Beyond UB's borders

Winter session offers more affordable taste of international experience

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The Spectrum

One reason to try winter session?

"Dare yourself to an intellectual challenge - an adventure," said Debra Street, professor and chair of the sociology department.

UB added an extra week to its winter break, extending it to Jan. 26 to accommodate the university's new winter session. The extra week has inspired some faculty members to create study abroad programs for students, according to Donald McGuire, the undergraduate programs administrator.

This year, students have the opportunity to travel to Italy, Istanbul, Tanzania, Singapore, Moldova, London or Hong Kong to study.McGuire and Street are highly involved in the abroad sessions and encourage UB students to leave their comfort zones this winter break and apply to study in another country.

"[The goal is] to give students an international experience," said Bradley Ault, an associate professor in the classics department.

Ault runs the trip to Italy for UB's winter abroad program. He said the program's aim is to develop and improve the "social, cultural and historical literacy" of students.

Steven Coffed, a junior aerospace mechanical engineering major, traveled to Italy instead of going home for winter break two years ago. The experience has become one of his greatest memories in college. He said it may not be as easy as staying at home, but it's something that's impossible to forget or regret.

Studying abroad can help undergrads gain academic experience while becoming immersed in a new culture and country. The programs give students a chance to change their global perspective while earning credits, according to McGuire.

Studying abroad during summer can cost up to $17,585, according to UB's estimated summer abroad costs. Price varies depending on location.

The winter abroad programs are affordable and still give students a taste of learning overseas, McGuire said. The programs vary in cost, though an estimate on UB's site, including personal expenses, comes to $5,641.80.

Coffed wanted to get a preliminary taste of studying abroad, he said.

He said the winter program is an easier way to get the experience of studying overseas without as much worry over the cost or whether it could get in the way of classes. This past summer, Coffed studied in France. The winter abroad program gave him a thirst for adventure and for exploring new countries. Coffed found it easy to adapt to the culture, language and feel of the new country.

"[The winter program] enhances not only interpersonal skills within the group but within humanity," Ault said. "The setting that students are placed into helps them realize the depth of the human experience and helps them become better citizens."

While studying abroad during the winter, students should note the course work is very different from what it would be if they took the same courses at UB.

"We're packing three credits into three weeks," Ault said. "It's rigorous, but not overly taxing."

The winter study abroad program has seven upcoming programs in different countries.

Each of the new programs has a unique educational focus, according to McGuire, because the program attempts to "immerse students into different neighborhoods." Students who go to Istanbul, for example, will see a mix of cultures and beautiful modern cities.

Students will also focus on the problems of the growing city, such as overpopulation, housing and social dilemmas.McGuire leads the program in Istanbul and explained that depending on the students' interests, the group will focus on problems that involve their academic concentration.

While in London, students can expect to learn about the importance of food through a sociological lens, though the program is not strictly for social science majors, according to Street.

Street said that by tasting and exploring London's cuisine, the program will make students realize what food means in terms of processes, relationships, norms and values.

"The sociology of food in London has something intellectually tasty on the menu for students from just about any background," Street said.

Students interested in discovering the different roles of film in society can apply to be a part of Cinematic Sociology in Singapore this winter.

"Singapore is an affluent, safe, carefully planned, highly efficient, English-speaking city-state that welcomes Westerners," Street said. "The course will emphasize how films shape and are shaped by central themes in sociology."

By visiting different sites of Singapore and viewing carefully selected films, students will gain a "common understanding" of prominent world issues, according to Street.

Students who prefer to explore the cities of Italy while avoiding the summer and spring rush of tourists can take part in Classics in Italy, one of thelongest-running winter abroad programs.

"While we have my archeological and historical agenda, at the same time [students] are immersed in the very vibrant culture of modern Italy," Ault said.

The program starts early in the morning and finishes in the afternoon, which gives students time to explore and shop around the country, according to Ault.

The winter abroad program is open to all students, but leaders urge students to be prepared for the demanding program. Street said she hopes for mature, open-minded and intellectually curious students to apply.

"It will be a life-changing experience," Ault said.

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