This month, two Ohio State Mansfield professors are leading Ohio State students on study abroad trips to broaden their college experience.
Steven Joyce, associate professor of German, is leading a month-long trip to Corfu, Greece, while Ozeas Costa, associate professor of Earth Sciences, is spending nine days in Costa Rica with 38 students from Ohio State and community colleges in Georgia and Arizona.
It’s Joyce’s second May semester study abroad. Twenty students, including two from Mansfield, will earn credit for Introduction to Western Tradition & Contemporary European Issues during classes taught by professors at Ionian University in Corfu who specialize in topics ranging from ancient to modern age Greece.
Group excursions to locations such as the site of the ancient oracle at Dodona and the Byzantine museum in Corfu will allow students to see and experience firsthand what they have learned in the classroom.
“It’s an unfolding set of stories,” Joyce said. “It’s absolutely great. Everything they are learning in the classroom is right there.”
May semester was created last year as the university transitioned from quarters to semesters. Up to three credits of May semester courses are offered free of tuition, although there is a cost for study abroad travel, lodging, meals and other expenses. The four-week courses allow students to get an extra class in before they head off for summer jobs or other endeavors.
“We wanted this class to be a regional campus initiative,” Joyce said. “Regional students don’t want to be gone for a long time, so we thought if we could offer a class they can finish in four weeks, they would be interested.”
The Costa Rica program, Environment and Culture in Costa Rica, includes lectures at Ohio State the first and fourth weeks of the semester, as well as nine days of travel through the country of Costa Rica, visiting coffee plantations, national parks, cloud forests, a nature preserve accessed by boat, and wetlands. In each location, participating students from various programs, including zoology, environmental and natural resources, journalism, environmental health and strategic communications, will interview local managers, ecotourism operators and scientists about sustainability.
“This trip will allow students to challenge the idea that conservation and economic development cannot work together,” Costa said. “Those two things don’t need to be antagonists. And Costa Rica is an example of that.”
Every other day, students will have time to reflect on those experiences and how it ties into their own academic plans and perspectives for the future. They will also have the chance to write about their experiences from the perspective of their major.
Of concern to both professors was promoting the trips university-wide while working from a regional campus. But social media and word-of-mouth from students, as well as the excellent reputation of the professors, sold the classes. Costa’s students have either taken a class with him, or are friends with one of his students. Students from last year’s trip to Greece posted photos on Facebook of their experiences. This year 50 students applied for the Greece trip, but there were only 20 slots.
“It was really tough to tell 30 they couldn’t go,” Joyce said. “They all meet the requirements academically for study abroad.”
For many students, it’s the first time they have left Ohio. Instructors, as well as the Office of International Affairs in Columbus, work with the students to prepare them culturally.
“Corfu is Orthodox Christian,” Joyce said. “We teach them that there is a certain way to dress and act. We talk about the perceptions Greeks have about Americans, especially women, and generally about college students. We remind them that they represent The Ohio State University and the United States when they are visiting the country.”