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Below you will find Q&As from some of our outstanding faculty at SJU who help support study abroad and encourage students to have an international experience. Click their name below to learn more!
 

Peter Clark
Peter A. Clark, S.J., Ph.D. Theology/Institute of Catholic Bioethics
Just Healthcare in Developing Nations Study Tour Leader


What is your international experience like?
As an undergraduate at SJU I was a Latin American Studies minor and spent a semester at Universidad Ibero Americana in Mexico City. It was a life changing experience for me both academically and personally. From that point forward I saw the importance of not only study abroad programs but international travel in general. The experiences one gains, the insights one receives and the friends one makes can only enhance you academically and personally.

How important is having proficiency in a second language and knowledge of another culture for students thinking about their career goal?
Knowing Spanish as an undergraduate helped me a great deal in my studies in Mexico City. However, having the opportunity to live with a family and to be immersed in the language and culture offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. I not only perfected my Spanish but was able to gain insights into the Mexican culture and traditions that I could never have learned in books. Traveling to Central America with students in the Just Health Care in Developing Nations class has allowed all of us to experience the culture, language and traditions to a point that has allowed us to understand the importance of traditional medicines, and why health care is a human right.  Those without health care now have names and faces, which makes this a more important issue of justice.

Why should ALL majors study abroad?
I think every student can gain invaluable knowledge by studying abroad. The depth and breadth of the experience will not only be educational from an academic standpoint but will make them a more well-rounded person.

What advice would you give a student who was anxious about fitting study abroad into the tight course sequencing of their major?
Have the student talk with other students who have studied abroad. Discuss the courses they took, how they adapted them for their majors, etc. The experience is well worth the effort.

How can students integrate what they have done abroad in their academics once they are back at Saint Joseph’s University?
The experiences students gain add to class discussions, writing papers on issues they have seen first- hand, encouraging others to be involved in issues like malaria nets for the Third World, developing water filters for the Third World, etc. The students have experienced injustices and can now come home with a plan how to eradicate these injustices.

As a Study Tour leader, what is the most rewarding part of the experience for yourself and/or students?
After each day in a foreign country we have a 2 hour reflection period at night. This is student led and during these reflections they try to articulate how what they saw that day connects with what their learned in class. I have had the privilege of experiencing students having a “ah-ha moment” where their eyes have been opened and they truly understand a particular issue. This is the most rewarding part of teaching.

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Joseph Corabi
Dr. Joseph Corabi, Philosophy
Summer Program in Rome Faculty

How important is having proficiency in a second language and knowledge of another culture for students thinking about their career goals?
The importance varies from career to career, but there are significant benefits for anyone learning a second language. In addition to the practical plusses of being able to communicate better and more naturally with those you come into contact with, there are also major cognitive benefits of learning a second language. People who learn a second language are better at cognitive task switching, and show improved performance in all sorts of mental processing.

Why should philosophy majors study abroad?
In philosophy, the ability to creatively shape hypotheses and arguments is of crucial importance. Seeing how things are done in another culture can often shake people from their assumptions that the customs and practices that they see around them are the only way to do things.  Seeing how differently institutions can operate and people can interact in another culture can teach them to be more creative in questioning why things around them are the way they are. They also learn to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to life.

What advice would you give a student who was anxious about fitting study abroad into the course sequencing of the philosophy major?
The good news is that our major is designed to allow flexibility in student planning.  Because there are so many areas of philosophy and much of it is so interdisciplinary, we encourage students to take on minors and double majors, as well as leave them ample room to study abroad.  We have set up our requirements so that a variety of programs can be accommodated seamlessly.

Do you see a difference in students who have returned from abroad in terms of their contributions in the classroom, and if so how?
Yes, often these students are more mature and have better perspective on the world around them. They are often better in the ways I described above: more aware of which aspects of life are universal to humanity and which are second-nature to us only because our culture has habituated us to them. This awareness helps them to be creative in thinking about the ways that society is organized and people live their lives.

Why is Italy such a good place to study a course on philosophical issues in Christianity?
Italy—and Rome in particular—has played a central role in the shaping of so much of Christian thought and culture.  Often philosophical debates surrounding Christianity can be abstract, but seeing the concrete places where many of the debates were shaped, and where the practices of the religion developed and continue to flourish, can be a huge aid in motivating people to see the importance of what they are learning about.

As a Summer Program leader, what is the most rewarding part of the experience?
For me, the most rewarding part is seeing the excitement in students when they first encounter another culture or the beauty of an unfamiliar place.

