By Annette Finley-Croswhite
The Department of History has long been a strong advocate for the transformative experience of study abroad courses. Professor emeritus Douglas Greene was offering courses in London in the early 2000s. I followed with a decade in which I ran 7 study abroad courses (2013-2023) to France and Poland, and now associate professor Megan Nutzman and assistant professor Elizabeth Fretwell have joined the history department’s push for experiential learning opportunities with Nutzman’s upcoming course to Greece and 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 from 5:30pm-7:00pm students will share their study abroad experiences in the Executive Dining Room in Webb Center. The ODU Community is welcomed to come and meet the students and hear about their experiences. Karis Adam, Erin Arsenault, Ben Baumann, Rane Fox, Robert Suchyta, Jen Suarez, Matthew Ward and Ethan Weber will discuss 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 will discuss their trip to Senegal with the course “History and Culture of West Africa.”
Ever since I began taking students on study abroad, I’ve 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 course/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 has 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. Refreshments will be provided. 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, will also be in attendance on Monday night (10-2). 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.