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Tribute to the Class of 2010

Students at merged schools succeed as Freedom Writers

Perennial favorite transfers classroom to former student

Hayward teacher of 40 years retires, leaving legacy of respect, kindness

Nine earn Master’s degree in pastoral ministries from HNU

SJND students on sojourn to the Past, walk in footsteps of civil rights history

Collegians dispel myths that keep urban kids from college

New HNU president brings academic, business acumen

Catholic high school graduates more likely to attend college

International study broadens collegians’ perspectives

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Website shows how to promote social justice in college

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placeholder June 7, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA

Saint Mary’s College, Holy Names University

International study broadens collegians’ perspectives

Tracy Mumphrey, a senior at Saint Mary’s College, stands in front of the tent where she slept last year during a trip in the Sahara desert near the village of Merzouga. She was in Morocco as part of the college’s study abroad program.

Drew Williams always knew he wanted to spend a semester of college studying in a foreign country, but he didn’t quite know where. As a 20-year-old politics and pre-law student at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, he had a lot of options. When the time came, he chose London.

“As a major world metropolis and center of power, London’s relevance to my politics major was undeniable,” Williams said of his term in England last fall. “I studied primarily law courses, like international law, the origin of Western legal tradition, and a class in British politics that was focused on the structure of the British legal system.”

For Nafasi Ferrell, a 19-year-old freshman at Holy Names University in Oakland, the chance to take part in an immersion experience in Mexico as part of her college career was an easy call. The international relations and history major loves to travel and wants to convey to her fellow students what they can learn from people of other cultures.

“I believe that the connection we are missing within our lives is the ability to understand those around us and those far from us,” said Ferrell. “If we are able to connect the two, we are able to grow as human beings and build a world based on community.”

Williams and Ferrell are just two of a growing number of college students today who are taking advantage of opportunities to study abroad that were not nearly as accessible a generation ago. With a world made smaller by advances in communications and an increasing globalization of commerce, college officials are encouraging students to pursue such international experiences like never before.

“There just seems to be a growing study-abroad culture on campus,” said Lorien Romito, associate director for the Center for International Programs at Saint Mary’s. “Students are actually choosing to come to Saint Mary’s because of the study-abroad program. “It’s exciting to see it grow and to find that so many students are becoming global citizens.”

Among U.S. institutions that grant master’s degrees, Saint Mary’s currently ranks 11th, with an estimated 55.6 percent of all undergrads having participated in study-abroad programs, according to a 2009 report by the Institute of International Education. That’s up from 30th place just one year before.

The LaSallian Christian Brothers-affiliated campus provides several avenues for foreign study. The college directly sponsors programs in seven countries, and students may also choose to participate in a program offered by any of the five other LaSallian colleges in the United States.

It also has exchange-student agreements with LaSallian universities in three countries and helps students take part in other programs not sponsored by Saint Mary’s if they so desire “as long as it fits in the LaSallian mission,” Romito said.

Another option is any of several “immersion experiences” to various foreign destinations offered by faculty members during the brief January term between the fall and spring semesters.

“Really, the world is wide open to them,” she said.

At Holy Names, students can spend a semester or a full year attending classes in any of eight different countries through a partnership with Central College of Pella, Iowa.

Saint Mary’s College senior Tracy Mumphrey photographed her shadow during a two-hour camel ride into the Sahara dunes.

More popular are its 10-day “study trip immersion experiences” offered during January to Mexico and El Salvador, which are intimately linked to both the religious studies and Latin American studies programs. Each experience requires successful completion of a fall course on the history and culture of the chosen destination as well as a spring course on its religious history and perspectives, according to Martivón Galindo, study-abroad coordinator and professor of Latin American studies.

“The January study trips are very popular because they don’t have the commitment for an entire semester,” Galindo said. “But I really encourage the students to go for a semester because then they have the full experience of being on their own and knowing another culture, getting to know another way of life to compare with their lives in the United States.”

The fall classes prepare the students in practical matters as well as academically. “In Latin America, there are different ways of doing things than here,” she said. “It’s not spring break or a field trip. You are traveling to another culture, and you must be respectful and must protect yourself.”

