College of The Albemarle students looking for an alternative spring break next year will have an opportunity to travel to Thailand through the college’s study abroad program.

The college recently announced that the service-learning, short-term study abroad program will be taking students to Thailand, April 2-11, 2021.

First approved by the COA Board of Trustees in 2017, the study abroad program is part of COA’s effort to incorporate a global education component into the college’s curriculum, according to a COA press release.

“Global education allows people to experience a culture through the eyes of a native,” said Dr. Evonne Carter, COA’s vice president of learning. “The ultimate goal is to share all the components of another way of life that is rooted in the geographical, political, economic and social aspects of that culture. For one to truly get to the point of sharing culture, language, art, religion and cuisine must be experienced and relished.”

COA’s first group of study-abroad students traveled to Nicaragua during winter break of the 2017-18 school year. Last year, they traveled to Costa Rica and this April will be traveling to Puerto Rico.

While the trips to Latin-American counties were valuable experiences, COA’s global education team felt the program needed to explore cultures outside the Western Hemisphere and, in an informal poll, students agreed.

Dr. Dean Roughton, COA’s dean of arts and sciences and co-founder of the study abroad program, noted that students taking the Thailand trip will do more than see the sights.

“Participants will have the opportunity to work in elementary schools or orphanages teaching English and renovating facilities to improve living conditions for the children,” he said. “We will also visit an elephant sanctuary to learn about social problems arising from overlapping natural and human spaces in an increasingly modernized world while we help provide care for the animals.”

Students taking the trip will also tour Bangkok by bicycle and visit the Muay Thai school, which showcases Thailand’s most famous martial art. They’ll also visit Khao Yai National Park, which features more than 2,000 botanical species, and spend a night in a Buddhist monastery, where they’ll get to practice meditation with local monks.

While COA students have first priority, the trip is open to faculty, staff, and community members as well.

The COA Foundation and regional Rotary Clubs have provided partial scholarships to help make the study abroad program available to students who otherwise can’t afford to go on the trips.

“Without the funds these partnerships provide, such opportunities would not be available to our students,” Brian Edwards, chairman of the department of social sciences and the program’s other co-founder, said. “This assistance is already paying dividends as our students become global citizens.”

For more information about the study abroad program, call Roughton at 252-335-0821, ext. 2306 or email him at dean_roughton@albemarle.edu.