Stockholm course exposes students to media, environment

Sophomore Clinton Rodriguez took classes with fellow UM students in Stockholm last summer. There he was able to research the technological advances that have made Sweden one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world and then write a story about it for The Miami Planet, an online environmental newspaper.

Now in his third year of leading summer abroad programs, journalism professor Joseph Treaster takes groups of students to Stockholm and the Galapagos, where they can earn six credits over the summer, write stories about the environment, and immerse themselves in the cultural experience.

The Stockholm and Galapagos programs are two of the more than 50 options for University of Miami students looking to study abroad over the summer. And summers abroad are becoming an increasingly popular alternative for students as early as the end of their freshman year.

In fact, the most recent statistics from the Institute of International Education show that the percentage of students participating in summer or short-term study abroad programs rose, while the percentage of a those who go abroad in the fall or spring dropped in 2010-2011.

“One of the major advantages of a summer abroad program over a fall/spring semester program is that it allows anyone to be able to go abroad and still graduate on time,” said sophomore Megan Dettmer, who went to the Galapagos after her first year at UM. “There are some majors where the class requirements make it very difficult to fit in an entire semester abroad.”

Dettmer, a public relations and theater arts major, added that a summer abroad can also allow students to experience a new country without having to commit to living there for half of the year, which some students may find a plus.

In these total immersion programs, lectures are never taught in a classroom. Instead, they focus on real-life learning, according to Treaster.

“Ideas are just swimming around you all the time,” he said. “So if we go to see the Director of the Environment and Health for the City of Stockholm, which is one of our field trips, then we go to lunch afterward at some big, gigantic barn of a delicatessen where every imaginable food from Sweden is, and we’ll be talking about what we just heard from this man.”

The programs in the Galapagos and Stockholm are two and three weeks long, respectively.

“They all have the virtue of giving you a condensed experience, so that you can take a summer abroad program, have that experience, and still do an internship or still work somewhere,” he said.

However, it is not difficult to get a lot of learning done in this short amount of time.

“Even though we produced a lot of work and had many assignments in those two weeks, the work was never overwhelming,” Dettmer said about the Galapagos. “It never even really felt like doing work because the work was intertwined with exploring and experiencing the islands.”

Rodriguez felt that the program in Stockholm exceeded his expectations and gave him a newfound appreciation of the environment.

“It created a deeper interest in journalistic endeavors,” said Rodriguez, a broadcast journalism major. “It also greatly influenced my interest in the environment as something I had not been interested in before but something that I continue to research now.”

Rodriguez will be doing another program this summer.

“Not only are they fascinating experiences but culturally, they allow you to gain a worldliness that I find incredibly important,” he said.