By Savanah Weed (Troy University)
Nearly 250 Troy University students took to the skies during the 2021-2022 academic year, traveling to 15 different countries after study abroad opportunities revived, thanks in large part to the Chancellor’s Award for Global Competitiveness (CAGC).
The Chancellor’s Award aims to promote international awareness and better integration of Troy University students into the global workplace, while providing the financial support to make this goal a reality.
Sarah McKenzie, study abroad coordinator, said the scholarship has grown in recent years from $500 to $750 to $1,000 to the current offering of $1,250.
“It has increased because it is an important initiative for the Chancellor. He and his administration want to make it as easy as possible and encourage students to go,” she said. “On average, most of our trips cost around $3,000, so at $1,250 we save a third of that cost. It still sounds like a lot, but nobody is going to give you this opportunity at this price if you leave Troy University. Chancellor Hawkins wants everyone to have the opportunity to leave if they want to.”
The CAGC is open to all Troy University students, both undergraduate, graduate and online study, who have successfully completed a full semester at Troy University, are enrolled full-time, have a good academic record, an overall GPA of at least 2.5 and have completed the TroyAbroad application which contains the CAGC forms.
“Apart from those criteria, it’s not competitive. So if you meet the requirements and apply, you’ll get the award,” McKenzie said.
In the 2021-2022 academic year, 245 students took advantage of 14 faculty-led trips to 15 different locations. Of the 245 students who came, four took part in three-week summer programs and five opted for a semester-long exchange. The Troy University men’s basketball team also traveled to Costa Rica for eight days, competing against the El Salvador National Team and Costa Rica All-Stars in addition to many team bonding activities and hosting basketball clinics for children.
Other travel locations included Puerto Rico, Italy, Ecuador, Switzerland, France, London, Galapagos Islands, Greece, UK, Ireland, Peru, Paris, Pietrasant and the Digging Vada archaeological site in Tuscany.
dr Jay Valentine, Associate Professor of History, took a group of 30 Troy University students and 10 adults to Paris, France in June. The associated art philosophy class focused on art aesthetics and art theory.
“We chose this major because you can enjoy art a lot more and appreciate it for what it is if you have some background knowledge,” he said. “So not only has it enriched our museum experience, but also walking around Paris. Parisians in general are very conscious of aesthetics, so everything is an art project of some sort – from street art to murals to staging the city.”
In addition to exploring the Louvre, countless other art museums and the city streets, Valentine said his group immersed themselves in culture as much as possible while battling record-breaking temperatures.
“Experiencing other cultures is an important part of a person’s intellectual and individual development. Some of the students really embraced it and went out and ate snails and all that and really got involved with the culture,” he said. “We’ve had some days where it’s just been brutal out there, but you have this itinerary with all these places you have to go, so you just have to keep going and do your best to push through. These things build resilience, but it also helps reinforce the experience. That makes it special in a way.”
Valentine also led a group to India in 2017 and Nepal in 2019. During Spring Break 2023 he will lead another group, this time to Costa Rica. He believes that allowing students to experience a culture different from their own is critical to personal growth.
“It is very healthy for students to experience a culture that is fundamentally different from their own. Not against or against, just different than,” he said. “Not only does it help you understand the world a little bit better, it also helps you understand your own culture better.
“For many students, it can also be a huge confidence booster to see that they can do it, they can make the payments, do whatever needs to be done to go, and then receive the reward for going. It breaks the seal of the world of travel once you rip off the bandage or leave your safe place.”
Alaina Burnham, a sophomore in Global Business Major with a concentration in Entrepreneurship from Madison, Alabama, traveled to Ecuador in April and Peru in May. Sorrell College of Business’ Sorrell Society of Global Scholars’ trip to Ecuador focused on working in micro-industry factories.
Burnham worked in both a chocolate factory and a fruit drying factory for five days.
“On the first day I went through the whole process of making a kind of toffee, an Ecuadorian delicacy that is more of an acquired taste. By the second day I realized why people don’t recommend factory work because I spent the whole morning separating cocoa beans,” she said. “Being a business graduate, I looked at it from a slightly different perspective and saw how they could make improvements. It really was quite an experience and helped me to understand how I, as a potential leader in the future, should treat my employees and put them in their shoes to see how everyday life is.”
Aside from the factory work, the group also toured the capital, visited the equator and received first class treatment from the owner of their hostel.
“The owner actually made our breakfast and dinner for us every day, so we could have even more authentic food as it was made by a local,” she said. “She cooked us American cuisine once or twice more, which was quite fun.”
Burnham received a Spanish course from the Center for International Languages and Cultures for the trip to Peru and called it a “dream come true” after being able to experience Machu Pichu with her father.
“When I heard that there was a possibility that Machu Pichu would be closed to the public in the next few years due to tourists damaging the ruins, I jumped at the opportunity to go there,” she said. “My dad actually accompanied me on this trip so it was an amazing experience to see and learn about the ruins and history with him. It’s been my dream since elementary school to see it.”
Regardless of age, Burnham encouraged all students who are able to travel abroad to take the plunge and give it a go.
“Even if you’re young, you can still study abroad,” she said. “Studying abroad has really opened my eyes and helped me to realize that although we are people from different places, we are all one. We all come from families and have traditions and that there is beauty in everything.”
McKenzie cited another reason for students to consider studying abroad: to make your resume stand out.
“Even if they’re only staying for two weeks, students put that on their resume or cover letter, and it really increases their chance of getting a job faster after graduation or getting accepted into the college of their choice,” she said. “That’s what employers are looking for. A high GPA and a degree are no longer enough. You must have something that sets you apart. It doesn’t have to be a study abroad program, but studying abroad is a great choice that will give you a great experience.”
For more information on Troy University’s study abroad programs, contact McKenzie at [email protected] or 334-808-6128.