UC Riverside Summer Study Abroad Programs Continue to Build Strong Partnerships

Dozens of students get the opportunity to participate in a unique program

Photo Credit: Phong Hong Co Hai, a merchant in a suburb of Hue, runs a refreshment stand in front of the village’s museum.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – Ready for the experience of a lifetime? To discover and immerse yourself in another culture, language, country and its food? Well, every quarter, and every summer, dozens of UC Riverside students do just that by choosing to study abroad.

Elizabeth Claassen Thrush, who coordinates the program for UCR, said the campus is blazing new trails in the study abroad world. Not only is UCR Summer Study Abroad providing programs for large numbers of first-generation students to take courses abroad, but it is also forging unique partnerships between faculty and students around the world.

UCR Summer Study Abroad creates those opportunities by offering eight unit programs with UCR faculty. “These are the same courses they would take here,” Thrush explained. “They are with the same faculty and the same financial aid package, but in a unique, rich setting.”

Vietnam Stories

Some of these programs are partnering with local universities to provide an in-depth and mutually-beneficial look at the culture. A prime example of this kind of partnership is happening in Vietnam, where 16 UCR students and 13 Hue University students are working together on ethnographic field work projects.

Professor David Biggs with students from UCR and Hue University.

Professor David Biggs with students from UCR and Hue University.

Professor of History David Biggs has taken UCR students to Vietnam three different times, but this is the first time students have worked with Hue University on this level and the first time the partnership with Vietnamese students has been formalized. UCR students work with Hue students to learn about Vietnamese history and culture. Likewise, Hue students learn about Americans and post blogs on their perspectives on these encounters. Biggs said this kind of program is unusual because it takes a great deal of planning and a very strong relationship between the universities.

“The blog is an excellent way to focus student cooperation between the two groups. Student-contributed essays are published instantly and globally available. This gives students a sense of ownership, but it also gives them a seriousness of purpose — as they are communicating to a global audience. In our program we combine the blog with structured “challenge” assignments, follow-up discussions and some common readings on such topics as ethnographic interviews, participant observation, and oral history. The blog is both a memento of the program and a platform for working out ideas about travel writing, ethnographic description, and the like,” Professor Biggs explained.

Josai International University

Another group of UCR students currently studying abroad in Japan have the opportunity to participate in a strong partnership the university has maintained for many years with Josai International University. Students, as early as February, began meeting with students from Josai who were on the UCR campus. Professor Setsu Shigematsu has been working with Maria Shiguemi Ichiyama and Rieko Yamaguchi (both currently working at JIU) to establish a friendship program to continue these connections between JIU and UCR students.

Professor Setsu Shigematsu in Tokyo with a group of UCR students.

Professor Setsu Shigematsu in Tokyo with a group of UCR students.

“By the end of the program, many of the students expressed that the trip had been a ‘life-changing’ experience and that they would like to come back to Japan. I look forward to building a new era of exchange between our institutions and developing genuine forms of intellectual dialogue,” explained Shigematsu.

The Hue and Josai programs are strongly supported by UCR leadership. Vice Provost of International Affairs, Kelechi Kalu said, “Education abroad is one of the pathways that enable us to internationalize our curriculum and learning experiences for our students.  What makes the Vietnam and Japan education abroad experiences unique is that students are not only experiencing different cultures and cuisines, but are actually engaged with students from those countries to learn concepts and collaboratively solve common problems.  I applaud the faculty for providing our students opportunities to enrich their knowledge through international experiences.”

Possible Future Partnerships

UCR faculty continue to work with international partners to develop new programs.  For example, Guillermo Aguilar, the Mechanical Engineering Department Chair, has been working on a program with Tec de Monterrey and UNAM in Mexico. They hope to bring together 25 students from California and 25 students from Mexico for a Summer Study Abroad program.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-5893
E-mail: mojgan.sherkat@ucr.edu
Twitter: mojgansherkat

Additional Contacts

Elizabeth Claassen Thrush
Tel: 951.827.7739
E-mail: elizabeth.claassen-thrush@ucr.edu

David Biggs
E-mail: david.biggs@ucr.edu

Setsu Shigematsu
E-mail: setsu.shigematsu@ucr.edu

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