Students can travel overseas for credit

Jason Mann

Jason Mann

Studying abroad is just one of the many options SDSU students have to prepare themselves for after graduation.

SDSU offers several different trip options throughout the year. There are semester and year-long exchange programs with universities in several other countries, as well as short term and summer programs. In the summer of 2007, students could choose to go to one of the following places: Ireland, England, China, Tibet, Africa, Egypt, Germany, India, Spain and Costa Rica.

Ryan Brunner, a graduate student from Newell, S.D., saved his money for a year in order to take advantage of this opportunity. He and 26 other students, as well as five faculty members, traveled to Africa at the end of May for three weeks through the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences.

The group started their journey in Accra, the capitol of Ghana. Soon after arrival, they moved into Togo and then into Benin. While in Benin, they spent most of their time in Pendjari National Park, a game preserve, mainly trying to find lions but looking out for any creature they could find.

After leaving the national park, the group moved on to Burkina Faso, where they jumped at the chance to ride camels through the Sahara desert. They rode the camels for four hours in 125-degree heat to get to their camping spot in the Sahel, nine miles from their starting point.

“It felt like you were outside of humanity,” said Brunner. “It was very challenging.”

Chris Schaefer, a senior agronomy major from Victoria, Minn., was one of the other 26 students who went to Africa. He said it was better for him to go with the school than on his own because the SDSU group traveled many miles off the beaten path to visit villages most tourists never even hear about.

His favorite part of the trip occurred while the group was in Nazinga National Park in Burkina Faso. His carload got too close to the elephants, but the giant animals kept coming towards the SUV until they finally got scared.

“It was a very awesome and frightening moment,” Schaefer said.

Brunner hopes other students find a way to go overseas at some point during their time at SDSU. “When you study abroad, more than anything, you’re studying yourself,” he said. “It’s the lab section of life.”

Caiti Kean, a junior nursing major from Rapid City, S.D., went on a completely different kind of trip. She spent a month in Spain with 27 other students on a trip through the Modern Languages Department.

The group arrived in Madrid after leaving the United States on May 23. The students studied Spanish at Enforex, a language school, in the mornings and then toured museums and the city during the afternoons, after the traditional almuerzo, which is a lunch followed by a siesta. Kean said she had learned about the almuerzo in her Spanish classes before the trip, but had not really believed that a town would actually shut down for several hours in the afternoon until she witnessed it for herself.

Kean said one of the things that really struck her was the culture difference. Everyone she saw either traveled by bus or walked in Granada. The Spanish eat a lot of seafood, and not the kind most Americans would recognize on their own plates. Kean said many of her meals involved eel, octopus and calamari. She said they eat a lot of pork, too, but she was not able to find any beef in the country. The eggs and milk were shelf stable; Kean tried adding the milk to her coffee, but it made her sick later that day.

Kean said that the trip was a humbling experience. She learned a lot about the culture and the language, but even more about herself. “You learn what you can do and how to overcome the limits you put on yourself,” she said.

Study abroad programs are a fairly recent addition to the list of opportunities SDSU provides its students. Zeno Wicks, coordinator of international coursework for the College of Ag and Bio Science, was one of the first to bring international study programs to the school as a Fulbright Scholar in 2000-2001. While he has organized trips to Australia, Bolivia and Costa Rica, this summer’s trip to Africa was the first he went on.

The next big trip Wicks has planned is one to South America where students will have the chance to study traditional agriculture. The group will leave the United States Jan. 3, 2008, and will be gone for two weeks. They will travel to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to study cattle operations, biofuels and general agriculture.

Wicks’s goal is to offer four trips each year-two trips in the summer, one exotic trip and one smaller scale trip, an exotic trip over winter break and a smaller scale trip during spring break.

“It’s important to find places the kids want to go and design the courses around what they want to learn,” said Wicks. He tries to make the experiences as “real” as possible Otherwise, the students are not able to test their own limits and discover their own strengths and abilities.

“If that student can handle Burkina Faso, he can handle Greece,” he said.

If you are interested in visiting Africa, contact Wicks at 688-5542 or Tim Nichols at 688-5133. Another trip being planned for China will have an informational meeting Oct.10. For more information on that contact Dr. Yao at 688-5009 or Dr. Shane at 688-4141.