Image from King’s College Facebook The summer study abroad program entitled “Balkanization and Integration” took students to various locations throughout Turkey and Istanbul, including Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.
Image from King’s College Facebook
The summer study abroad program entitled “Balkanization and Integration” took students to various locations throughout Turkey and Istanbul, including Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.

Study abroad programs provide learning opportunities otherwise not found in the classroom. This summer, King’s College students travelled to Bulgaria and Turkey to learn firsthand what those countries are like.

Ten students went on the trip, which was co-led by Dr. Bridget Costello, professor of sociology at King’s College, and Dr. Cristofer Scarboro, professor of history at King’s. The duration of the trip was three weeks with the time split evenly between the two countries.

The trip, as with any other study abroad, was like a classroom outside of the classroom. Students were able to learn from firsthand experience, which enabled them to develop a personal connection with the material, allowing for a more engaged learning process. Costello said that students can be lectured and taught, but the material really clicks when they can see what they are studying in person.

“As a professor, you usually have to take it on faith that people are learning,” Costello said. “You don’t get a lot of chances to see learning happen as it’s happening. On study abroad you see it all the time, which is kind of incredible as a professor.”

Studying a foreign culture in person can be a very successful way to learn, and students get to experience more than just the academic subject matter. Matthew Kropp, a King’s College student who participated in the trip, said it allowed him to see himself from a global perspective.

“It really helped broaden my worldview through meeting many different people with different backgrounds, cultures and experiences,” Kropp said. “It taught me that I can find my way and hold my own in almost any city in the world.”

The program gave the students a chance to think about their own cultural identity, allowing them to go somewhere foreign and ask questions about what they experience. Then the students are able to ask those same questions about their own culture.

“One of the things that study abroad does is give you a basis for comparison,” Costello said.

Cultures can be hard to understand in a classroom, because a culture needs to be experienced in order to fully understand it. The cultural element makes a study abroad trip more than just taking a vacation or learning in the traditional classroom setting. Kropp said it was all about hands-on learning and learning through experience.

“The students on this trip wouldn’t have had nearly as much understanding of the social conflicts and battling ideologies that fought over Bulgaria and Turkey if we weren’t there to see it for ourselves,” Kropp said.

There is something about seeing something with one’s own eyes and experiencing the subject matter firsthand that provides an educational experience that is entirely unique.

“It’s a different kind of learning,” Dr. Scarboro said.

Scarboro said learning in the study abroad environment is extremely beneficial. It provides perspective, and, as a result, Scarboro believes it should be part of the core curriculum.

“The study abroad experience is fundamental to education as I understand it,” Scarboro said. “What we are doing is asking students to read the landscape. Study abroad allows you to ask questions about your own society and your own social structure in ways you may have not been able to if you had not gone on one of these programs.”

Kropp said there are a multitude of benefits to having gone on a study abroad trip.

“It builds your character, makes you more of a global citizen, gives you an opportunity to experience something you may never have the chance to do again, looks great on a resume and ends up being a wonderful conversation piece around family and friends,” Kropp said. “There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Studying abroad is something every student should seek to be a part of. “If the chance is there, take it,” Kropp said.