Tag Archives: study abroad

The lessons and legacies of D-day

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Coalition politics. Insurgency and counterinsurgency. Human rights abuses and war crimes. Technological adaptation and innovation in the face of security challenges. These may seem like themes ripped from events in a post-9/11 world but as we walk the hedgerows in Normandy, France reflecting on this D-day anniversary we see the past and the present.

As co-director of SDSU’s graduate program in Homeland Security, the past few summers I have had the opportunity to take students to learn about these themes first-hand during a 16-day thematic study abroad course “The Lessons and Legacies of D-Day.”

In partnership with Normandy Allies, a non-profit organization which provides logistic and educational support for those wanting to learn more about the events associated with D-Day and Operation Overlord, 16 students and I have the unique privilege of being in Normandy on this D-day anniversary.

This trip allows students to get a sense of history they could never have picked up in the classroom. It is one thing for students to learn about war in the classroom but it is another thing entirely to learn about it in front of a wall pock-marked by German bullets used to execute a teenage boy in the French resistance, or to talk with a decorated American veteran who, at 19, floated to earth in a hail of gunfire so that he and his brothers could shed their blood to liberate those under the yoke of a totalitarian regime.

During the trip, students learn about the strategic, operational and tactical levels of the conflict via readings and a series of staff rides to many of the numerous battlefields of Normandy. They also meet and discuss the war and its consequences with American, British, Canadian and French veterans of the war, as well as many French civilians and resistance fighters who suffered as the battle raged around their homes.

While we are here we will also engage in a number of citizen diplomacy efforts too, joining French veteran and civic groups in laying wreaths on the monuments commemorating the sacrifice of American soldiers. On this anniversary day we’ll attend official ceremonies of remembrance occurring in the British and American sectors. This year, students are in the VIP section for a speech made by recently elected French President Hollande.

Many of these students are war veterans themselves and for them this trip can be truly cathartic. I see them reflect on their own service and connect it to the battles of past generations.

When I talk about war and security in my classes, it is not just an academic exercise. This trip helps me show them that while many things have changed, some never will.

Dr. Jeffrey McIllwain is co-director of SDSU’s graduate program in homeland security and associate professor of public affairs

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new design, same priorities

After over a year of planning, decision making, and creative designing, San Diego State launched a brand new homepage earlier this week. The finished product is functional, visually rich, and representative of all the things SDSU stands for as an institution. The SDSU homepage is often a prospective student’s first impression of their future life as an Aztec, so creating a page that captivates a viewer’s attention from the first click is exactly what needed to be done.

The new homepage positions student stories as the main focus. A screen-wide display of pictures and video links about student Veterans, personal journeys, and study abroad radiates the campus’ student-oriented philosophy. Scroll down a little farther and you’ll find a box highlighting upcoming campus events. San Diego State is a connected community that prides itself on an active and vibrant campus culture. Shared experiences like sports games and Aztec Nights foster a true sense of Aztec family.

The updated design also expresses SDSU’s enthusiasm for new media and technology. The previous text heavy page has been replaced with media rich content, including tons of videos for prospective and current students, pictures placed wherever possible, and prominent links to other online communities including SDSU YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and WordPress pages. San Diego State has always been a university that embraces new technology and strives to offer students the best resources available. The new sdsu.edu boasts a cutting edge design that is ahead of its time.

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Taking a sip from SDSU’s World Cup

Every four years, my summer gets a little more interesting, thanks to the World Cup.

Part of the fun is watching the games with others (unless they are blowing a vuvuzela right next to you, in which case, not so much). Lorena and I sometimes stop by East Commons to watch a match during our lunch break, and we’re always joined by a large  group of students and staff.  It’s here that I’m reminded of why I love the World Cup and SDSU.

Looking around the room, I see familiar faces: the usual suspects who check out each game, no matter who’s playing. Seated between them are new faces, usually supporters of a specific country that is playing that day. But there’s always a diverse group of spectators.

So far, I’ve heard Portuguese, Arabic, English, Spanish and Korean—and that’s just from the people seated directly next to me. That’s what the World Cup and SDSU have in common: they both bring together groups of people from all over the world. That and man-bands (headbands worn by men)—we’ve seen those on and off the screen.

This diverse group comes as no surprise to me as SDSU was recently ranked No. 11 in the nation for bachelor’s degrees awarded to minorities (up from No. 16 last year), according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Diversity is something we value at SDSU, not just in our campus community, but as an important lesson to teach our students.