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Shawn Krahmer
Dr. Shawn Krahmer, Theology and Religious Studies
Bolivia Study Tour Leader & Summer Program in Greece Faculty

What is your international experience like?
I’ve taught study abroad classes in both the traditional format – in which the course is taught on campus and at some point during the semester or just after the semester, the class travels abroad for 10 days to two weeks.  I’ve also taught 12 summers in the 30 Day summer program format, in which the entire summer term course is moved from campus to a foreign location – in my case, to Greece.  My experience in both formats has been terrific. 

Why should Theology majors study abroad?
I don’t think your major matters at all in the benefits of study abroad.  All SJU students who are able to do so should seek out at least one educational experience abroad.  Even that student who intends to return home and take over the family business can benefit from study abroad in terms of both general awareness of the world, as well as in terms of personal self-confidence. 

What advice would you give a student who was anxious about fitting study abroad into the tight course sequencing of their major?
Start planning early.  Look at the kinds of courses offered in your desired location and plan out your on campus curriculum accordingly.  And even if you end up needing to take an additional summer term course or take six courses one semester, those sacrifices are well worth the experience. 

Why is Greece such a good place to study Ancient Greek Religions?
I will eventually teach Ancient Greek Religions on campus, but there is no better place to teach it than in Greece.  One can read about how “sacred” locations were chosen for their numinous character, but to experience Delphi for the first time is to feel how the natural beauty of the site and its unique geological attributes contributed to the development of the oracle there.  A visit to Sounio underscores the sacred ties of Poseidon to the sea.  The archeological ruins and site visits – such as to Eleusis, bring the course materials to life. 

Why is Bolivia such a good place to experience a mission-immersion program?
Bolivia is a country in which, as in the United States, rich and poor dwell side by side.  There are very wealthy westerners who send their kids to school at Berkeley living in compounds protected by razor wire living next door to those still struggling with poverty.  Sometimes it is easier to see something like this outside your own home.  It makes it easier to see in your own culture when you return.  Poverty in Bolivia also takes a different form than that in the urban US.  Much poverty in Bolivia is among the indigenous populations who still retain some knowledge of the Incan and Aymara civilizations that preceded colonization.  They build supporting, self-sustaining communities in which, if persons are not wealthy, most are not hungry, and in which the community enforces moral standards.  So poverty is not as closely linked with crime and hunger as it is in the US.  This fact helps us to see how it is often the broader economic forces and political decisions that shape the face of poverty in a nation. 

As a Study Tour or Summer Program leader, what is the most rewarding part of the experience for yourself and/or students?
I thoroughly enjoy getting to know students more intimately – in ways not often possible in a traditional classroom.  The students who have graduated and with whom I remain in touch were almost all students from one of my Summer Program or mission immersion Study Tour classes. 

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Ruben Mendoza
Dr. Ruben Mendoza, Business Intelligence
Summer Program in China Faculty

What is your international experience like?
I have traveled extensively in North, Central, and South America, Europe, and Asia. I enjoy working with people from diverse nationalities and backgrounds, and love learning about their culture, language, food (especially!), and traditions.

Why should Business Intelligence majors study abroad?
I always tell my students there is no worse cliché than starting a paper or presentation with: “In today’s global, competitive environment…” and that I do not want them to do it. The reason is not that it is not true (it absolutely is!), but that it has become such a thoughtless introduction, that I want students to think of different ways to say the same thing. This forces them to think about what those words mean, truly, and about what their own role in the world is.

By studying abroad, students hopefully discover “they” are not as different from “us” as we’d like to think, but that we are also not all the same. We think differently… not better or worse. Different.

Discovering the “sameness” and the “different” in how people think is at the core of what a Business Intelligence student/professional does.

What advice would you give a student who was anxious about fitting study abroad into the tight course sequencing of their major?
It can be done. It is a wonderful experience. But you have to plan early. Like with almost everything else in life, things work out better in the end when you start early and with a plan.

While abroad, what sort of experiential learning opportunities have Business Intellgence majors taken advantage of that have broadened their knowledge of the field?
A few of my students have told me they have obtained internships while abroad, either during their time studying or afterwards. For a few others, the contacts made abroad have resulted in major life-altering events, typically, moving there!

On my recent trip to China, my students and I visited with KPMG staff at their Nanjing offices and discussed the opportunities and barriers facing the firm in the areas of business in general, accounting audit, and Business Intelligence advisory.

Why is China such a good place to study Business Intelligence?
China is a fantastic place to study Information Systems/Business Intelligence because, while the technologies and processes that make our online lives possible are universal, Chinese government policies, people’s tastes, and their awareness about the rest of the world are very different from our environment.

We had a wonderful time trying to figure out what kinds of information ordinary Chinese citizens have access to, how that shapes their perceptions of the world, and thinking about ways in which Chinese government investment in infrastructure and other services advances and limits the advancement of China as a global superpower.

