Summer abroad programs offer hands-on learning opportunities

New programs in summer 2019 include accelerated Italian on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, agroecology in Cuba, international film in Italy, silkscreen printing in Spain, and an overview of space missions in China

Marcus Cota, a senior in art major, displays one of his pieces. (Photo by Jimin Lee)
Group photo of art students
Students pose after visiting Ozu Washi, which was established as a paper store called Ozuya in Nihombashi, Tokyo in 1653. For more than 360 years, the company has continued in its original location. (Photo by Jimin Lee)

Savannah Dawson had never been out of the country when she enrolled in UC Santa Cruz’s summer food study program in Perugia, Italy last summer.

The 20-year-old San Fernando Valley resident said the experience was “fantastic but simultaneously terrifying.” She barely knew the other students she was traveling with before she left but found the challenges of navigating an unfamiliar foreign town brought them together. Her highlights were watching a dramatic thunderstorm and bonding with new friends at the goodbye dinner.

“It was a unique experience that I cannot replicate anywhere else or in any other time,” she said.

UC Santa Cruz is expanding its faculty-led summer abroad programs this year from just two programs last year to seven this summer. Registration has opened for faculty who want to propose a course for summer 2020.

In addition, the university’s global engagement department has developed four new direct bilateral student exchanges that provide new study abroad opportunities for students during the academic year. Registration is open now for all these new programs.

In the past, students seeking a study abroad program were mainly directed to the UC Education Abroad Program, which coordinates and manages foreign exchanges, including enrolling students at all 10 campuses.

Until two years ago, there was no support for UC Santa Cruz faculty to propose and lead a course abroad for their students. Also because Santa Cruz did not have any direct exchanges with partners abroad, it was difficult for faculty and students to develop relationships with foreign universities, said Alice Michel, director of UC Santa Cruz Study Abroad. Partnerships with universities abroad are key to internationalizing a campus and providing opportunities not only for undergraduates but graduates and faculty to work and research abroad.

This year, Santa Cruz developed direct institutional exchanges with four universities around the world: University of Sussex in England, Danish Technical University and Aarhus University in Denmark and Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. Students receive credit towards their UC degree when they take approved courses at the host university and students from the host university in turn receive credit when they enroll at UC Santa Cruz. One Santa Cruz student is now enrolled at University of Sussex and three students from Danish Technical University are now taking classes at Santa Cruz.

Michel hopes the new faculty-led and exchange programs will increase student participation in studying abroad. Currently, UC Santa Cruz sends about 600 of its 18,000-some undergraduate students abroad each year.

Casey Rubenfeld, a 22-year-old Santa Cruz student, loved her experience studying woodblock printmaking (moku hanga) in Tokyo last summer. She had lived in Japan for six months but had wished she had spent more time doing art and was glad to get a second chance to visit the country. She said the program was well worth it.

“I would highly recommend it to other art majors interested in Japanese culture/art,” Rubenfeld said. “It’s hard to say what the best part was, but it was fantastic going to all the various museums around Tokyo, making our own paper in Ogawa machi, learning the techniques of Moku Hanga with Tokyo Geidai master students, and having enough free time to do our own excursions.”

Rubenfeld also enjoyed the time getting closer to Santa Cruz art professor Jimin Lee, who led the program.

Lee had such a great time that she is leading the program again this summer. She was heartened to see how much the students appreciated the experience. For them it was a lifetime opportunity.

A world traveler herself, Lee believes it’s very important for young people to travel to different countries.

“As an artist, I did so many residency programs in other countries like India and China,” she said. “It made a huge impact on my art work because it was a real-time experience.”

She said there’s a huge difference between getting up close and looking at a work of art as opposed to looking at a reproduction in a book. “I believe you have to go there and get really close and step on that soil and think about it,” she said.

Art professor Dee Hibbert-Jones is excited to lead her first study abroad program on “Art in a Global Context” in the Czech Republic this summer.

The Czech Republic is exciting because it has gone through a lot in its transformation from communism to capitalism, Hibbert-Jones said. “It has a major underground art scene that has been going on before and after the revolution,” she said. “There’s nowhere else in the world that has that opportunity.”

Students in the program will visit museums and cultural sites and create their own art work at the ArtMill’s Center for Sustainability in the Bohemian countryside.

The other five study abroad programs this summer that are coordinated through UC Santa Cruz involve accelerated Italian on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, agroecology in Cuba, international film in Bologna, Italy, serigraphy (silkscreen printing) in Spain and an overview of space missions in China.

Becky George, assistant vice provost for Global Engagement, said the university will continue to develop new partnerships with universities abroad.

“We need these partnerships to grow multi-dimensional international collaboration and touch all aspects of research—undergraduate and graduate,” she said.