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Students Travel Abroad With Spring Break-Embedded Courses

Hundreds of students traveled abroad during spring break, not only for personal trips, but also as part of certain courses’ embedded travel programs. While some of our staff tried to study abroad without leaving State College, these students spent the week in exotic locations like Costa Rica, Cuba, Greece, Iceland, and the Czech Republic experiencing another culture.

Embedded travel programs are regular courses that meet throughout the semester and give students the opportunity to travel abroad together with their professor. The trips usually come over spring break, Thanksgiving break, winter break, or even during a Maymester, and include activities related to class material, while also allowing students to see the landmarks and cultural attractions of the country — described by one of our writers as extreme field trips.

This year, the College of Communications boasted five separate embedded spring break trips, one for each major in the college. “[Dean Hardin] is extraordinarily supportive of study abroad, so she made it an initiative of her deanship to make sure that each of the majors had at least one opportunity to go abroad,” said professor Colleen Connolly-Ahern, who accompanied her COMM 426 class to Costa Rica to study international and intercultural strategic communications.

While in Costa Rica, students visited NGOs, public relations advisors, and media outlets, in addition to cultural experiences like visiting national parks. Each embedded trip is organized differently, but the respective professors often have footholds in the countries that they visit.

“I know Costa Rica fairly well,” Connolly-Ahern said. “I have contacts in the PR industry there, so I knew that I had people who would help me and my students get access to the sorts of people who would make a difference.”

Students enrolled in these embedded programs reported positive experiences with their respective trips, and appreciate the deeper understanding of other cultures that the courses have given them. “I think that it’s really valuable to have a cultural trip component because it enhances what we do in the classroom,” said Katie Blitz, former Onward State writer, and a senior who traveled to the Czech Republic for COMM 419 to study World Media Systems.

According to Penn State Global Programs, there are currently 22 active embedded travel programs:

  • AN SC 499A–Poultry Industry and Cultural Tour of Spain
  • ARCH 491–Architectural Design Studio
  • ART 297–Social and Cultural Explorations in the Visual Arts
  • CED 499B—Local Rural Development in Costa Rica
  • CI 495C/495D/495E—Clinical Application of Instruction Secondary Education & Practicum in Student Teaching
  • COMM 402—International Reporting
  • COMM 419H—World Media Systems
  • COMM 426—International and Intercultural Strategic Communications
  • COMM 437A—Advanced Documentary Production
  • COMM 497F—Sports, Journalism Projects
  • ENGR 496—Independent Studies in Leadership
  • ERM 499A—Costa Rica: Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • FDSC 499B—Global Perspectives on Agriculture and Food Systems in India
  • FR/JST 197C—France and the Holocaust
  • HM 498A—International Hospitality Management
  • HPA 496—Independent Study
  • HPA 497—International Health and Health Systems: Costa Rica
  • HPA 499—Health and Health Systems in the Philippines
  • INTAG 199A—Be A Global Student
  • NURS 499—Foreign Study: Nursing
  • RPTM 497G—Golf Operations Management: Best Practices

“I don’t think embedded programs are necessarily better [than semester-long study abroad], but I think it’s an opportunity for someone to make a small commitment,” Connolly-Ahern said. “It’s an opportunity for students who don’t have the time or money to be abroad for a whole semester, or even the parental support…these short programs can also give people the confidence to go on to a bigger trip.”

If you’re looking for a way to expand your global horizons without missing THON or football season, consider enrolling in one of these embedded courses next year.

About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa is a junior public relations major and the managing editor of Onward State. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Send questions and comments via e-mail ([email protected]) and follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.


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