Bon voyage, Blue Hens
Photos courtesy of Samuel Benjamin, Leah Faulhaber and Sam Namit December 22, 2023
UD students depart for Winter Session Study Abroad
One hundred years ago, the University of Delaware community bid “bon voyage” to Professor Raymond Kirkbride and the country’s first-ever study abroad cohort as they set sail for a year-long excursion to France. This experimental program paved the way for the education abroad opportunities that tens of thousands of Blue Hens have taken advantage of over the past century.
To commemorate this milestone anniversary, the University of Delaware, with leadership from UD’s Center for Global Programs and Services (CGPS), hosted several celebrations throughout the year, from a special reception at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., where the Ambassador of France acknowledged this significant milestone among UD leadership and alumni, to the annual Global Festival connecting CGPS’ global student communities, to the first ever CGPS Spring Formal, which invited international students, World Scholars and Delaware Diplomats to a “Roaring 20s” celebration, nodding to 1923, the inaugural year of study abroad.
UD’s signature year also attracted national interest, with guest speakers including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimundo and Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Global Affairs Bill Russo visiting Newark to discuss the social and economic virtues of study abroad.
On campus, UD continued its rich tradition of global engagement through new initiatives, including an inaugural Study Abroad Storytelling Contest, in which students and alumni submitted their favorite photos, videos and stories from their international experiences. UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) also held a 10-week course this fall called “Study Abroad Stories: 100 Years,” which examined UD’s study abroad legacy by hearing from alumni, current students, program directors, CGPS leadership and University Archives. Celebrations will continue through the spring of 2024 and at Alumni Weekend this June.
“As a university, we have spent the past year reflecting on the rich history of study abroad and the important role these experiences play in internationalizing our campus,” said Ravi Ammigan, UD’s associate provost for international programs. “Continuing this 100-year tradition inspires us to carry out Professor Kirkbride’s mission to promote intercultural understanding and cultivate the next generation of world leaders.”
While only eight students joined Professor Kirkbride on the first for-credit expedition in 1923, since then the University has sent over 35,000 students and faculty to more than 90 countries and all seven continents. With the option of full-semester abroad opportunities in both fall and spring, as well as shorter faculty-led summer and winter session programs, almost one-third of Blue Hens choose to include study abroad in their four-year plans, compared to one in 10 nationally.
Winter 2024 abroad
In preparation for this upcoming winter session, CGPS collaborated with faculty directors across campus to develop 46 study-abroad programs tailored for each international location. In January 2024, 845 students with representation from each of UD’s colleges will depart for 25 different countries, studying everything from climate change in the Caribbean to health disparities in South Africa.
After an insightful experience exposing his fluid mechanics class to the shores of Melbourne, Australia in 2017, Jack Puleo decided to develop another international opportunity for civil and environmental engineering students. This winter, Puleo will lead 18 students on a four-week program in Barbados, where he has planned multiple excursions for students to observe different coastal processes.
“I wanted to take students to an island nation experiencing climate change and sea-level rise,” said Puleo, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I would like them to understand the differences between what we observe on the East Coast of the U.S. and low-lying islands like Barbados in terms of resilience and susceptibility to coastal processes.”
When junior Brenna Derby first came to UD, she did not expect that a study abroad experience would be conducive to the rigor of earning an environmental engineering degree. However, Puleo’s trip was designed in a way that not only accommodates the curriculum but also contextualizes the material through first-hand experiences.
“This coastal resilience-based trip will give me field experience collecting coastal data, something I hope to continue in graduate school,” Derby said. “As someone who loves to travel and learn about other cultures, that was another big reason I opted for the Barbados program.”
While Derby explores caves along the Eastern shore of Barbados, sophomore Harshita Datla will spend her winter session over 6,000 miles away, volunteering with children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS at a South African orphanage.
The experience is part of a sociology and criminal justice class specifically designed for study abroad, which examines two major social problems in the sub-Saharan country: crime and HIV/AIDS.
“I think I could learn a lot from these kids,” Dalta said.
Faculty director Karen Parker looks forward to exposing Datla’s cohort to the country’s history and strength through an on-the-ground look at both major issues and opportunities.
“South Africa is rich in beauty and history, including its natural resources, diversity and cultural richness,” Parker said. “This study abroad program offers students an opportunity to observe the challenges of poverty, the history of apartheid, racial inequality, and impact of dominant health issues such as AIDS/HIV while also observing South Africa’s beauty and strengths first hand, including its culture, wildlife, tribal heritage, landscape, adventure, and people. This program is truly unique in that way.”
Both students have traveled before: Datla spent last fall semester studying at the University of Auckland as a new UD World Scholar, and Derby grew up traveling around the world while her parents served in the military. Still, both students appreciated the effort their faculty directors put into the pre-departure process and preparing all students for the experience.
“Dr. Puleo has had monthly meetings with our cohort throughout the entire fall semester to prepare us for the trip,” Derby said. “He covered important information and even hosted bonding activities for us students to get to know one another. We're definitely ahead of the game thanks to his efforts.”
It is an appreciation shared broadly across UD.
“We are incredibly grateful for our dedicated team of faculty directors for the effort they put into developing these one-of-a-kind programs that set all students up for success,” said Matt Drexler, director of study abroad at UD. “Their innovation and collaboration with the CGPS team allow us to carry out this century-old tradition of study abroad. With 60 proposals already under review for the Winter 2025 session and new semester programs coming soon, this enthusiasm allows us to imagine what is possible in the next 100 years of education abroad at UD.”
From Delaware to the World
2023 marks the 100-year anniversary of study abroad, pioneered at the University of Delaware in 1923 when UD language professor and World War I veteran Raymond Kirkbride took eight students to France for their junior year. Today, UD boasts more than 100 study abroad programs in 40-plus countries and has an international student population that hails from over 100 countries.
If you would like to participate in study abroad’s 100th-anniversary celebration by supporting global learning for UD students, you can make a gift here. Please also visit the UD Abroad Blog for student perspectives on the study abroad experience.
About the Center for Global Programs and Studies
The Center for Global Programs and Services (CGPS) at the University of Delaware is home to the operations of UD Global, which includes Study Abroad, International Student and Scholar Services, World Scholars Program and Global Outreach and Partnerships. The Center provides leadership and collaborative innovation in support of all of the University's global initiatives and campus internationalization efforts, with its Global 360 Strategy serving as a roadmap for infusing international perspectives throughout the University’s scholarship, research, and service missions. Focused on a student-centered approach, CGPS provides expert advising and a wealth of global engagement opportunities to the UD campus community, including the weekly International Coffee Hour in the fall and spring semesters.