College of The Albemarle (COA) Study Abroad program students will have the opportunity to explore a culture on the other side of the globe next year. A new service-learning based, short-term trip to Thailand has been planned as an alternative spring break for April 2 through 11, 2021.
First approved by the COA Board of Trustees in 2017, the Study Abroad program is part of a larger effort to incorporate a global education component into the COA curriculum. According to Dr. Evonne Carter, COA’s Vice President of Learning, “Global education allows people to experience a culture through the eyes of a native. The ultimate goal is to share all the components of another way of life that is rooted in the geographical, political, economic and social aspects of that culture. For one to truly get to the point of sharing culture, language, art, religion and cuisine must be experienced and relished.”
COA students first explored other cultures via Study Abroad during winter break in the 2017 – 2018 school year when they visited Nicaragua followed by Costa Rica in 2019. A trip to Puerto Rico will take place in April of this year.
While trips to these Latin American regions have provided valuable experiences for students and faculty, the college’s global education team felt it was time to explore cultures outside of our hemisphere. In an informal poll, students agreed. Thus, the trip to Thailand was born.
Dr. Dean Roughton, COA’s Dean of Arts and Sciences and co-founder of the Study Abroad program, described the service-learning component of the Thailand trip: “Participants will have the opportunity to work in elementary schools or orphanages teaching English and renovating facilities to improve living conditions for the children. We will also visit an elephant sanctuary to learn about social problems arising from overlapping natural and human spaces in an increasingly modernized world while we help provide care for the animals.”
Other educational and cultural highlights include touring Bangkok on bicycles and visiting a Muay Thai school showcasing Thailand’s most famous martial art. Participants will also get to see traditional Thai dancing as an expression of thanks for their work in the community and experience scenic Khao Yai National Park with over 2,000 botanical species. Finally, in one of the most unique COA Study Abroad activities to date, participants will have the opportunity to spend the night in a Buddhist monastery and practice meditation with local monks.
Sustaining the Study Abroad program has been a challenge as part of its mission is to help students who cannot afford the full price to participate. Through the generosity of the COA Foundation and new partnerships with regional Rotary Clubs, some partial scholarships are available to students. Brian Edwards, department chair of Social Sciences and the other program co-founder, said, “Without the funds these partnerships provide, such opportunities would not be available to our students. This assistance is already paying dividends as our students become global citizens.”
While COA students have first priority, the trip is open to faculty, staff and community members as well.
For more information or to inquire about becoming a participant, contact Dr. Dean Roughton at 252-335-0821 ext. 2306 or firstname.lastname@example.org.