Study Abroad Forum Program
Session I: chaired by Dr. Kim Jones
As a Lumen Scholar, Elon College Fellow, and Periclean Scholar, I have had the opportunity to conduct original research in several different countries. While such experiences at first sound overwhelming, going to a foreign area and making the most out of your time is not only possible but extremely rewarding. From my time in semester-long study in Costa Rica and 6-week summer experience in South Africa, I have learned what steps are necessary in order to be successful in international academic pursuits. As a way to encourage others to pursue research projects, I have developed guidelines for students who are planning to engage in scholarly activities abroad. Guidelines include the importance of a faculty mentor and emphasize planning prior to departure. Before embarking upon international study, it is necessary to establish contacts in the host country and develop an alternative plan should the original initiative prove impractical. It is necessary to have patience and recognize that tasks such as making photocopies may take longer than anticipated. The ability to articulate research requirements is also important. Finally, it is imperative to remember that international academic work is hard and that challenges are just a part of the experience. My presentation will include specific examples of difficulties and how I overcame them in Costa Rica and South Africa.
Teaching principles of science can be challenging and complex when done by non-science, non-education majors. Teaching them in India to children who may or may not have a firm understanding of English is even more so. Our panel will compare survey results from both the children we taught at six different middle and high schools in India during Winter Term 2009, and children who were taught with a similar program at the local Graham Middle School. The India program was loosely affiliated with Periclean Scholars classes of 2011 and 2012, and the 2011 class has a sister project at Graham, so there was an existing partnership from which to work.
Ghana, a highly-indebted poor country with just over 20 million people, has a severe shortage of trained medical personnel and health care facilities. This study examines the measures taken by the Kufuor administration (2001-2009) to improve Ghana’s national health system as well as the extent to which an Elon University, Periclean Scholars class of 2010 community partnership with Kpoeta, Ghana has supported Ghana’s national health care goals. It also evaluates the relative success of measures to improve healthcare undertaken by the Government of Ghana and the 2010 Periclean Scholars based on analysis of research studies, feedback from our partnering community and first-hand experience in the country over fall 2008 and January 2009. Findings include that funds and goods distributed through government-supported incentive programs aimed at reversing the exodus of trained medical professionals to foreign countries have been insufficient. Ghana continues to lose more than half of its medical professionals annually, a loss of nearly $4,000,000 in training costs. In Kpoeta, an isolated, rural community, locally provided incentives have helped to retain two nurses posted by the Government of Ghana at a clinic constructed with Periclean support, but the community fears that without the provision of improved housing, that the nurses could be lost. Thus, the next phase of our community partnership will be the construction of medical staff housing. The initial phase of the partnership was the construction of the clinic itself; it provides the approximately 10,000 people of Kpoeta with year-round access to a health care facility and supports national health care goals started during the Kufuor administration, to move away from the construction of a few showcase medical facilities in urban areas to supporting thousands of smaller, basic facilities in rural areas. The Paramount Chief of Kpoeta describes the addition of the community clinic as a dream come true; he believes its services will reduce morbidity and mortally, especially from preventable yet common diseases like malaria and cholera, and that with the arrival of a Government of Ghana supported midwife later in 2009, will also help reduce maternal deaths.
The criminal justice system is a critical issue for any country. The ability to detain and incarcerate criminals is fundamental to the success and vitality of a nation. If a country cannot provide a safe living and working community for its citizens, progress is greatly hindered and the country will struggle to develop. Costa Rica is a country that has been plagued by negative stereotypes as a place of danger and because of this will never be able to truly become a first-world country. This paper demonstrates how the criminal justice system of Costa Rica, a country riddled by penny-theft and street crime, functions both effectively and ineffectively. The research focuses on the laws that govern everyday life for Ticos and aims to show why street crime in Costa Rica is as large of a problem as it is. Also included are comparisons to the legal system of the United States to further comprehension for Americans who have trouble grasping the differences that lie in Costa Rican Law. The research for this paper was gathered largely through primary sources: two interviews with practicing lawyers in Costa Rica, including one who has appeared at the Hague National Convention, as well as a visit and tour of the Corte Supreme de Justicia de Costa Rica(Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica). The presentation of this paper will demonstrate to the audience that in order for Costa Rica to decrease its criminal problems and increase its standing as a country in the eyes of the rest of the world, it must restructure the way the criminal justice system handles crime.
One of the personal as well as academic goals that I set for myself while I was in Kerala, India, during the Winter Term of 2009, was to collect artwork from the students that we worked with in the Traveling Science Center service-learning project. Specifically, I asked these students to draw for me artwork with Keralan or Indian wildlife as the subject matter, but what I received from the students was much more thought provoking and interesting than simple pictures of animals and plants.
We most often find ourselves traveling to far off places because we seek to understand. We are frustrated, sometimes angered, and confused by things we don’t know. Many of us seek to eliminate stereotypes we may have about a particular culture by experiencing it first-hand. But we so often forget that we are not examining a culture through a two-way mirror- we are not the only ones who are allowed to study. In opening ourselves up in an attempt to understand others, we are placing ourselves at risk of being judged. We so easily forget, and are sometimes harshly reminded, that our culture may be just as perplexing or fascinating to the party that we are studying as theirs is to us. And sometimes others’ views of us are not as pleasant as we might hope.
In order to receive the semester study abroad requirement for my International Studies major, I decided to create an IEPA (Independent Elon Program Abroad) through an internship I was offered for the summer in Berlin, Germany. Instead of taking courses with other college students, I found that an internship would give me real life job experience as well as complete cultural immersion, since I would be working with nearly all native German speakers.
On January 13th, 2009, in the Guatemalan mountain village of Calhuitz, I witnessed the interaction between a young woman suffering from a broken rib and her traditional bone healer. In my personal journal, I wrote: “As the healer palpated the woman’s abdomen, she grasped his wrist. I could not see her face or body - only a pile of blankets with an agonized hand reaching and pleading for the process to end.“ I noted that while many of my fellow students seemed disturbed over the episode, we must be careful to not assume that this was an unnecessary procedure. I argued that many medical procedures in Western culture (such as the chemotherapy and radiation therapies that we use to treat cancer by essentially poisoning the patient) could be perceived as equally upsetting practice to those unfamiliar with our culture’s medical customs. It is this critical perspective that allowed me to make cross-cultural comparisons that I would never have made without that multi-lensed perspective.