Many Samford University students are taking to heart Mark Twain's classic quote that "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness."
Of the almost 1,000 students who are enrolled in the university's mid-winter Jan Term, more than 10 percent are spending part or all of the month overseas. The 133 travelers have been studying in six different countries--- Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Greece, Italy, Peru and United Kingdom. Topics range from art appreciation in London, England, to the Amazon Rainforest in Peru.
Eleven students have returned from a two-week medical missions study trip to the Dominican Republic. The group of mostly kinesiology and sports medicine majors helped provide basic medical care for local communities, each day setting up a mobile clinic in areas with limited access to medical care.
Sports medicine major Cody Russell said the service opportunity, led by kinesiology department chair Alan P. Jung, helped him clarify his purpose in life and live his faith.
"Our tool on this trip was medicine, and it was absolutely incredible to see people helped both physically and spiritually in one sitting. This trip showed me that any discipline or profession in life is a tool and a platform to reach people spiritually," he said.
The hands-on medical involvement thrilled Russell, who wants to be a physician. "Every student was able to do everything from clean a wound to give a shot," said the junior from Nashville, Tenn. One day, he said, his group saw more than 300 patients between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Sports medicine major Katie Dixon was struck by the "immense need" for medical care she found in the Caribbean nation. While many medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure are the same there as in the U.S., the people have less accessibility to good health care, she said.
"It wasn't so much the kinds of conditions that took me by surprise, but that some of the health care needs of the Dominican Republic people would be so simple to cure in the U.S.," said Dixon, who used skills learned in a fall semester lower body injury class to assist a doctor treating a patient with painful anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) symptoms.
"As we cared for the people mentally, physically and spiritually, I began to notice that all people have the same needs. No matter what language a person speaks, where they are from, or who they are, each person desires good health, to be loved and to feel like their life has value," said the aspiring physician from Lake Mary, Fla.
"It didn't matter that there was a language barrier at times because God guided our hands to do his work and to show his love. I came to find that his love can tear down more walls of 'perceived differences' than we can ever imagine."
Other future health care professionals studied in the United Kingdom, where nursing and pharmacy students learned about differences in British and American health care.
The United Kingdom welcomed the largest number of Jan Term participants. The 65 students who moved into Samford's Daniel House in London for alternating two-week stays studied topics that included international finance, geography, art and music appreciation, history, culture and politics.
In Costa Rica, 15 Spanish language students and four nutrition students attended classes at Samford's partner institute, Instituto Linguistico Conversa. They also visited volcanoes and a coffee farm, enjoyed a jungle river tour and area beaches, and participated in local traditions such as the January 12 celebration that marked the end of the Christmas season.
Eighteen students are studying the crucible of civilization in Athens, Greece, and in a first-time Jan term course, 15 students are studying 16 centuries of Italian music in Milan, Rome and Venice. Six students studied the Amazon Rain Forest in Peru.
Such Jan Term participation numbers, coupled with Samford students' ongoing interest in semester-long study abroad, has been noticed by leaders in the international exchange of people and ideas. In 2012, the Institute of International Education ranked Samford 13th out of the top 40 master's-level institutions for the university's undergraduate participation in study abroad programs. In all, Samford offers more than 50 international study opportunities.
Closer to Home
The eclectic mix of on-campus Jan Term course offerings included staples such as math and philosophy, as well as some with a novel twist.
In a literary tour of the South, English professor Mark Baggett took 9 students to visit William Faulkner's Oxford, Miss., Harper Lee's Monroeville, Ala., and Flannery O'Connor's Savannah, Ga. In the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans, La., they explored the literary influence of the blues and 20th century black migration on the literature of those regions.
English major Courtney Todd enjoyed reading works by some of America's most influential authors, and especially visiting the places that most influenced them. Her personal favorite, she said, was Eudora Welty's home in Jackson, Miss.
"Miss Welty's life in Jackson inspired much of her literary work, her photography and her visual art; which in turn, further inspired my passion for literature and southern culture," said Todd, a senior from Huntsville, Ala.
Many of Samford's 190 international students, including 155 from China, are enrolled in Jan Term classes. Some have worked in campus offices, and several will assist with orientation for 14 new international students who will arrive on Jan. 20.
The presence of the international students, as well as the mind-expanding adventures of the Jan Term globe trotters, would likely please Twain, whose related quote ends, "Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."