Provided by Sara Drabik
Several NKU administrators made the journey to Sri Lanka last fall to help increase programs, collaborations and internships with the country to help expand horizons for students.
Each of these programs are meant to help the university complete the first initiative in Fuel the Flame, the 2013-18 Strategic Plan for NKU, which calls for the university to expand the international educational opportunities for students.
A particular study abroad program that took place this past May in Sri Lanka, “Art, Culture and Social Justice,” was established from the leading partnership with Sarvodaya, which is one of Sri Lanka’s largest governmental organizations.
The course, which was held in the spring, revolved around teaching students about the “intersection of material representations, religion (especially Theravada Buddhism), archaeology, historical and contemporary art forms, and social change,” according to the online syllabus.
After the class wrapped up in spring, students had the option of traveling to Sri Lanka to assist the community with different service learning projects.
In order to ensure that many students got to enjoy the corresponding trip, the class was open to students from all disciplines, according to Professor Thomas McGovern.
“The material was broad enough in scope that it was easy for students to find something that they were interested in,” McGovern said. “We had a psychology student, EMB students, anthropology, archeology and many visual arts students.”
McGovern was one of the faculty members that went on the trip and hopes that another like it will happen soon.
“There is certainly talk about doing something again in Sri Lanka, possibly 2017,” McGovern explained.
In addition to the course that was taught by McGovern and Dr. Sharyn Jones, Sara Drabik, an electronic media and broadcasting professor, taught a corresponding class about the process of documentary making. Drabik then brought along the five students to film their experience abroad.
The documentary that Drabik’s class shot is in the editing phase. It explores how studying abroad can positively affect a student.
“We live in a global world and so many times we get stuck in our own tiny little part of it and we think that that is everything,” Drabik stated. “I truly believe in order to understand others we have to go experience their life and see where they live. You will grow so much more as a person and you will understand so much more about your place in this world if you go out and experience it.”
Chloe Acus, senior electronic and media broadcasting major, was one of the students in Drabik’s course. Acus believes that the trip had numerous positive effects on her college career.
“There were definitely communication barriers but that didn’t stop us from experiencing all that they had to offer,” Acus explained. “[Studying abroad] is something everyone can do and when you do it is an eye-opening experience. You emerge with a more complete feeling, because you looked beyond your own culture and did something that was out of your comfort zone.”
The partnership between NKU and Sri Lanka has offered many opportunities for departments to further develop upon experiential learning. Kevin Kirby, dean of the College of Informatics, went to Sri Lanka on the 2014 trip and believes that the partnership can be a central learning opportunity for students.
“As soon as the trip ended I e-mailed the college with eight potential threads where informatics could get involved…It is very important to me that students who are going on international trips are not just international studies majors,” Kirby said. “I want to see all students have the opportunity to be transformed. I want to give this experience to people who would not normally think of themselves as international.”
Students can expect to see numerous programs in Sri Lanka in the near future due to a few ideal factors, according to Kirby.
“Sri Lanka is relatively accessible for English speakers and has a complex cultural and political history that includes a long-standing civil war,” Kirby said. “Also, NKU is building a relationship with them in multiple dimensions – we’re sending anthropology students, journalists, film-makers, neuroscientists in order to build this rich relationship.”