As a Summer Program leader, what is the most rewarding part of the experience for yourself and/or students?
Simply being in China was pretty incredible. There was hardly a day of our stay there in which I was not awed by the simple fact that I was doing whatever I was doing in China. 

From a personal standpoint, it was a lifelong dream to visit the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, to see a Chinese opera, to view the incredible skyline of Shanghai with my own eyes.

As a faculty member, it was rewarding to see how many of the students in our group traveled so gracefully, so eagerly, and how attentive, kind, and curious they were about all things China. I saw growth happening right in front of my eyes.

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McNally
Dennis McNally, S.J., Ph.D., Art

Tell us a little more about your international professional and academic experiences.
I studied Spanish in Puerto Rico for a six-week tour in 1969, and three months’ Art immersion at the Jesuit Institute of the Arts in Rome in 1972, traveling around Italy. I also traveled to art sites in Spain, Germany, France, and Greece at that time. When at NYU for doctoral studies I lived in Italy again for a couple of summers, traveling widely, when not in class.
 
I’ve done study tours twice in Italy, twice in Australia, led faculty and staff immersion trips to Spain (visiting Jesuit sites), Greece, France. I’ve done a Fulbright-Hayes academic immersion tour of Nicaragua and Costa Rica for six weeks. I also toured Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Talinn, Estonia in a musicians and artists immersion in the winter of 1989. I’ve done a religious pilgrimage to Croatia.
 
With students I have worked for two tours building schools in Tijuana. I’ve also taken two immersion tours of Bolivia (leading one). I’ve also made a tour of Nanjing, Beijing, and Shanghai to arrange art school possibilities with the Nanjing University of the Arts.  These tours engulf one in the clash of economic realities in another country, setting a new backdrop for learning about inequalities in a world (free of the weight of ideological prejudices encountered or even encouraged at home).
 
What skills have you learned as a result of your international experience?
There is a comfort level with foreign language. I’ve studied Spanish, French, German, Latin, and Greek; having to use them is a major development in both understanding other people and learning to “depend on the kindness of strangers”  (not exactly like Blanche DuBois from Streetcar Named Desire!).

Showing others, faculty, staff, or students, great art, the product of foreign cultures and universal appreciations is a great learning for oneself, but seeing others open their eyes and their minds to new realities is a tremendous blessing.

How does your international background and experiences strengthen or influence your teaching and academic department?
There are so many ways that one appreciates difference with new eyes and ears, when one has seen and heard the people in their country of origin. This helps with foreign students and the children of immigrants. It also helps with understanding the arts, produced in other civilizations.
 
How would you go about being an advocate and resource for students interested in an international experience while here at SJU?
I have and will continue to suggest study abroad, and to encourage faculty to volunteer for immersion and teaching opportunities in other worlds.
 
Why should Art majors/minors study abroad?
The opportunity to learn by immersion is especially valuable when one is beginning the adult journey.  The young eyes and ears take in so much. If there is art to be seen (museums, galleries, churches, state houses, civil arts houses) the awareness of a whole range of art history is changed by seeing the original thing itself.  As Dr. Barnes so rightly averred one cannot appreciate an artwork by looking at a picture of it.  So the original experience of a work by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Hiroshige, Botero, Ai Wei Wei, is a monumental privilege, informing a lifetime of seeing things. The earlier the memory of Monet’s Waterlillies in the Jeu de Paume the better. No other experience can take its place. The same holds true for seeing the Kremlin or the Beijing Summer Palace, the Sydney Opera or the Madeleine at Vezeley.
 
Do you see a difference in students who have returned from abroad in terms of their contribution in the classroom and if so, in what ways?
Absolutely~!  Besides the obvious familiarity with peoples, cultures, and original artworks, students who come back have a je ne sais quoi of maturity. There is an ease that they acquire. The classroom is no longer adversarial. It’s as though the student has stepped into the world of adults in which the teacher becomes another learner. We can grow together without the formerly ever-present inequality of teacher turf, creating a barrier like the Great Wall of China.
 
If you could go abroad again, today, where would you go and why?
I’d love to visit Japan or Cairo, Jerusalem or Machu Pichu.  On the other hand, I’d love to help fix water in Africa or work on reconciliation in Sudan or Syria. I am getting too old to venture to the lands of danger. But then, Indiana is still calling!  (--Jones’ father showed up in one calamitous adventure.)

