By Annette Finley-Croswhite, Professor and Director of Center for Faculty Development

Study Abroad - History - France

The Department of History has long been an advocate for the transformative experience of study abroad courses. ODU Professor Emeritus Douglas Greene offered courses in London in the early 2000s. I followed with a decade (2013-2023)  in which I ran 7 study abroad courses to France and Poland. Now Associate Professor Megan Nutzman and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Fretwell have joined the History Department’s push for experiential learning opportunities with Dr. Nutzman’s upcoming summer course to Greece and Dr. Fretwell’s course to Senegal last May. Of special note, History students also enjoy access to study abroad scholarships that History alum Will Giandoni (BA 2002) began funding in 2022.

On October 2, 2023, students shared their study abroad experiences in the Executive Dining Room in Webb Center. The ODU community was invited to meet the students and hear about their experiences. Students Karis Adam, Erin Arsenault, Ben Baumann, Rane Fox, Robert Suchyta, Jen Suarez, Matthew Ward and Ethan Weber discussed their time in France and Poland with the course “Paris/Auschwitz: Holocaust Memory and Leadership in Social Justice,” and Shaquan Hawkins, Victoria McFarlane, Mel Miller-Felton, Vera Shinard, and John Wiley discussed their trip to Senegal with the course “History and Culture of West Africa.”

Ever since I began taking students on study abroad trips, I have always offered a post-trip public event in which students could share what they had learned. These events are critical because the experiential learning gained on study abroad is not always immediately understood. It can take months to process the results of deep learning, especially on trips such as ours that explore how the past is represented in the present, reveal the importance of social justice, and/or address the horrors of colonialism and antisemitism. For many students, study abroad trips are also their first time out of the country so there are encounters with new languages and foods that must be inculcated as well. In the best scenarios, friendships are made that endure long after the courses end.

The Monday night event had many sponsors including the Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding, the Center for Global Engagement, the Office of Study Abroad, the Department of History, and the Center for Faculty Development. In addition, Ben Ipson (BA 2015) who is the grandson of Holocaust survivor Jay Ipson, the co-founder of the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, was in attendance. Ben was part of the first group of students I took to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2013, and he has remained engaged in Holocaust education for much of his life. He met with my 2023 study abroad students to help prepare them for the trip part of the course last May.