t know was possible.’”

CYAF doctoral student Courtney Boise paints an Anubhuti student's face with colored powder, a custom of the Holi festival. (Photo courtesy CYAF India blog.)
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