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Sally Kuykendall
Dr. Sally Kuykendall, Interdisciplinary Health Services 

What challenges and/or opportunities did you face in coming (back) to the U.S.?
Although I am an American citizen, born to US citizens, and raised in Bucks County, I returned from living abroad with an accent. Because of my accent, I faced challenges in employment and buying a house. My first realtor in the US asked to see my green card. I told her that since she was working for me, I would like to see her green card. Horrified, she looked at me and said, “I don’t have a green card.” And I replied, “well, neither do I and you have no right to ask.” I am amazed at the assumptions and stereotypes that societies place on foreigners.
 
Tell us a little more about your international professional and academic experiences.
I lived in southwest England for 5 years where I worked as a State Registered Nurse in private and national health hospitals and pursued my Honors Degree in Chemistry.
 
What skills have you learned as a result of your international experience?
I learned to be open to new experiences and to try to learn as much as possible from the people around me.
 
How does your international background and experiences strengthen or influence your teaching and academic department?
I am able to relate concepts to experiences working as a nurse, interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. In teaching health, I am able to relate stories about the National Health Service, stories such as having a doctor show up at our house at 2:00 am when my son was having a febrile seizure, or stories of working in a Veteran’s nursing home with a pub attached to the home for the Veterans and their families to socialize, or the carefully planned pre and post-natal care.
 
Why should Interdisciplinary Health Services majors/minors study abroad?
Study abroad is a once in a lifetime experience.
 
Do you see a difference in students who have returned from abroad in terms of their contribution in the classroom and if so, in what ways?
Students seem to return from study abroad energized and focused on life goals. They see opportunities that they may not have seen before.
 
How can students integrate what they have done abroad within your department once they are back at Saint Joseph’s University?
I believe that students who study abroad learn different ways to look at and understand problems. They are more willing to reach beyond themselves and experience and appreciate other people and ways of dealing with problems. In healthcare, they are able to advocate for all individuals because they know what it feels like to be the “alien.”
 
If you could go abroad again, today, where would you go and why?
I would go to Scandinavian countries because I feel that older societies can teach us a lot about how to deal with social challenges. 

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Haslam
Dr. Richard Haslam, English

Where did you grow up? Where did you attend school?
I grew up in Belfast, which is in Northern Ireland, a much disputed part of the United Kingdom. I studied for my undergraduate degree in England, at the University of Cambridge, and for my doctoral degree at the University of Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland.
 
What inspired your decision to come to the U.S.? What challenges and/or opportunities did you face in coming to the U.S.?
My wife was born in Drexel Hill, PA, and we met and got married in Ireland, when we were both completing our doctorates. Then, we lived in England for five years, when I worked at the University of Liverpool. After we had children, we decided to take a position in either Ireland or the U.S.A.—whichever came up first—so our children could spend time with their extended families. The position at SJU came up first. One major opportunity in coming to the U.S. was that I could see more of my sister, who lives on the East Coast.
 
Tell us a little more about your international professional and academic experiences.
I enjoy attending international conferences, and I have presented scholarly papers in Ireland, England, Italy, Germany, and Monaco.
 
What skills have you learned as a result of your international experience?
By consciously reflecting on your experiences in different countries, you can attempt to cultivate a more nuanced and multi-dimensional perspective on global and local issues.
 
How does your international background and experiences strengthen or influence your teaching and academic department?
My years spent in Ireland and the U.K. help me to provide greater context and insight to American students who take my courses on Irish and British literature.
 
How would you go about being an advocate and resource for students interested in an international experience while here at SJU?
As an advisor, I always encourage my advisees to avail of the study-abroad experience; I do the same with all of my students, when the subject comes up.
 
Why should English majors/minors study abroad?
They are likely to have a mind-expanding experience, not only from living in a new culture and learning in a new environment but also from regularly explaining (and sometimes defending) their own American culture to people abroad. If they reflect frequently and productively on their study-abroad experiences, they will develop new perspectives that can accelerate their critical thinking.
 
Do you see a difference in students who have returned from abroad in terms of their contribution in the classroom and if so, in what ways?
Yes, in many cases, students returning from abroad have become more complex, interesting, and mature people. 
 
How can students integrate what they have done abroad within your department once they are back at Saint Joseph’s University?
They can bring their insights into class discussions and writing assignments.
 
If you could go abroad again, today, where would you go and why?
Ireland and Italy are two of my favorite countries, and I try to return to them as frequently as possible.

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Cata Arango
Dr. Catalina Arango Pinedo, Biology, Chemical Biology

Where did you grow up? Where did you attend school?

I grew up in Bogota, Colombia. Did my undergraduate and master’s there, and a PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst
 
What inspired your decision to come to the U.S.? What challenges and/or opportunities did you face in coming to the U.S.?

