Students and faculty present findings at Study Abroad Forum

From a panel discussion on international human rights law to a research presentation on freedom of press in Sri Lanka, the inaugural Study Abroad Forum held in the Moseley Center on Tuesday evening allowed students and faculty who have traveled overseas to celebrate their academic achievements.

Students who traveled to Lithuania for two weeks over the summer share their findings on international human rights law during the Study Abroad Forum on Nov. 11. From left to right on stage: Ben Vellani (political science), Katie Meyer (political science), Parker McAllister (political science/public administration), Taryn Kadar (history / international studies) and, at the lectern, Corban Smith (international studies).
The Nov. 11, 2008, forum sought to integrate study abroad opportunities into the academic environment at Elon, to serve as preparation for students who will study abroad, and to provide a forum for significant reflection and analysis for those students who have returned from short term or semester study abroad programs.

“This was an auspicious start to what hopefully becomes an annual event,” said Martin Kamela, an associate professor of physics who chaired the forum’s organizing committee. “My hope is that students gain an appreciation for the different types of learning they can experience while studying abroad, and that they use their study abroad experience as an opportunity for doing research and to closely interact with the host community.”

The evening wasn’t limited to scholarship. A student panel examined romantic relationships that blossom or, in some instances, wither, because of studying abroad. And four professors served on a faculty panel to share the challenges of teaching sensitive subjects like sex, sexuality and gender while overseas.

In future years the event should grow as more students become aware of the opportunity to present scholarly work based on their study abroad experiences, Kamela said.

Participating faculty members agree.

“Before the forum, about the only way a student had to disseminate the experience from a study abroad course was the perfunctory final paper we all assign at the end of the course, and then whatever random opportunity they might have to share an experience or make a comment in the context of anther class somewhere down the line,” said Betty Morgan, a professor of political science and the moderator for five students who discussed international human rights law as it relates to their experience this year in Lithuania.

“Students talk a lot about how little their experience abroad transfers into normal academic life and how quickly the intensity of those experiences dissipate when then get back here,” she said. “What we hoped to do with the forum was dignify these experiences, to send the message, to both participating students – and the students who were observing – that we do value the serious learning you have accomplished and that we do understand the life altering nature of those experiences.”

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