Both Saint Mary’s and HNU offer summer immersion trips as well, also led by faculty members.

Sometimes a student who participates in an immersion program then decides to pursue international study for a full semester. That’s what happened with Tracy Mumphrey, a senior at Saint Mary’s who studied in Spain a year ago.

Experiencing the subtle concepts

“After traveling to Mexico for the previous January term, I got the ‘travel bug,’” said Mumphrey, a 22-year-old Spanish major who hails from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “I discovered that one can only read about a country so much, but physically being in the country allows you to experience subtle concepts that books, magazines and newspapers tend to miss.”

She took courses in literature, psychology, culture and Flamenco — “a history lecturer, rather than a dance class,” she explained — during her study-abroad semester. She took time also for travel, visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, hobnobbing with bullfight fans in Seville and riding a camel through the Sahara dunes in Morocco.

The cultural education went in both directions. “The biggest challenge was properly finding a way to explain my African-American heritage to others in Spain and even Morocco who do not understand the history of the transatlantic slave trade,” Mumphrey said.

“Some people could not understand how I and my parents, grandparents and so on were all born in America, yet we are black. Some people did not even realize that there is a large and contributing black population in the United States.”

Galindo has also seen HNU immersion students segue into a semester abroad. “Some students study the language and then want to see if they can survive in the cultural environment,” she said.

“Some Latino students who were born here don’t know the Latin American culture because their families don’t speak Spanish in the home. When they take the immersion experience, they are so surprised and want to learn the language. They find more attachment to their cultural roots.”

One thing Galindo emphasizes is that the international experience should not come to an end when the student returns home. Holy Names requires their immersion students to spend time in service learning during both semesters that includes outreach to the Latino community, such as volunteering at the local Catholic Worker house, which provides sanctuary and other assistance to many Latin American immigrants and refugees.

“We want that component so as to give back to the community here in Oakland,” Galindo said. “The social justice work that is a commitment of Holy Names is part of the experience.”

Ferrell works with Education Without Borders International, an Oakland-based organization that provides immersion trips for Oakland-area high school students. She is not through traveling herself, however. She plans to study in either Spain or the Netherlands during her junior year.

“I want to get a better understanding of European politics as well as a cultural history of Spain, so either trip I choose will be a good fit for me personally and academically,” she said.

Encouring more participation

Both colleges are encouraging more participation in study-abroad or immersion programs, particularly by urging freshmen to plan ahead for travel in their sophomore or junior years and enlisting the help of study-abroad alumni to share their experiences. Romito, Galindo and faculty at their respective institutions help students navigate all the necessary processes and details, from meeting application and program requirements to concerns over the transferability of academic credits and financial aid.

In a globalized world, study abroad looks good on a resume. “That’s what I keep reminding students,” Romito said. “If you’re going to set yourself apart, this is how you do it.”

Amber Sandhu, a business major at Saint Mary’s College, has just completed her spring semester in Barcelona where she visited Parc Guell.

The benefits are bountiful. Amber Sandhu, a 24-year-old international business major at Saint Mary’s, has just completed her spring semester in Barcelona. Study abroad “is a holistsic experience in that you are meeting new people, seeing, tasting, hearing and learning new things every day,” she recently wrote from Spain. “I have the opportunity to be in a classroom every day with students from varying countries, and so I am learning a great deal not only about Spanish culture but other cultures as well.”

Drew Williams couldn’t agree more. “I got to exchange opinions on the international community with a contingent of really stellar students from all over the international community itself,” he said of his London semester.

“I sat next to a rather intimidating law student from Germany, checked my homework and readings with two girls from Sweden, and kept getting into arguments over U.S. international relations with a girl from Spain and a guy from Kenya. How else can you have these kinds of experiences?”

For further information on study-abroad or immersion opportunities at Saint Mary’s College, contact Lorien Romito at (925) 631-4352, lorien.romito3@stmarys-ca.edu; at Holy Names University, contact Martivón Galindo at (510) 436-1318 or galindo@hnu.edu.

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