I wanted to be a professor at my undergraduate institution, to do that I needed a PhD. There were no PhD’s in my field in Colombia at that time, so I came to the US to obtain my degree. The opportunities were clear: expand my horizons, advance my education, meet new people, improve my English. The challenges were substantial, because I was a single mom with a 7 year old at the time, and had no family or friends in the area.
 
Tell us a little more about your international professional and academic experiences.

Aside from going to college in Colombia (I also worked there in my field for a short time), and graduate school in the US, I spent a short time working as a researcher in Denmark. I have been able to experience different approaches to work and how people prioritize the different aspects of their lives.
 
What skills have you learned as a result of your international experience?

I am more understanding of people that are different, either in their attitudes, language, etc. A very important aspect also is that now I am completely fluent in two languages (with knowledge of a third one).
 
How does your international background and experiences strengthen or influence your teaching and academic department?

Because I have been able to experience ways in which different people work and live, it is now easier for me to understand that not everyone learns the same way. I try to design lectures and interactions with students so that they are not limited to a single style of learning.
 
How would you go about being an advocate and resource for students interested in an international experience while here at SJU?

I would be happy to talk to students that have questions about what I experienced and how I handled it. I encourage my advisees (mostly freshmen) to explore the opportunity and to start planning for it early.
 
Why should BIOLOGY majors/minors study abroad?
It gives them a different perspective of the world and of life. In particular for Biology students, a semester where the focus is on the humanities, rather than the science, is refreshing and complements their hard work when taking two or three science courses a semester. It also gives students the opportunity to be more independent and to mature.
 
Do you see a difference in students who have returned from abroad in terms of their contribution in the classroom and if so, in what ways?
Yes, definitely. Many of them participate more in the classroom, and are more likely to discuss topics with the professors outside of the classroom.
 
How can students integrate what they have done abroad within your department once they are back at Saint Joseph’s University?

This depends a lot on the specifics of where they go. Because typically Biology students do not take science courses abroad, it is a little challenging to do a direct integration of their experience. However, some have chosen to visit places, or volunteer in activities related to their field, and then they bring back ideas, they are able to connect what they learn in their courses here with applications they may have seen.
 
If you could go abroad again, today, where would you go and why?

This is a difficult question! There are so many places that are interesting for different reasons…I would love to go to Turkey to study the way in which completely different cultures lived, developed, and flourished together.

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Bookman
Dr. Milica Bookman, Economics

Where did you grow up? Where did you attend school?
I grew up in Rome, Italy. I attended school there from 1st grade through 12th. It was an international school where classes were in English and Italian. Plus I took French as a foreign language.
 
What inspired your decision to come to the U.S.? What challenges and/or opportunities did you face in coming to the U.S.?
I came to the US to attend university. Then I went to England for graduate work and returned to the US for my doctorate and because my husband is American.
 
Tell us a little more about your international professional and academic experiences.
As an economist, I have focused on developing countries since I was an undergraduate (this is probably due to the fact that my father worked for the United Nations and traveled a lot across Africa, Asia and South America. I was fascinated by his experiences and wanted them for myself). My graduate studies were in Economic Development and when I came to Saint Joseph’s in 1983, I taught courses with an international focus (African Economies, Asian Economies, Economic Development, Migration and Immigration, Modern Economic Systems). Also, all my research and publications deal with global economic issues.
 
What skills have you learned as a result of your international experience?
I believe I have become more accepting of differences between cultures and peoples. I can interact comfortably with people from backgrounds different from mine. I have gained the self confidence to travel anywhere and know I can survive and thrive there.
 
How does your international background and experiences strengthen or influence your teaching and academic department?
All my classes have an international component. This is true of my upper division classes by definition, and it is also true of my Introductory Macroeconomics class. In the latter, my examples are often international. That is because, given my experience and research interests, I THINK on an international level.
 
How would you go about being an advocate and resource for students interested in an international experience while here at SJU?
I advise all my students to have an international experience (beyond Spring Break in Cancun). A semester or summer abroad is imperative for American students in the 21st century. As a society, we are more connected to the rest of the world than we have ever been before. Our students must know how to operate in that world, and there is nothing like real life experience to help them do that.
 
Why should Economics major/minor study abroad?
Economics majors should study abroad because our economy is so tightly interwoven with the global economy.  The very basic concepts of economics- namely markets, trade, production, innovation, etc. – must be viewed from an international perspective.
 
Do you see a difference in students who have returned from abroad in terms of their contribution in the classroom and if so, in what ways?
Yes, unequivocally students who have had an extended international experience bring their broadened view into the classroom. It comes across in class discussions as well as in written assignments. Students are always eager to talk about it when they come to my office hours.
 
