Jordan is one of four new destinations offered for study abroad through the College of Human Sciences.
The College of Human Sciences at Auburn University has created four new study abroad opportunities in an effort to encourage more of its students to study outside the U.S. before graduation.
By adding trips to the Bahamas, Jordan, Fiji and South Africa, the college is hoping to improve its chances of having half of its students graduate with academic credit for study abroad by 2018 – a lofty goal set by Dean June Henton.
"I've become even more convinced through the years that an international experience is absolutely critical for all students," she said. "It helps students open their minds and broaden their worldviews, which is going to serve them well wherever they go. It becomes a foundation to actually build for the greater good in our society."
Sustainability in the South Pacific
Kate Thornton, director of hunger and sustainability initiatives in the college, took seven students to Fiji in 2013 "to study sustainability from a cultural, environmental and economic perspective." Eleven students can go this year with Amanda Gale, assistant professor in the Department of Consumer and Design Sciences. The trip is open to all Auburn students.
In Fiji, students take a break from learning about sustainability to enjoy some coconut water.
On the island of Vorovoro, students lived in a Fijian village, alongside Chief Tui Mali and his family in vales, or tin roof huts, and burres, or thatch roof huts. They worked with tribal members on sustainability projects, such as gardening, rainwater catchment systems and maintenance projects. Students also traveled to several local permaculture farms and learned farming techniques.
"Because of this closeness, we were able to take part in traditional ceremonies and rituals, as well as have a personal relationship with the chief," said Sydney Herndon, who earned her anthropology degree after studying in Fiji. "We felt like real members of the tribe. I had never heard of, let alone been on another study abroad trip with this level of immersion."
Thornton created the month-long trip as a way for every student, regardless of major, to learn from working alongside the Fijians and helping to improve their sustainable practices. The inaugural group built a solar desalination system for the tribe, turning saltwater into clean, drinkable water.
"Although our technology was cool, we learned that it was a lot more efficient for them to go about the ways they already knew," said Sara Rains, a sophomore majoring in nutrition and horticulture and minoring in hunger studies. "They use a rainwater catchment because it's sustainable."
Tourism in the Middle East
Baker Ayoun, an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management, created Auburn's only study abroad option to the Middle East to give Auburn students the opportunity to experience the society, culture, hospitality and tourism of his native Jordan.
Jordan can be a popular tourist destination for those visiting the Dead Sea, one of the world's saltiest bodies of water.
"Jordan is a great host to several of the world's civilizations, providing participants in this program the opportunity to gain a greater insight into not only the rich Arab culture, but also the ancient civilizations of Rome, Greek and Nabatean," he said.
Five students joined Ayoun in 2013. He plans to take six students this year.
Over the course of three weeks, Auburn students spend much time learning from students and faculty at the Jordan Applied University College of Hospitality and Tourism Education. They stay at the Century Park Hotel, a teaching hotel on the JAU campus in the capital city of Amman. Travel destinations include a number of ancient cities and tourist spots, such as Petra, the Dead Sea and the Jordan River.
"It was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had in my whole life," shared junior Danielle Cannady, a hotel and restaurant management major. "It really opened my eyes to the number of opportunities that are available for students in our major."
Alecia Douglas, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management, planned a study abroad option in the Bahamas to allow hotel and restaurant management students to experience various types of tourism. She took nine students to the island nation in 2013.
On a visit to the Bahaman island of Eleuthera, students learned about Princess Cays, a beach resort owned and operated by Princess Cruises.
For senior Clayton Whitesides, the island-hopping experience was ideal for his first time out of the country. A 10-day excursion fit into his summer work schedule better than month- or semester-long study abroad trips. Plus, it was a new option, to paradise and with Douglas, he said.
The experience included visits to small, large and mega tourism businesses on various islands. New Providence, for instance, is home to the Bahaman capital of Nassau and the Atlantis Resort, which features the largest water park in the Caribbean. All-inclusive destinations like the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort and volunteer tourism at Tarpum Bay are examples of alternative tourism experiences found on smaller islands of Exuma and Eleuthera.
"It's not what I expected at all. I thought it was going to be Atlantis and big hotels," Whitesides said. "The smaller islands are still a tourism-based economy. There are just a lot more challenges there so you get to see how they deal with that."
Whitesides said he agreed with the college's plan to have more of its students graduate with study abroad experience, especially those bound for careers in tourism and hospitality.
"You need to go see other cultures," he insisted. "Even with the Bahamas, you would think everything is the same, but from island to island, it's completely different."
A New Continent
The College of Human Sciences recently formed a partnership with Stenden University in the Netherlands to allow all majors in the college and Auburn students seeking an international minor in human sciences the chance to spend nine weeks studying at Stenden's branch campus in Port Alfred, South Africa.
Students can study for nine weeks in Port Alfred, South Africa, home to a branch campus of Stenden University in the Netherlands.
Marilyn Bradbard, the college's director of global education, said they became interested in collaborating with Stenden after she and Henton visited the Netherlands a few years ago. Stenden's primary focus may be hospitality management, but Bradbard said they were convinced all majors could benefit from their focus on volunteerism and problem-based learning.
"Using communication, analytical, integration and problem-solving skills, empirical knowledge from a multitude of relevant disciplines and thoughtful faculty facilitation, students engage in a learning process that will serve them well in their future careers," she said.
Three students and Martin O'Neill, head of the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management, will pilot the program this spring. Ten students will travel with Kate Thornton, director of hunger and sustainability initiatives for the college, this summer.
Bradbard said most of the students participating in this first year will be completing internship requirements in Human Development and Family Studies by working in a variety of community development and humanitarian assistance programs in the townships that offer services to families, preschool children, adolescents and the elderly. Others will be taking coursework to supplement Auburn's offerings in hospitality management.
— By Amy Weaver, Office of Communications & Marketing
Last Updated: Feb. 6, 2014