The College of Social Sciences works closely with the International Services and Programs office to meet the needs of international students studying at the University of West Georgia and domestic students wishing to pursue study abroad and student exchange opportunities.
I have just returned from 5 week European Council (EC) study abroad program in Waterford, Ireland. Waterford is located on the southern coast of the island, in driving distance from outstanding countryside, coastlines, castles, churches, ancient sites and interesting cities. Waterford itself is the oldest city in Ireland, whose rich and colorful history is clearly evident in the still-standing Viking and medieval buildings and walls in the town. I found it to be the perfect location to teach Introduction to General Psychology and The Psychology of Irish Mediumship and Ghosts. General psychology was illustrated by our experiences both inside and outside of the classroom, for example in thinking about the psychology of jetlag, Irish language (Gaelic) and identity and the psychology of religion and peace. Likewise, the mediumship and ghosts class was an excellent fit to the rich folklore, unusual experiences and stories associated with this ancient land. The classes ran on Mondays and Wednesdays (at Waterford Institute for Technology), whilst Tuesdays and Thursdays were reserved for field trips. In the mediumship class, this included visits to a range of locations where we could explore how psychology might explain unusual Irish experiences, including images of halos in old churches, “green men”, apparently haunted houses and other sites associated with ghost stories and sightings of the Virgin Mary.
Studying abroad is a rich opportunity for immersion in another culture and an area of academic study. I firmly believe that studying abroad is a unique and valuable experience for both students and faculty. For students, this is an opportunity to directly experience another culture via living in another country, mixing with those who are from there and learning about the history and culture from the perspective of the Irish people themselves. Students can also earn course credits whilst traveling. In the Waterford program, students could earn up to 7 course credits, by signing up for two academic courses and a 1 credit Irish culture class. In addition, students make lasting friendships as they live in close proximity to their class mates and fellow travelers. For faculty, this is an opportunity to teach small applied classes, to see their subject matter in a different way, to undertake research and to learn about another culture from a different perspective. It is also a unique opportunity to make new friendships whilst traveling and teaching as part of this program.