How can students integrate what they have done abroad within your department once they are back at Saint Joseph’s University?
On the department level, they can serve to mentor and advise other students who are contemplating an international experience. Within the classroom, students can build upon their experiences by choosing relevant country-specific research projects in their upper division courses.
 
If you could go abroad again, today, where would you go and why?
I’d love to visit Bhutan, where the official government policy is to maximize human happiness instead of GDP!

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Christopher Close
Dr. Christopher Close, History
Tell us a little more about your international professional and academic experiences.
I have lived for extensive periods of time, on multiple occasions, in Austria and Germany. I have performed archival research in multiple archives in southern Germany, ranging from local church archives up to the main state archive for Bavaria.
 
What skills have you learned as a result of your international experience?
The most obvious skill that I’ve learned is cultural and linguisitic fluency. It’s a very rewarding experience to be able to travel to a foreign country and pass as a native. Beyond the language and cultural skills that I’ve learned, living abroad has also given me the ability to examine American society with a more analytical eye. Spending extensive time abroad has helped me understand the good aspects of America that make this a special country, while also being able to identify more clearly the problems we have as a society that other societies do not. Ultimately, such reflection is crucial for the success of a democratic system.
 
How does your international background and experiences strengthen or influence your teaching and academic department?
Almost all of my teaching focuses on non-US history, so my international experience is crucial to my ability to present foreign cultures as living entities to my students. For my department, my international experience adds important diversity to our course offerings, as well as a historical perspective rooted in the era when the Jesuits first developed.
 
How would you go about being an advocate and resource for students interested in an international experience while here at SJU?
I would be happy to talk to any student interested in studying in a Germany-speaking country. I also have been advising students in the history department to pursue student abroad opportunities, because there are few things that are as live-changing and important in the contemporary world than having the opportunity to live in another country and experience another culture from the inside.
 
Why should History major/minor study abroad?
As a history major, one should quickly realize that, as important as the US is right now, its history occupies a small portion of the human experience. History majors are constantly being asked to learn not only about new culture, but also about new time periods, when people thought fundamentally differently than most people think today. Accordingly, in order to gain the empathy that a good historian needs in order to understand their subject matter, and in order to understand the importance of seeing the world through the eyes of a different culture, history students should study abroad in order to begin understanding the complexity of the wider world. I often tell students that “the past is a foreign country.” What better way to begin honing your ability to understand the past than by studying in an actual foreign country.
 
Do you see a difference in students who have returned from abroad in terms of their contribution in the classroom and if so, in what ways?
I do see a difference. Students who have studied abroad are, on average, more mature and ready to participate in class. They are more confident in their abilities and also more independent. At the same time, they have a humble perspective on the world that enables them to engage classroom material in a more sympathetic manner.
 
How can students integrate what they have done abroad within your department once they are back at Saint Joseph’s University?
Integrating international experience into their studies is easy for a history major. Our department offers courses that cover the history of practically every continent, so no matter where students have studied abroad, they will have the opportunity to take a course related to the history of that place. This allows them to bring their personal experience into the classroom in a direct way. Beyond this, the opening of horizons that occurs through study abroad and the exposure to different cultures and attitudes makes students better able to engage with historical sources.
 
If you could go abroad again, today, where would you go and why?
If I were going for work, I would go to Vienna, since there is an archive there that I have never worked in that I would live to examine. If I were going for fun, I would go to Switzerland, since it is the one major German-speaking country I have never visited. I would also love to take a road trip through Quebec to see the remnants of French colonial rule.


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Frank Bernt
Dr. Frank Bernt, Education

Tell us a little more about your international professional and academic experiences.

Fulbright Senior Scholar Award to Catholic University in Uruguay – 1994
Fulbright Senior Specialst Award to Catholic University of Uruguay – 2012
Visiting Professor and Catholic University of Uruguay, 1995-2010 (ten visits to teach classes)
Led 5 study tours to the Dominican Republic (spent 3 month sabbatical there in 2009, working with Fe y Alegria schools)
Co-facilitated 3 student immersion trips to Tijuana; 1 student immersion trip to El Salvador; 1 student immersion trip to El Paso through campus ministry.  Also co-facilitated two faculty immersion trips to Bolivia; have collaborated with Fe y Alegria – Bolivia.

How does your international background and experiences strengthen or influence your teaching and academic department?
I believe that international experience creates a certain openness to new experiences and to “the other” as very much like me; it reduces (at least a little) the tendency to entertain quick assumptions about what makes another person “tick” based upon first impressions.

How would you go about being an advocate and resource for students interested in an international experience while here at SJU?
I have been very active in urging Education majors to do a semester abroad or to include some sort of international experience in their education.  For those who express interest, I have worked hard to facilitate the realization of their dreams to do so.  I have also led study tours and have participation in student immersion trips.
 
