In my Gannon career, I have travelled to Scotland with the Theater Department to perform in the Fringe Festival, and I went to England and Wales for my Leadership Seminar course (which I took through the English department.) After going on two abroad trips, I was curious to see what else Gannon offers, so I interviewed Meagan McHugh, the associate director of learning abroad and International Academic Programs.
McHugh said that there are many learning abroad opportunities at partner universities and affiliates that last from two to eight weeks after the conclusion of the spring semester. In fact, this past summer, many business students took a business course in Lille France. These abroad summer courses are part of the GIFT program, which are short term faculty led abroad programs.
“We have a number of GIFT Courses that have been developed by our talented faculty. They cover many different disciplines (including Nursing, English, Occupational Therapy, Religious Studies, and many more) and travel to a number of different countries,” said McHugh, “Last year our GIFT Courses traveled to Sweden, Paris, the Bahamas, Florida, Poland and Bosnia, Iceland, England and Wales, Yellowstone National Park, Thailand, Beijing, and Lille, France. This year we are offering courses to Sweden, India, Ireland (three separate courses are working with our partner university in Ireland), Florida, Ecuador, Jamaica, Thailand, Yellowstone National Park, China (two separate courses are going to China!), Scotland, and Germany. ” Many of Gannon’s departments have gone all over the world for educational purposes including non-western countries..
McHugh said, “While Western Europe is definitely one of the more popular study abroad destinations, students have the opportunity to go all over the world, which is what makes Gannon’s programs so attractive—students can study anywhere from South America to Western Europe to Eastern Europe to Asia or Australia…pretty much anywhere they want!” Students have studied in many locations including China, Thailand, Jordan, and Australia.
Next semester, students will participate in exchange programs in Italy, France, Ireland, and Australia.
Many students seem to worry about fitting a study abroad in their major, but Gannon has been able to work with students to make sure they meet their requirements, which McHugh said she is very proud of. “We are very intentional in our selection of partner universities because we want students of any major to be able to spend time abroad, whether through a semester exchange, summer program, or a GIFT Course, ” said McHugh, “The biggest take-away that students usually have is that they love being able to see, in person, things that they’ve learned about in class. It helps students to realize just how accessible the whole world can be—they have the ability and potential to see things that they read about in textbooks, and Gannon can make that happen.”
These opportunities Gannon creates for students have changed lives. “One of the biggest changes I see in just about every student who participates in Learning Abroad programming is an enhanced sense of self-confidence and self-reliance,” McHugh said. Traveling abroad is something outside many people’s comfort zones, especially if they do not understand the language. The experience of not only traveling to these exotic places but immersing themselves in the culture help students realize that they are capable of a lot. “That is the biggest lesson that I learned when I studied abroad as an undergraduate, and I love seeing that same change and excitement in the students I send overseas!” said McHugh. Learning abroad opportunities have many other great consequences. Having international experience (even short-term) can be very important, and it looks great on a resume. McHugh said. “Being able to communicate with others who have different cultural backgrounds and values is a skill that is so important in the rapidly globalizing work force. Having these international experiences will not only strengthen students’ resumes, but getting to know faculty members who teach GIFT Courses or teach at partner universities can also lead to wonderful letters of reference for graduate school applications or job applications.”