SLIDE offers practical experiences abroad

Students develop leadership skills on short international trips

The Spectrum

Pharmacology and toxicology graduate student Laura Kuroski always wanted to study abroad during her undergraduate years at UB, but her majors didn't allow her the time to leave and experience a foreign country. Many students with rigorous coursework face the same dilemma.

SLIDE was Kuroski's solution.

The Student Leadership International Dialogue and Exchange (SLIDE) program offers a study abroad opportunity for students who want to develop their leadership skills and experience a foreign culture but may not have time to fit an extended study abroad session into their schedules.

Trips are offered once a year and students can travel to countries for roughly one to two weeks without taking time out of UB. SLIDE, coordinated by the Center for Student Leadership & Community Engagement and supported by UB's Division of Student Affairs, does not work in conjunction with the study abroad department.

SLIDE participants have visited Singapore, China, London, Dominican Republic, Prague and Budapest over the years. This academic year, SLIDE will take place from May 19-29 in Italy. Students will spend 10 days developing leadership skills and immersing themselves in the culture of Rome, Florence and Venice.

Jude Butch, the leadership program coordinator, said the program allows students who don't have the "luxury of leaving campus for a semester or a year" a study abroad experience. For students with responsibilities on campus, like participating in clubs or working a job, SLIDE offers an alternative.

John Maher, a sophomore chemical engineering major, entered UB with the goal of studying abroad. He soon realized the strict curriculum of his major coupled with the structured schedule would prevent him from studying away from UB for semester.

He found SLIDE was a practical fit into his schedule.

Maher attended the 2013 trip to Prague and Budapest. The session ran after the school year was over, and it was short enough so he could still keep his summer job at home.

To help students develop their leadership skills, SLIDE exposes them to the host country's culture and styles of student leaders in the foreign colleges.

During the 2011 SLIDE trip to London, students interacted with student leaders studying in University of Oxford and London School of Economics.

"Students had opportunities to exchange ideas and learn what kind of shared governance in leadership looks like in these European colleges," Butch said. "In turn, our students talked about what it was like to be a student in the United States."

The Student Association president at the time, JoAnna Datz, attended the trip, and Butch believes Datz's observations of similar student positions helped her govern during her 2011-12 SA presidency at UB.

Kuroski also attended the London trip. She enjoyed it so much that she attended the 2013 SLIDE program, as well.

Kuroski will graduate this coming May and will begin to apply for full-time jobs. She added SLIDE to her r?(c)sum?(c). She said she is confident the program will be an experience that will "catch somebody's eye."

"I really hope it's something that they can look at to see that I've learned these leadership skills at an international level, and not just here in the U.S.," Kuroski said.

Students receive two college credits at the completion of the program. During the trip, students are required to keep journals and video blogs using provided flip cams.

In Maher's lengthy journal, he included summaries of each day along with captioned photos. He was also required to keep a record of leadership aspects learned from the foreign students, cultural lessons, differences between the two cultures and highlights of the day.

Maher has applied for the SLIDE program to Italy and will participate in the study abroad program to London during UB's winter session.

He said the great thing about SLIDE is that there is no class or lecture involved while abroad, which allows participants to "focus on truly living and experiencing where [they] were, without having to worry about class or assignments, a truly great relief considering spring semester just ended," he said.

"The whole point of SLIDE is to learn through immersion, compared to your average classroom setting, and is extremely enjoyable and effective," Maher said.