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 Study Abroad

The Real Classroom is out there!

Forty–five students from UMD along with four faculty are using the island of Great Britain and beyond as an experiential canvas for a year of study abroad. While living and studying together as the 2006-07 Study in England group, they are finding that the “real classroom” is in the community, the landscape and culture around them.

Where better to study Shakespeare than at his birthplace? A group traveled 20 miles to Stratford-Upon-Avon, home of Shakespeare and the famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see Taming of the Shrew. One theatre student, Stacia McKee is taking her study of the work a bit further, playing the lead in the contemporary version Kiss Me Kate performed by the University of Birmingham Theatre Society. “Acting in England has made me realize more than ever that I want to do a national tour at some point in my career as an actress.” said McKee.

Other students in the general psychology class are learning course concepts through their interactions with the community at charity organizations in the city of Birmingham. The combination of service-learning and reflective journaling facilitates connections. “I see Psychology everywhere now,” said Jill Raymond, an art education major.

K. Olivia Young, a music major studying piano volunteers at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in the music hall. "Through this volunteer site I've had a chance to listen to pianist Kenneth Hamilton's lectures and converse with the world-renowned Pavel Haas Quartet," she said. "I can't think of anything 'in class' that would give me these opportunities to learn and interact with professional European musicians. And I have been able to relate a lot of their interactions to concepts in social psychology."

Geology and archeology students stopped at Hadrian’s Wall (photo) on the way home from Scotland to see firsthand the remains of a Roman fort complete with self flushing latrines and the evidence that John Hutton, father of modern geology used to recognize that the earth was much older than 6000 years. Hadrian’s Wall was built by the Romans in 126 AD and when John Hutton saw it in the 1700s, very little weathering had taken place. He interpreted this to mean that geological processes were extremely slow, and thus the world took longer to form than previously thought. “The significance of how old everything is and the connections to the Roman Empire were interesting,” said business major Tim Hohn.

Art history students have enjoyed a wide variety of museums and galleries in Birmingham, London and Edinburgh. Some took advantage of their weekend travel to further explore galleries in Italy, Spain and France. “The museums are so accessible here,” said art major JR Mathews. Jill Raymond agreed. "I’m seeing some of the pieces I’ve studied previously in art history at UMD.”

“Stuff comes alive," said Mike Munson, political science major. "It’s real. You can see the brush strokes from someone you have read about.”

Another art group is making visual travel journals following British traditions from the Middle Ages. “I never would have gone to the British Library if we hadn’t gone for this class. And then to see the only intact Guttenberg Bible and the Original Alice in Wonderland. It blows you away!” said Munson.

Group dynamics students are analyzing concepts related to intergroup relations including social categorizations and conflict via contemporary issues in the Birmingham community. Students were invited to a luncheon to launch efforts around interfaith dialogue and understanding during Islamic Awareness Week (photo) and are working with a model of intercultural effectiveness toward expanding their comfort and competence with worldviews different from their own. “I feel more a part of the community because of my interactions at my service-learning site," said Paul Strommer, an education major. "I have interactions with people who come in from a variety of cultures. It has helped me to pick up similarities as well as subtle differences.”

Students will continue their studies next spring, with faculty from political science, music, English short stories, history and art. The more they study – the larger the classroom becomes. — Paula J. Pedersen

Photos: Top - K. Olivia Young and Stacia McKee get close and personal with Hadrian’s Wall. Center - Group Dynamics students at an invitation only luncheon to launch Islamic Awareness Week. Bottom - Learning about Scottish culture in Edinborough (K. Olivia Young, Ben Skinner, Megan Pettit, Dayna Landgrebe, Vanessa Morrison).

About the Study in England Program

The UMD Study in England Programme began in 1980-81 with the support of the administration, faculty, staff, and students at the University of Birmingham. It is located on the Selly Oak campus of the University. Birmingham is the second largest city in Britain and is located 110 miles northwest of London in the county of West Midlands.
The Study in England Programme has developed into a successful, thriving programme, taking between 40 and 50 students from the United States each year to study in Birmingham.

Programme faculty include the director, two faculty members from UMD each semester, and selected British faculty members from universities in the Birmingham area. Each semester there are at least nine UMD courses from which to choose as well as selected University of Birmingham courses offered on the Selly Oak campus.

For more info see the International Education Office.

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830


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