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August 23, 2010   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Traveling classrooms

Traveling classrooms

Study-abroad programs take students to Ghana, Northern Ireland

Emily Williams

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By Emily Williams | August 23, 2010
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The School of Social Work's study-abroad programs give students opportunities to travel the globe from Africa to Europe.

Nearly 160 students have made the trek to the Republic of Ghana in West Africa over the past decade through the School of Social Work's Study-Abroad in Ghana Program. The 10th anniversary celebration was marked this summer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. The UGA school will host a celebration Sept. 20 in the Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center.

"To see that we've been able to sustain a program this long was special for us, but we didn't know the impact we had on the [KNUST] campus," said Cheryl Dozier, associate provost and chief diversity officer at UGA.

The KNUST-UGA partnership is the oldest international partnership at the African university.

The three-week interdisciplinary, service-learning program takes faculty and students from across campus and from other institutions. This year's class was made up of eight students and three faculty members from the School of Social Work, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education.

"The interdisciplinary piece adds a different feature to the program," said Tony Lowe, associate professor of social work. "Having students from different disciplines-they have different ideas, different ways of thinking. Those combinations and mixes change each year. It really adds more interest and it keeps you engaged every year."

The program has partnered with several universities, social service agencies and communities across the country over the years, but the partnership with KNUST was the first. The two institutions swap professors and students, as well as work on service-learning projects together. Every year students from both institutions paint a mural at a nearby orphanage.

Each destination was full of enriching experiences for the students.

"I was able to see social work in action in many different arenas," said Melissa Chiz, an undergraduate from Shaw, Miss., who is majoring in social work. She stayed two more months in Ghana after the social work school's program ended.

"Prior to this trip, I had spent very little time in the developing world," she said. "Cold showers, power outages, unpaved roads, poor sanitation and an incredibly inefficient government are all part of daily life for Ghanaians. I have learned to appreciate so many things we take for granted in the U.S."

Although the study-abroad program to Northern Ireland has not been in existence as long as the Ghana program, it offers students experiences that are just as educational.

Within weeks of returning home from their study-abroad program in Northern Ireland, students heard in the news British Prime Minister David Cameron apologize for the Bloody Sunday massacre that left 13 dead in 1972.

"We literally walked through the streets where Bloody Sunday happened," said Jonathan Duncan, assistant director of admissions for outreach and part-time master's degree student in social work. He took photos of the mural that would serve as the backdrop for photos and video of Cameron's apology.

Duncan, seven other UGA students and Nancy Williams, a professor in the social work school, toured Londonderry with Bloody Sunday survivor John McCorte, who was a teenager at the time of the killings.

The School of Social Work is also expanding its study-abroad offerings in the spring when it restarts a program that has been inactive since 2003. Former social work school faculty member David Boyle will lead an exchange program to the University of Veracruz in Halapa, Mexico, during the 2011 Maymester.

"It is increasingly important for social work students to study abroad in today's globalized world. Students attain the international experiences and cultural immersion that facilitates work with a diverse client base here in the U.S. and abroad," said Dean Maurice C. Daniels. "Exposure to other cultures and languages is beneficial in so many ways and gives our students an edge in the global job market. We are proud to offer rich study abroad options for our students in social work and other disciplines."

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