Thinking in continents: travel abroad program takes SMC students around the world

Traveling the world opens up your mind to new and exciting ideas which you may not have been prone to think about before.

But no one knows how true that theory is until you actually travel.

Many would love to travel but have to face reality and accept the fact that they will never be able to due to responsibilities like school or a lack of funds.

Santa Monica College’s Study Abroad program, however, provides an affordable opportunity to travel the world while offering educational opportunities at the same time.

The program gives students the ability to travel out of the country by signing up to a UC-transferable three unit class.

If you sign up for the class you spend a week or two in-country, then up to three weeks abroad.

This winter, students at SMC are traveling to South Africa with intercultural communications professor, Nancy Grass-Hemmert and physical anthropology professor, Catherine Haradon.

“It promises to be as intensive and mind opening as the last trip that I got the chance to go on,” said Professor Grass-Hemmert, referring to the last time she went with the study abroad program to South Africa in 2008.

“I really learned a lot with the students about the multiple aspects of what it means to be part of this global experiment called humanity,” Grass-Hemmert added.

Julian Lee, a former SMC student who recently graduated from UC Berkley in Film Studies, went with the SMC study Abroad program to South Africa in 2008, and speaks of it as a drastically life-changing experience.

“[My favorite experience] was getting to know the people,” Lee said. “The land was beautiful. I just found it great that I could actually be in a different country and grow as a person by helping others.”

Lee also describes how the trip changed his point of view on the world.

He realized he had been taking the privileges of the United States for granted.

“When you come back home you almost feel like a depression,” he said. “You start to realize things like the internet aren’t really as important as you think they are.”

In the past, only certain students were able to go, as the cost required reached up to $4,500.

Recently, however, the program attempts to be as all-inclusive as possible, offering scholarships to students who really need it.

Grass-Hemmert explained that one of the priorities of the Global Council and Study Abroad Subcommittee is to allow students of all incomes the opportunity to participate in the program. “Last time we took two students who were actually homeless. They were able to get Gilden scholarships, and additional college support so that they didn’t have to pay anything and they were able to go on study abroad. It was amazing,” she said.

The Study Abroad program hasn’t turned a blind eye to current international conflicts, taking them into account when planning trips. “We don’t just send students and faculty out to some places that are harmful, either politically or medically. We’re not going to Syria or Egypt any time soon,” Global Council Chair Eric Minzenberg said.

In addition to the three-unit class, Minzenberg and the college have put together a proposal to add a new Study Abroad class to the curriculum would only be comprised of one unit instead of the usual three. Instead of going for three weeks, students would come back after seven to ten days, in the hopes of greatly reducing the overall cost of the trip.

“It could be abroad or it could be in-broad,” said Minzenberg. “For instance, it could be going back to New York or [Washington] D.C. for politics. Someone suggested something for fashion week and different things like that.”

Currently, there’s usually only enough room allowed for 18 to 25 students at one time during a trip.

This winter’s South Africa trip filled up quickly and the date to apply has passed.

But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any opportunities coming up soon.

“We’re hoping to have one in the summer. I think we’re going to target Belize and Guatemala, which is a place we’ve gone for years and years,” said Minzenberg.

Jose GutierrezComment