Tag Archives: study abroad

Internationalizing Parkland Curriculum: A Personal Journey

A few years ago, Parkland College Study Abroad Coordinator Jody Littleton challenged me to think about how my classes could be different and possibly even better through adding more cultural reflection. When teaching in the quantitative sciences, it is easy to overlook the power that curriculum infused with an international perspective can have on student learning.

I had fallen prey to the mindset that I just needed to “get through the material” as presented in the book and on the Course Information Forms. After ruminating on her suggestion, though, I realized that I might be able to teach specific topics better if I created well-thought-out assessments with a global outlook. Jody and I continued the conversation, and when several Parkland faculty partnered with Joliet Junior College to travel to China a month ago (March 2017), I joined in.

It was a trip of a lifetime that opened my eyes to what may have been missing from my teaching. For one, this trip made my feet itch with the desire to travel outside of the US for my professional development. How can I teach about unique nutritional deficiencies, different modes of physical activity in the world, living quarters’ impact on health, medical training, and more if I only have a book for reference? I also quickly realized that my perspectives on China had been missing critical pieces of information; once abroad, I was able to form a holistic picture of Chinese culture and better compare it to the US as well as other to countries I have visited. While many topics I had studied prior to my trip were “mostly correct,” visiting China clarified several misconceptions, gave me a new appreciation, and allowed me to better understand the full picture.

What I Learned During the Faculty Study Abroad

  • I was shocked to see how quickly China is becoming Westernized, to the point that McDonald’s delivers in many cities in China. At the train station waiting for the bullet train, there were two KFC restaurants as well as a McDonald’s in one moderate-sized train station.
  • At the farmer’s market, we saw many choices that we don’t see in the United States. Lamb intestine, cow stomach, chicken feet, and more were sitting out for purchase from morning until evening, with patrons bringing them home to cook for dinner. When we were invited to eat with the Nanjing Technical School faculty and deans, we were able to sample more of the local fair, including duck heads, a native delicacy. (In case you were wondering, you eat duck heads like oysters.)
  • Most places we ate at served food “family style” with a turntable in the center. Plates were significantly smaller than in the US. Because everyone is sharing, I didn’t want to take more food than would be socially appropriate, so, it encouraged me to eat more modest portions than I am accustomed to eating. I also learned that rice is often not served in China if the host would like to impress you with the quality of food offered. Rice is not the food of the rich. The rich eat a meat- and fish-based diet with significantly fewer vegetables than China has historically consumed. In turn, there is a marked rise in obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes.
  • Even on good days, the smog in some locations of China would impede my ability to see the sun and, possibly, my ability to synthesize enough vitamin D to meet my nutritional needs without supplementation/fortification.
  • Toilets in China are often similar to the stalls you see here.  We discussed that women would realistically need to retain the ability to perform a deep squat if they were to use a public toilet. However, it seemed of little concern as many older individuals in China had a greater range of motion than we see in the US. Possibly due to the toilets?
  • When we visited a local park at 10  a.m. during the weekday, we noted that many people engaged in exercise…dance, tai chi, fencing, badminton, etc. Retirees in China do not retire to the couch. They get out during the day to enjoy other’s company as well as keep active physically and mentally.

How What I Learned Changed My Curriculum

  • Now, in each module of my BIO 120 class (Fundamentals of Nutrition), students have the opportunity to present a module-specific cultural comparison between China and the US. During the digestive system module, students can discuss the incidence of specific GI disorders in China relative to the US. For example, a student researched and found a higher incidence of lactose intolerance/maldigestion in China due to both environmental and genetic factors.
  • My KIN 288 (Exercise Physiology) class is finding peer-reviewed journal articles comparing topics such as air quality impact on VO2max, changes in childhood obesity rates in response to Westernization, and the selection and training of Olympic hopefuls in China.
  • In all of my classes, students have the option of creating a video focusing on the cultural comparison between China and the US. We are partnering with our PCTV studio, and many of the videos will become available on YouTube mid-May.

