Florence. Seville. Aix-en-Provence. These cities, with their postcard views, abundance of cafés and sunshine, are the old standbys for study abroad locations. Western Europe and Australia remain the most popular destinations for University students, said Nicole LeBlanc, assistant director of the University’s Office of International Programs.
But tempted by cheaper travel costs and better exchange rates, more students are getting adventurous or creative with their study abroad experiences.
The 2008 Open Doors study, an annual report on study abroad trends published by the Institute of International Education, found that the overall popularity of “non-traditional” destinations like Asia, Africa and Latin American surged last year. From 2007 to 2008, the numbers of American students studying in China, South Africa and India all grew by more than 20 percent.
Below are just a few of the more unconventional options offered by the University, from study “abroad” trips you won’t need a passport for to remote locations on the other side of the globe.
The University’s five-week summer program with Université Laval is a popular choice with French students who don’t have an entire summer to spend abroad or students who don’t want to shell out the big bucks to cover the high cost of living in Paris. And although a plane ticket is probably the most practical, if you always longed to take a road trip through Ontario, here’s your chance. The campus in Quebec City is just a short 12.5-hour drive away. That’s closer than Orlando, Fla.
Bkejwanong First Nation, Lake St. Clair
Walpole Island, home of the Bkejwanong First Nation, a community of a few thousand native people, is just a two-hour drive from Ann Arbor. Located on the opposite shore of Lake St. Clair, Walpole Island is practically shouting distance from metro Detroit. The trip, which is sponsored through the University’s Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates Program, is now in the planning stages for this May. During their four-week stay on the island, students will work primarily with Bkejwanong youth, learning about Ojibwe culture and the island’s ecology.
Lakota territories in the Dakotas
Similar to the Bkejwanong First Nation trip, GIEU students will also have the opportunity to spend a month this summer on the Lakota reservation — 1,000 square miles of unrecognized territory covering parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. Under the direction of Engineering Prof. Kim Kearfott, students will work with area nonprofit organizations to measure and assess the dangers of radiation levels caused by a long history of uranium mining in the region.
Colder than Michigan:
Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl or Irkutsk)
The University has paired up with several other colleges to offer students multiple study abroad locations in Russia, including universities in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But if you’re looking for a change of climate from grey Ann Arbor, keep searching. With high temperatures hovering somewhere in the mid-20s Fahrenheit during the winter months in every single city is likely to be just as chilly as Ann Arbor during a bad week in February.
Scandinavia (Sweden, Finland)
The University participates in three different programs in the region, including partnerships with universities in Stockholm and Uppsala, Sweden and Turku, Finland. Stockholm University and Uppsala University offer a wide variety of courses in the social sciences and humanities, and the University of Turku offers business courses taught in both English and Finnish.
Sure, you’ll still need to wear a parka to class at the Université de Lausanne, but breathtaking views of Lake Geneva should help stave off the symptoms of seasonal depression. In a change from years past, students, who take a variety of liberal arts, theology and science course, now typically arrive to begin the term in mid-February. This is just in time to avoid the brunt of winter, but enough time to take advantage of Lausanne’s proximity to the Swiss Alps and hit the ski slopes.
Countries in conflict
Khon Kaen, Thailand
Through a program administered by the Council on International Educational Exchange, University students can spend a semester studying the Thai language and national issues including political and environmental tensions— fieldwork that has certainly grown more intense given the country’s recent political turmoil. Khon Kaen, in central Thailand, wasn’t a part of the eruptions of sometimes-violent anti-government demonstrations this summer and fall that, at one point, forced the closure of both of Bangkok’s airports and portions of the capital’s government district. When a court banned Thai Prime Minster Somchai Wongsawat from politics in early December, the protests dissolved and the airports were re-opened.
In past years, the University’s Department of Asian Languages and Cultures occasionally organized summer tours of the region, but the program is currently postponed indefinitely until the political climate of the region calms down. The autonomy of region has long been contested — Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has lived in exile since 1959. These tensions most recently boiled over last March when protests turned devolved into a riot violent and ended with the Chinese government instating martial law in the region. The last University trip was in 2007 when students and faculty toured monasteries and the countryside on tourist visas, said Nicole Baker, the department’s graduate program coordinator.
Semester at Sea
Who says studying abroad requires a location on land? Semester at Sea, a study abroad program with a reputation for luxury, is run from a state-of-the-art cruise ship complete with air conditioning, a piano bar and a swimming pool. The approximately three-month-long voyages earn students between 12 and 15 credits and dock at about a dozen ports across the globe. The Spring 2010 cruise includes stops in Ensenada, Mexico; Chennai, India; Naples, Italy; and Southampton, England. But the program comes with a big price tag — cabins on the Spring voyage begin at $22,395.