Bulls Span the Globe

By Barbara Melendez


TAMPA, Fla. (May 13, 2010) – Bulls tee shirts and sweatshirts are just as likely to be seen in a couple of European capitals as Tampa Bay these days. During the British government’s latest upheaval, University of South Florida political science students obtained their lesson in British politics at the perfect time, in the perfect place – London. They’re not the only USF students engaged in this variety of distance learning. In the coming weeks USF students are jetting off to Florence, Rome and parts of China. 


If the idea of seeing the world while learning seems like a good idea, it just might make sense to run out and get a passport. A few summer programs still have openings (Florence, Cambridge University, London and Ireland.) There are opportunities for next fall and spring as well, and they all may be affordable with scholarships and grants. 


“Study abroad is likely to be one of our students’ most memorable experiences from their academic career,” said Amanda Maurer, director of USF’s Education Abroad program. “It sets people apart, and allows them to standout next to US students who have had only a domestically-focused education.” 


USF’s education abroad program works with international partner universities to send students and faculty to over 25 countries in a variety of ways: semester exchanges, dual degree programs, summer and short-term programs, international internships and service learning projects. The length of stay can be a short as one week to one year. New programs are added on a regular basis. 


For those who qualify for financial aid, state and federal scholarships and grants are available. Interested students should check with USF Office of National Scholarships for information on existing opportunities.  Scholarships with a multicultural slant offer further opportunities.


It took just one day for Government and International Affairs Professor Janna Merrick’s students to get oriented to using the subway. They saw Buckingham Palace, the Imperial War Museum, and rode on the world’s second largest Ferris wheel, the London Eye all within two days of arriving. Dismissing the inevitable reactions to the weather – overcast to rainy – they were just happy to be there.


“Education abroad in London has truly raised students' analytical sophistication about politics,” Merrick said.  Students were glued to London newspapers and the BBC as the British electoral crisis played out.  What better political science "classroom" could they have had?


Merrick’s students are earning credits as they tour London and Paris as part of a political science course focused on comparative and urban politics. In England they attended a counter terrorism lecture by the Police Director for the City of London and made visits to Windsor Castle, the Royal Family’s weekend home, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. 


In the midst of heated discussions among the locals about the British election and its Tory and Labour parties’ struggles, the students also were treated to a tradition from the ancient past. Merrick’s blog reported: “Finished the evening with an invitation-only admission to the Changing of the Key Ceremony at the Tower of London. This solemn ceremony has taken place every night without exception for more than 600 years. We were lucky to be among the exclusive group admitted. Not bad for a bunch of ‘Yanks’ from Florida!!”


Later in the week they boarded the high-speed Euro-Star train to cross under the English Channel for a lecture at the American University of Paris and to make stops as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and as many museums as possible.


Preparation is an important component of the study abroad program. Pre-departure orientation sessions, presented by USF’s experienced, seasoned and insightful staff cover a spectrum of relevant matters:  health and wellness, safety, financial and academic considerations, what not to do, what not to wear and how to deal with cultural differences. Their general overview supports professors’ country-specific orientations which prepare the students’ to better understand what they will be seeing on their trips.


Hundreds of students take advantage of the opportunity to combine travel with learning. A total of 740 studied abroad last year conducting research and service learning projects.  This year there will be closer to 900 students crisscrossing the globe. 


“Studying abroad expands their knowledge of the world around them and provides a comparative context to their US studies that leads to a greater understanding of the subject to be studied,” Maurer said. “The study abroad experience is transformative – students come back more empowered, mature and more in touch with the world around them.”