Why should Education majors/minors study abroad?
Education majors are training to be “culturally responsive”; an intensive experience that prompts them to reflect on culture as a “stranger in a strange land” (as the “minority” or “immigrant” in another culture) is transformative in the impact it has on teaching and personal perspectives.
 
How can students integrate what they have done abroad within your department once they are back at Saint Joseph’s University?
I think the most important way to do this is to maintain contact with others who have had a similar experience; frequently, students are surprised to find that those who have not shared their experience just “aren’t really that interested.”
 
If you could go abroad again, today, where would you go and why?
I haven’t gotten my fill of Latin America yet!  But my next stop would be India.  There is a depth and richness to the culture there, from which I could learn a great deal about myself and others!

Sharma
Dr. Suniti Sharma, Education

Where did you grow up? Where did you attend school?
I grew up in India where I attended school right up to my master’s. My bachelor’s and master’s degree is from University of Delhi in India while my doctoral degree is from Purdue University in Indiana.
 
What inspired your decision to come to the U.S.? What challenges and/or opportunities did you face in coming to the U.S.?
I moved to the US as my children were attending college at the University of Texas, Austin and New York State University, Albany. The biggest challenge I encountered was getting used to driving on what we in India refer to as “the wrong side of the road,” understanding road maps, and actually following traffic rules! I moved to a small town in Indiana so getting used to the food was rough, especially the various meat products. In my professional world, understanding the national context of teacher education, the demands of educational reform, and the nature of students were all challenging. Parenting is very different in India, so schooling is different as well. Another major surprise that I encountered was the level of poverty in certain parts of the US. The opportunities in the US are amazing! As a woman, my life in India was restricted as I had a role to play-daughter, sister, wife and mother. In the US, I am free to play the role I choose and concentrate on my professional world. I also appreciate the opportunities that come my way in terms of conferences, working and collaborating across universities, conducting research, writing and publishing and actually contributing to educational change in many ways both in and outside the classroom. I enjoy meeting faculty and students from various countries, cultures, and languages. The US really does welcome immigrants and is very open to cultural difference for the most part bringing together folks from countries around the world so you get a sense of the local in very global terms. University campuses are exceptional places as the public can go to school at any age in their lives which is a tremendous opportunity for people like me who returned to college after a long break. I also love the ease with which I can travel anywhere in the US –travel arrangements are easy to make and affordable. Now that I live in Philadelphia, imagine my good fortune at being able to stay in a vibrant, beautiful city where I can enjoy the cuisines from around the world, meet people from around the world, New York and DC are a stone’s throw away, and with its proximity to Newark, I can basically fly out and be in India in 14 hours!!
 
 
Tell us a little more about your international professional and academic experiences.
I came to the US on a work permit for teaching in a high school in Indiana which turned out to be a correctional facility-when I accepted the position I had no idea I was joining a prison school! So this was quite an experience. I learned a lot about the dark side of the US that people outside the US may not know about. It was a learning experience for me, an eye opener in terms of what it means to be teacher and what it means to be a student who has been imprisoned for perhaps being born into poverty or an abusive home. I took this opportunity to enroll in the doctoral program and learn more about how to teach youth who are considered at-risk. The experience gave meaning to my life and today I am an advocate and activist for youth considered at-risk. After graduating I took a position at The University of Texas, Brownsville, a bilingual campus that is at the US-Mexico border serving 89% Spanish speaking students. Brownsville was a very multicultural environment as students came from every Central and South American country. From Indiana and Texas to Pennsylvania, I have learned a lot about the different cultural contexts, opportunities and concerns of each of these regions in the US which forms a critical part of my professional life at SJU.
 
What skills have you learned as a result of your international experience?
I think I have learned better communication skills and how to maintain my own culture and identity while respecting the cultures and languages of those around me. Another skill I have learned is how to be more inclusive of cultural differences both in the way I teach and the way I socialize. I have become more open and curious about the world and more welcoming and celebrating of diversity. Collaborating with people from different cultures, I have learned how to engage in constructive dialogue and look for creative solutions to problems rather than have a linear view of the world. More than anything else, I recognize difference as an asset. Today, I see more clearly how the local and the global are symbiotic as what happens at the local affects the global and vice versa. I also recognize and appreciate my own cultural heritage and traditions in ways I did not before my international experiences.
 
How does your international background and experiences strengthen or influence your teaching and academic department?
Today K-12 classrooms are changing demographically to include students from various cultures, ethnicities, nations, languages and backgrounds so my own exposure to diversity equips me with a world view that respects diversity and sees diversity as an asset in the classroom. I work with future teachers who desperately need exposure to diversity and competencies to work with students who are different from them in terms of culture and language. I am hoping to introduce a study tour to Honduras for preservice teachers as a way of addressing this issue.
 
