RWC Sends Students Packing With International Education Opportunities

UC's Raymond Walters College is increasingly integrating summer travel and study through efforts that will take students and faculty to Britain, Germany and China.

Two faculty taking the lead in RWC's study abroad programs are Ruth Benander and Mike Roos of the college's English Department.  For example, when three professors from China's Guangxi University of Technology came to Raymond Walters College this past spring to learn about our culture and education techniques, the foreign faculty stayed with Benander and Roos, as well as other RWC families and gracious local community members.

The goal is to now send some RWC faculty to China for a month next year to research cultural issues.

Other goals are set.  For instance, over summer 2005, students who have taken one year of German will have the opportunity to travel to Blue Ash's sister city, Ilmenau, Germany, to attend Technische Universität Ilmenau. Students will take classes in Contemporary German Culture and Civilization and visit towns such as Eisenach, home of Martin Luther and Johann Sebastian Bach. Every other year, RWC plans to bring students from Ilmenau to the college for a few weeks of study.

"Students from America and Germany get to be immersed in a different language and culture," says Debbie Page, program coordinator and assistant professor of German. "It is something they can't get in their native country. The students often show a dramatic increase in language fluency after a trip like this."

But one of RWC's most popular international ventures is the British Study Abroad program in England and Ireland  This year, the British Study Abroad program is successfully offering a math course - The Math of Myth - for the first time, along with a customary literature class, The Mythology of Ireland.

The two courses may not seem to go hand in hand at first glance. After all, literature and math are vastly different subjects. But the professors teaching the classes - Benander and math professor Gene Kramer - have worked together to create a completely merged curriculum from two very different viewpoints. While battles are discussed in the literature course, the math class will look at the units of measure needed to predict how that same battle unfolded. 

"Two years ago we tried to offer algebra alongside the usual literature course in the Study Abroad curriculum, but it didn't get the enrollment, so it had to be cancelled," Kramer says. "This year, we've created a math course that liberal arts majors want to take!"

"These classes are a wonderful example of why study abroad is such a fantastic opportunity." Benander says. "We can take two crazy courses like this and meld them to give people the opportunity for an education like they've never had before."

Students will not just read and study about events in England and Ireland, but go to those sites, as well, often not just looking at the literature but also the ancient mathematics that tell the stories.  "It is an incredible experience for the students, but it also lets the faculty teach in innovative ways," Benander says.

"And bringing a more international perspective back from our trips enriches the way we teach back here at RWC," Roos adds.

Program planners are especially looking forward to the British Study Abroad trip in 2004, which will coincide with the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday in Dublin, Ireland. Bloomsday marks the day in 1904 on which all the action of James Joyce's novel Ulysses takes place.

Of course there are unique challenges to teaching in a different country and making it as interesting and educational as possible.   "When you go to teach in these programs, whether it be in England, Germany or China, you are on 24/7. It is a tough job," Benander says.

But clearly from the smile that crosses her face when she talks about the programs, she wouldn't trade it for anything. The same goes for Roos, Page and Kramer, all who have a passion for international education.  "You really get to see the students grow. Often, it is a life-changing experience for the students," Benander adds.

And it seems to be a life-changing experience for the professors and planners, as well. Planners are brimming with ideas for the future. There has been talk of planning opportunities in Costa Rica with a focus on science and in Sweden with a focus on criminal justice.

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