Overall, visiting China was a surreal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I constantly took pictures, spoke with locals, and absorbed all the nuances I could. Other Parkland College faculty who participated in this grant echo my sentiments, and we plan to collectively present  about our experiences this September. We look forward to sharing more of our perspectives then.

[An associate professor in  Natural Sciences, Toni Burkhalter was Parkland College’s Teaching Excellence Award winner for 2016].

Morocco: Gateway to Another World

Scott Barnes, a Parkland student, is living in Seville, Spain for a semester study abroad. As part of his study abroad experience he visited Morocco. I am looking forward to what he has to say!

Remember YOU can study abroad too.  We have lots of different experiences. Check out our study abroad options at http://www.parkland.edu/international/studyabroad

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When I first arrived in Europe, I knew very little about the history of the various countries in it and had very little knowledge about the many cultures that exist here. Other than the secondhand information I received via the media throughout the years, I didn’t have much of an idea about libarnes-blog-2016fe abroad.

The differences are what I noticed first and foremost, and those differences are what most students struggle with, initially. Changing mealtimes and sleep habits as well adjusting to the foreign way in which people greet each other and conduct themselves requires some time to understand and get comfortable with.

Despite the differences, there is a lot that Americans and Europeans have in common. Those similarities were brought to light after I took a trip to Morocco.

I hadn’t realized how much the way in which I live echoes the European way of life until I spent some time in the Rif Mountains. The social norms that westerners share exist to a lesser degree in northern Africa. For example, it is uncommon to see men and women together in a public setting and much of the daily routine is centered around practicing religion.

barnes-blog-3Although my visit to Morocco was very short, it had a significant impact on me. Rather than providing a detailed, firsthand account of the various activities that the International College of Seville planned out for our trip, I prefer to share with you what I found to be truly rewarding about the experience. It is wonderful to have pictures of riding camels and eating in authentic Moroccan restaurants, but what is more valuable is the perspective that is gained from visiting different countries and meeting new people. The stimulation that comes from trying to understand a different way of life or to see the perspective of things through another cultural lens has been life-changing for me.

The name of the game in the touristic areas of Morocco is buy and sell, and merchants love to engage in the act of negotiation. There are no set prices and the bargain to be had is largely determined by the ability of the buyer to be resolute. The confidence of knowing a low price has been paid may be confirmed by the statement, “you haggle like a Berber!” The country is a great place to purchase gifts for friends and family back home and that seems to be the objective for most of the tourists who visit. The products offered vary from handmade gifts and food to just about anything they think people might want to buy.barnes-blog-5

To my surprise, many Moroccan people know English and speak it very well. It is necessary when dealing with foreigners, and their linguistic capability is impressive. Many of them learn English at a very young age and likely have been speaking more than one language since they were children. In fact, it is normal for Moroccan people to speak three or four different languages; English, French and their own dialect of Arabic are the most common. I found that after the exchange of money was complete, the sellers were more open to conversation. A lot about their culture was conveyed in those brief interactions, and it was easy to feel their affection and see the kindness in their eyes.

barnes-blog-4Superficially, consumerism is obviously a part of their way of life, and tourism certainly supports the economy, but there is much more to the culture and history of Arabian people. There are stories behind the faces in the shops of the medina, or “Old Town,” district of Tetouan, or within the painted blue walls of Chefchaouen. There is a way of greeting people, of falling in love, of raising children, and of experiencing life that is unique to the culture.

I have found that tasting the different flavors, seeing the sights, hearing the sounds, and smelling the scents of various cultures is enlightening. The best way to learn about other countries is to visit them. Sharing face to face conversations is rewarding, even if the interaction is minimal.

barnes-blog-2Moving beyond being a tourist and finding commonality with people of another race is what is truly beneficial about traveling. Also, to tell the story of the person who sold you the gift makes the act of giving it more enjoyable. I may have left with a pair of high quality, handmade Moroccan leather sandals, but the real present is my new found view of the world and my life.