How would you go about being an advocate and resource for students interested in an international experience while here at SJU?
I am certainly an advocate for ALL students and faculty traveling abroad and gaining international experience. Teacher education students travel as tourists or visitors which helps in gaining multicultural awareness and skills much needed in the workforce today. However, a study tour might have greater benefits as there is organized learning and planned activities to maximize learning which includes field experiences in international K-12 school contexts. Hopefully by 2016 I will have an SJU study tour in place to use and sharpen my own professional skills as an international educator.
 
Why should Education majors/minors study abroad?
Study abroad/ study tours are critical to preparing future teachers for diverse classrooms. Future teachers need to experience cultures and languages by traveling outside their comfort zones. Going to another country, the experiential learning is unmatched and way beyond what students learn inside a classroom on campus. The experience makes students more confident, improves communication skills, motivates students to learn another language, makes them more comfortable with diversity, and helps them develop a broad worldview of their own culture and value systems as well as that of others.
 
Do you see a difference in students who have returned from abroad in terms of their contribution in the classroom and if so, in what ways?
Yes, I continue to work with Purdue university on their Honduras Study Abroad program and internationalizing teacher education is also my area of research. So my own research provides evidence that teachers who participate in international field experiences in K-12 schools outside the US are better prepared to teach students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Teachers who have studied abroad are more inclusive in terms of their curriculum and teaching philosophies and the attrition rate is lower for teachers who have studied abroad or gone on study tours.
 
How can students integrate what they have done abroad within your department once they are back at Saint Joseph’s University?
A great place to start is to provide a platform for students to share these experiences, write and share about their international experiences, and perhaps start a blog the day they go on the study tour and continue as certified teachers. Students who have participated in study abroad programs are ambassadors for their own campus and country as well as ambassadors for the country they visit so we must provide a forum for them to share their experiences-a study abroad magazine published twice a year would be a great place to start! (I am happy to work to get this started!)
 
If you could go abroad again, today, where would you go and why?
I would like to go to a Spanish speaking country outside Spain. My choice is Honduras, Chile or Argentina. I plan to start a study tour to Honduras and hopefully continue it as a study abroad program. The largest growing minority in the US is Spanish speaking so future teachers will learn a lot from immersion in bilingual schools outside their home country. As someone who has studied abroad, I can certainly say that the experience of studying abroad is productive on many levels: gaining multicultural competencies, improving communication skills, increasing self-esteem, appreciating one’s own culture, working with and valuing diversity, traveling to new destinations, sampling various cuisines, cultures, peoples and lands, making new friends -unmatched experiential life-long learning! A must for all students and faculty!

Edwin Li
Dr. Edwin Li, Biology

Where did you grow up? Where did you attend school?
I was born and raised in Panama City, Panama.  My schooling, K-12, was at Instituto Panamericano, a private Methodist school in Panama City.
 
What inspired your decision to come to the U.S.? What challenges and/or opportunities did you face in coming to the U.S.?
I came to the USA to pursue a career in Chemical Engineering because engineering schools in the USA have a very good reputation globally.  The main challenges were obviously the language and being away from my parents for the first time.  The opportunities were a good education and the chance to meet new people.
 
Tell us a little more about your international professional and academic experiences.
I met many international students during my time as an undergrad and grad student.  I learned a lot about other countries and cultures from them.  However, because of my visa (student visa), it was not easy for me to travel and participate in study abroad programs when I was a student.  But as soon as I had the chance (when I got my permanent residence), I applied for a fellowship in Germany through the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.  I spent one year at the Technical University of Munich, and that one-year is perhaps one of the best years of my life.
 
How would you go about being an advocate and resource for students interested in an international experience while here at SJU?
Absolutely, yes!  I have been doing so since I came to SJU.  I have accepted several German students to come to my lab and work as an intern for 1-2 months.  Some have come through the DAAD, and others have come as volunteers (non-paid interns).  Similarly, I have encouraged SJU students to go abroad for a few weeks (study tours) or a semester (study abroad).  Obviously, I encourage them to consider going to Germany because the DAAD has a program that gives scholarship to non-German students to go to Germany and work in a research lab or industry.
 
If you could go abroad again, today, where would you go and why?
For academic/research purposes, I think I would go back to Germany.  Germany has many top research universities and most German people are fluent in English.  It would also be great to see my friends again.  Oh, and I miss the beer gardens!  But, I am not very picky; there are not very many countries I would not like to go.


 

























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