Study abroad program crosses new border

Study abroad program crosses new border

In May, Spanish majors and minors visited the cities of Madrid and Toledo in Spain during a week-long trip abroad.

Robyn McNeil, Managing Editor

Through increased funding and the exploration of new sites, Francis Marion University’s
(FMU) International Exchange Program (IEP) is seeking to provide students with an enhanced
study abroad experience.
At an annual faculty breakfast on August 19, FMU President Fred Carter, PhD., announced
the establishment of a new faculty international collaboration fund to make available four
International Collaboration Grants (ICGs) valuing $2, 500 each.
Dr. J. Mark Blackwell, coordinator of the IEP, explained that the ICGs will be awarded for
work that involves collaboration between Francis Marion faculty and its international exchange
partners.  They are available for tenured and tenure-track faculty on a competitive basis.
“The grants are yet another example of our leadership’s commitment to international
exchange by offering our faculty new opportunities for research and teaching,” Blackwell said.
The provision of the ICGs is one of the latest maneuvers by Carter to support the efforts of
the International Exchange Committee (IEC), who created FMU’s abroad studies program and is
responsible for maintaining relations between the university and international colleges.
In terms of new sites, this was the first year that IEC, in partnership with the Spanish
Department, sponsored a trip to Spain. With sufficient funding and student interest, visits to the
country are likely to continue.
In May, Spanish majors and minors experienced the culture firsthand during a week-long
trip.  During that time, four students from upper level Spanish courses visited the
palace/monastery of El Escorial and historical landmarks and monuments in the cities of Madrid
and Toledo.
Dr. Peter Whelan, English professor, accompanied the students and said the experience gave
them a better understanding of what they learn in Spanish courses.  As tourists, Whelan
explained, it made their knowledge of Spanish history and culture more meaningful.
In the capital city of Madrid, they visited the Prado art gallery, museums and toured the Parque del Retiro and the Plaza Mayor.
While in the medieval city of Toledo, the group visited its Gothic cathedral, the Goya museum and a pottery studio.
“They all took turns guiding the group with the city street map, and they all made solo
expeditions in search of food or presents to take home,” Whelan said. “They learned perhaps the
most valuable lesson of all:  that each of them is capable of fully enjoying a large foreign city
with no need of a professor’s instructions.”
Blackwell added that the Spanish Departments influence and involvement with IEP will
continue to grow with the promotion of Dr. Maria Garcia Otero.
“Dr. Maria Garcia Otero joined the IEP this year as our new Spanish language liaison,”
Blackwell said.  “She has international exchange and teaching experience that make her a very
valuable colleague.  She succeeded Dr. Kristin Kiely [professor of Spanish], with whom it was a
pleasure for us to work the past few years.”
With the new provisions, Blackwell said, the IEP hopes to enrich the educational experience
of FMU students by broadening their personal and professional outlook.

“Today’s citizens need to know as much as possible about this complex world in which allnations are so interdependent, and several academic endeavors contribute to that goal,”Blackwell said.  “Francis Marion’s International Exchange Program offers focused opportunitiesfor students wishing to maximize and globalize their educational experiences by studying at exchange partner institutions….In addition to its academic advantages, International Exchange inspires personal growth from cultural immersion, promotes career advancement through international travel and education and nurtures a new community of friendships made from around the world.”

Eleven exchange students are enrolled this semester from seven of the university’s exchange partners
in Canada, France, Germany and Ireland.
There are also six Francis Marion students abroad this semester
in England, France and Ireland.