Broadening Horizons over Spring Break

By Marah J. Morrison

Opportunities are at the fingertips of Youngstown State University students who want exposure to new worlds and to expand their knowledge in their field of study over spring break.

YSU programs will be visiting a variety of countries this year, including Greece, Belize and Mexico.

Ann Gardner, an assistant director in the International Programs Office, said the office has a record number of students going abroad.

Gardner said approximately 108 YSU students will traveling abroad with around 18 faculty members and about six volunteers, and these students have signed up for different field courses that involves traveling overseas.

“They’re going to be attending lectures. They’re going to be doing site visits. They’re going to be visiting cultural and historic sites,” she said. “There’s a group going to Belize [to study] marine ecology and they’re going to be snorkeling basically every day.”

Photo courtesy of Max Grubb

Gardner said the biggest group of all, who are exercise science majors, is going to be traveling to Greece to study the history of sports medicine and the Olympics.

She said it’s one thing to sit in the classroom and learn about a topic, but it’s another to enter the field and actually see these sites, the businesses or the patients firsthand for themselves, which gives students the ability to have hands-on, real-world knowledge.

“They usually see a major cultural and historic site in the country and learn about the culture, the religion, the history and the language of the country,” she said. “It broadens their cross-cultural perspectives, so they have a better understanding of how other people in the world live.”

Gardner said she doesn’t like to call these trips, but either calls them programs or field courses because she doesn’t want them to seem like a beach vacation. She said the students might have some downtime, but they are there to learn, visit sites and do field research.

“The nurses are doing service learning, so they’re helping Hispanic patients,” she said. “They’re learning the difficulties [faced] when [the] patient doesn’t speak the same language. That’s a very transferable skill.”

Gardner said the students are learning valuable skills that will help them in the rest of their careers and it’s very hands-on.

Jeff Dick, chair and professor in the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department, said this is his 27th year of doing the field course. Alongside Diana Alexander, a faculty co-leader, and YSU students, they will be traveling to San Salvador in the Bahamas.

Dick said there has been a tremendous amount of student interest in this particular course, and this year, he is taking 17 students. In the past, he has taken as many as 35.

“We’re actually doing detailed mapping of the different segments of the shoreline so that we can, in the future, go back and look at this data and see how the shorelines changed,” he said. “It’s a primitive island so there’s no development on it.”

Dick said the cultural experience is more of a lasting experience for the students involved, and they will be 200 miles off of the shore of Florida, but the whole social experience, working and engaging with people who have a completely different lifestyle is a big learning experience.

“In their setting, these natives of the Bahamas are very grateful, work very hard and are satisfied with what they have in life, and it’s really good for students to see,” he said. “I think all too often our youngsters really don’t appreciate what they’ve got until they experience what it’s like in other places.”

Max Grubb, a lecturer in the Department of Communication, is taking a group of students to France this year over spring break, and said the students will get exposure to a different culture and society.

“They’re going to get a chance to get exposed to the different political, economic, social and cultural system,” he said. “In that sense, they’re going to recognize that things can be done differently.”

Grubb said the students are going to be exposed to a different media in regards to how the media performs in France, and the students get exposed to a whole different society and they come back with a different outlook on their own country.

“Usually on the second day of the trip, I’ll have one or two students turn to me and say, ‘Why aren’t we doing this in our country,’” he said. “If I could take every student at the university and get them out of the country for just a little bit, [I’d] feel like I’ve [gotten] a good sense of accomplishment.”

R.J. Markowitz, a coordinator in Adventure Recreation at the Andrews Rec Center, said he put together a spring break “staycation” this year for students, and it is a series of three different outdoor trips that are day trips.

“They’re all less than $60,” he said. “We will be doing a hiking trip to McConnells Mill State Park, a paintball trip and we’re also doing a trip to a ninja warrior gym in Cleveland.”

Markowitz said he thinks the students go on these trips for a multitude of reasons, and students look to them to plan out a good trip for them without much hassle.

“Students come on these trips for a little bit of camaraderie,” he said. “I see a lot of friendships blossom out of our trips and see people hanging out afterwards. Folks that are interested in these types of activities tend to stick together.”

To sign up for the rec center day trips go to