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COA plans first trip under new study abroad program

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From staff reports

Sunday, March 19, 2017

On Feb. 21, the College of The Albemarle Board of Trustees approved beginning a study abroad program at COA The first trip is scheduled to take place in December of this year.

The study abroad program is a part of a broader initiative being developed at the college to increase student engagement and completion.

Dean Roughton, dean of arts and sciences and secondary education at COA, said, “Students from many backgrounds can benefit from what have been termed High Impact Practices, including learning communities, common intellectual experiences, service learning, diversity/global learning, and a capstone course/project.”

Brian Edwards, a COA associate professor of history and the coordinator of the new study abroad program, recently had the opportunity, along with Roughton, to participate in such a service learning trip. Partnering with Garrett College in western Maryland, they visited Nicaragua over COA’s winter break.

Edwards detailed the experience: “While classes were held in sociology and Spanish, a key component was a service learning project in the community of Santa Julia. There, we helped harvest and process coffee and constructed souvenirs for the community cooperative to sell. We worked within the community, creating friendships – thanks in part to the Spanish course – and saw life as the rural Nicaraguans live it.”

Ekaterina “Katy” Younger, an assistant professor of foreign languages and the department chair for humanities and fine arts at COA, will also be involved with the study abroad program. Younger is also a former COA international student who came to the United States from Russia ten years ago. After attending College of The Albemarle, Younger earned her Master’s degree in International Studies from East Carolina University.

A study abroad trip can be an eye opening experience for COA students, said Younger.

“Many students don’t have the means to travel, and some haven’t had a chance to go further than their neighboring counties. This trip will give students a unique educational experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Roughton agreed that travel costs can be a barrier for community college students.

“We knew we needed to address the financial concerns if study abroad was going to be viable at COA. Before we ever sought official program approval from the Board of Trustees, we met with the College Foundation Board of Directors. The Foundation was very supportive of bringing study abroad to COA and graciously allocated funds to provide some scholarships for the program.”

Most study abroad programs include more than just a service learning component. When asked what other aspects of the trip students would find appealing, Edwards further described his experiences in Nicaragua. “We were also able to take in the many sights of the country, including Lake Nicaragua, an active volcano, and city life in Managua. We even went zip-lining across a crater lake and swimming in another. All in all, it was a wonderful blend of culture, benefitting the community, and pleasure.”

COA’s planned December 2017 experience will replicate the Nicaragua study abroad trip. Priority will be given to COA students. However, faculty, staff, and community members may be able to fill any remaining spots. The college’s rapidly growing dual enrollment population is also eligible, but students must be at least 17 years old by the time of the trip.

Interest meetings will be held at the Dare County Campus on Monday, March 20 at 6:00 pm in room 201 at the Russell Twiford location and at the Elizabeth City Campus on Tuesday, March 21 at 6 p.m. in room AE208. For more information, contact Brian Edwards at 252-335-0821 ext. 2206 or via email at brian_edwards@albemarle.edu.

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