Education Abroad: Studying Fringe Theater in Scotland

The International Programs Office and its Education Abroad staff at UMass Amherst offer a great variety of opportunities to study abroad, short- or long-term, at universities and cultural events around the globe. In spring 2017, a record 700-plus UMass Amherst students will study abroad across the world, including15 Gilman Scholarship recipients. One such unusual and lively experience occurs every August, when a group of students and faculty from UMass Amherst and the Five Colleges travel to Edinburgh, Scotland for its internationally acclaimed, month-long theater festival.

The trip to Edinburgh is the focus of the English Department’s 397DH course in “Alternative Theatres,” with students from the English, theater and communication departments participating. Students submit coursework online before the trip, then attend 15-30 shows while in Edinburgh. They have group discussions and workshops with international artists and write five performance journals during the trip. Upon returning home they follow up with a reflective essay. Students can earn up to six college credits during this intensive course, which is just one of many available to UMass Amherst students who wish to study abroad.

Kalpen Trivedi, director of Education Abroad within the International Programs Office, says “Study abroad is a high impact practice that we want to make available to all students. The Edinburgh program is a fine example of curriculum and context coming together. Professor Jenny Spencer is to be congratulated on providing this opportunity for our students.”  

The International Programs Office works closely with UMass Amherst faculty and affiliated universities around the world to offer our students dynamic and thought-provoking experiences abroad, with a view to educating a globally aware citizenry for the commonwealth. IPO’s detailed website and the Education Abroad team are available to guide students through the process of researching courses and countries that are suitable matches for their majors and personal interests.

Ali Derosas is a senior communication major who spent a semester at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. “Studying abroad was the most challenging yet rewarding experience of my life,” Derosas says. “IPO was very helpful leading up to my study abroad experience. Any time I had a question I would just go right to the office and both the peer advisors and Carol Lebold, who takes care of students going to Africa and the Middle East, would help me.They made the thought of traveling across the world less intimidating every time I went to see them. I took three courses ranging from politics of gender and sexuality to African drumming. These courses taught me things in a new perspective I could have never gained in the U.S. Living abroad taught me about personal independence, mutual respect and the need for adventure in life.”

The International Programs Office is responsible also for bringing international students to our campus. Vice Provost and director Jack Ahern aims for UMass Amherst to become a comprehensively internationalized university. “We adapt our pedagogy not only to help the international students to understand the material and be successful here, but also to enrich the classroom culture so that the domestic students benefit from the presence of international students. We see ourselves as globally engaged and imparting an understanding of global issues in all of our students to prepare them for an increasingly globalized world. Internationalization should touch on the whole enterprise, from what’s taught in courses, how co-curricular activities are organized and how research is conducted, in addition to recruiting students around the world, sending students around the world and bringing in international alumni and international faculty and staff. All of those perspectives and lenses to look at internationalization and promote this vision of a comprehensive approach should be central to the identity and the mission of the institution.”

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