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of studying abroad is the easy access to other worlds and the subsequent comprehensive understanding of culture that results from those adventures.

Study Abroad Spain: The Experience is Sinking In

Communication major Scott Barnes’ new study abroad acquaintance Corey Davis learns he should live life back home like he’s living it in Spain. “Get off the couch and quit watching Netflix,” I think, is a great message for all of us! Check out Corey’s interview below.

Remember, anyone can study abroad; I have people of all ages and backgrounds go on these trips. We have 10-day, 4-week, and 15-week programs available at a variety of times in the academic year.

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The experience of living in another country is really beginning to set in, and most of the students at ICS are starting to understand how this program is changing the way they think and live. Corey Davis provides some wonderful insight into that phenomenon in this short interview.

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***The Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs and Parkland College work together to provide opportunities for Parkland students to study abroad. Multiple programs in various countries are available every semester. Students interested in enrolling should contact study abroad coordinator Jody Littleton via email at jlittleton@parkland.edu for more information.

[Associate Professor Jody Littleton teaches speech communication and serves as Parkland’s Study Abroad coordinator.]

China Study Abroad: The Dining Experience

I asked Ryan Mills, a study abroad student from Parkland College who is currently in China, to send me some reasons why students should study abroad in China. Ryan is so enthusiastic that he sent me quite a list! The first reason to go to China, according to Ryan? Food!

Remember, anyone can study abroad; I have people of all ages and backgrounds go on these trips. We have 10-day, 4-week, and 15-week programs available at a variety of times in the academic year.

Plus, travel to China through two study abroad options:
Summer 2017 travel to Nanjing, Beijing, and Shanghai (June 1–15)*
Fall 2017 option available in Xian, home of the Terra Cotta Warriors.

Scholarships available for summer 2017 to degree-seeking students if they take 8-week WCE 364 001 (Conversational Chinese), which meets March 27–May 15 (M 6:30–8:30; cost is $139 with textbook  included).

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Who doesn’t like food? Imagine eating at your favorite Chinese restaurant almost every day but ten times better. The food is fantastic and very affordable.

china-foodGet ready to put the fork down and pick up the chopsticks. If you get tired of Chinese food, there is always Pizza Hut, Burger King, McDonald’s, and KFC to reach your inner American, (all chains actually taste way better in China than they do in America).

Eating at a restaurant with friends is different than back in the States. Part of the culture in China is to share everything you have with others, especially the food. When you order food, you don’t get a single dish for yourself, you share all dishes with the people at the table, get a little piece of everything, and split the fare evenly. It’s awesome.

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***The Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs and Parkland College work together to provide opportunities for Parkland students to study abroad. Multiple programs in various countries are available every semester. Students interested in enrolling should contact study abroad coordinator Jody Littleton via email at jlittleton@parkland.edu for more information.

[Associate Professor Jody Littleton teaches speech communication and serves as Parkland’s Study Abroad coordinator.]

 

Study Abroad Spain: Morocco, and a Friend

Communication major Scott Barnes’ introductory video to  his life-changing educational experiences in Spain happened more than a month ago now. In his latest video, Scott gets ready to visit yet another country and lets you meet a new friend he has made from the states.

Remember, anyone can study abroad; I have people of all ages and backgrounds go on these trips. We have 10-day, 4-week, and 15-week programs available at a variety of times in the academic year.

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My study abroad program is in its fourth week, and the weather is still quite warm in southern Spain. There are multiple trips that take place throughout the semester, and one of the most exciting excursions is this weekend – Morocco!

 

***The Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs and Parkland College work together to provide opportunities for Parkland students to study abroad. Multiple programs in various countries are available every semester. Students interested in enrolling should contact study abroad coordinator Jody Littleton via email at jlittleton@parkland.edu for more information.

[Associate Professor Jody Littleton teaches speech communication and serves as Parkland’s Study Abroad coordinator.]