Channel 10 recently did a story on SDSU’s emphasis on international academic experience. They interviewed one of our students who had just come back from a two-week service-learning trip to Tanzania to help improve a local elementary school library.

They also spoke with Provost Marlin, who made a great point about going abroad. While you learn so much about other countries and cultures, you also learn a surprising amount about yourself. As you explain your culture and customs to someone, you really start to think about the things that have become so routine in your life.

Of course, not all of us can study abroad or volunteer in Tanzania, but we can still enjoy our own international experience here on campus. Check out East Commons during your next lunch break. Don’t worry, man-bands are not required.


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Indian Summer

SDSU Nursing Students in Coimbatore, India

SDSU students from the School of Nursing are part of a study abroad trip to India. They've been studying Indian healthcare at PSG College of Nursing in Coimbatore, India.

In my continued efforts to live vicariously through our students who are abroad this summer, I came across one of our nursing students who has been studying in India.  SDSU senior Micaleen Fulkerson (at left center) has been in India since earlier this month with Prof. Janet Blenner and a group of nursing students at PSG’s College of Nursing. She’s been documenting her trip and it’s been fun to read.

She’s had a few Eat, Pray, Love moments (i.e. yoga in India and dancing in the streets of Jaipur with gypsies.)  And a few others that remind you that we really are a world apart — and that’s o.k. (i.e. Visiting the emergency room in a third world countrymeeting Chun-Chun the elephant).  But the real learning has happened during their rotations in the community health clinic, lectures at the Shanti Ashram and having dinner at the home of one of the Indian faculty members.

As the group rounds out their trip on a tour of India, I hope you’ll check in to see what Micaleen and her classmates are up to.

-Gina (@Gina_SDSU)

p.s. Her blog is called “Adventures of a Wyoming Girl in India” because that’s her hometown. I had the pleasure of working with her while she was president of SDSU’s chapter of Delta Gamma – of which I am an alum and adviser.  Student leader and adventurer!

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The Tanzania Experience: Jealousy

I am so jealous of our students and faculty who have the opportunity to travel this summer. But, instead of sitting in my office lamenting over my Starbucks latte, I thought the next best thing would be to share their wonderful adventures with everyone.

A number of students, faculty and others are participating in The Tanzania Experience and Dr. Al Sweedler has been sharing photos and video of their adventures so far.


Students from the Mnyakongo School in Kongwa with their new SDSU backpacks.

During the two-week program, they are helping build and install an elementary school library in an economically depressed region of Tanzania, including organizing and cataloging books, building shelving, and painting walls.

Kwonga Students

SDSU students and faculty are warmly and enthusiastically greeted by students at the Kongwa school.

San Diego State University theater professor Peter Larlham is leading the program. Over the spring semester he collected secondhand books to donate to the school which happens to be his alma mater: the Mnyakongo School in Kongwa. The school serves 800 elementary pupils from ages 7 to 12 and has no electricity.

“The small village has no library, and children have little access to information or images of a world outside of their immediate environment,” Larlham said.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these students and they’ll have so much to share with those of us who are holding down the fort here at home.


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the top 10 reasons to choose sdsu – here’s 1-5

We’ve narrowed down the countless reasons you should choose SDSU to ten solid points that show how great it is to be an Aztec. Here are reasons 1-5.

1. I want hands-on experience.

Learning at SDSU happens as much outside of the classroom as it does in it. Political science students collect food for the homeless to learn about political fundraising while other programs, like the WebCompass internship, bring together students from multiple majors to learn skills and give back to the community.

2. I want the best programs at the best price.

At SDSU there is a program for every interest. Check out these video clips of current students who found the perfect fit in their major.

3. I want to see the world.

Study abroad is a big deal at SDSU. With the help of SDSU’s advisers you are sure to find a program that fits your major, desired destination, and budget. Whether it’s an alternative spring break, 6-week summer trip, or semester long experience, time abroad gives you a chance to see the world and gain an edge in your future job search.

4. I want to make things happen.

Students were the first to take action on the SDSU Green Love initiative, which has led to the creation of an annual Earth Day celebration and a weekly Farmer’s Market on campus. The Entrepreneur Management Center recently hosted SDSU’s first-ever Entrepreneur Day that gave students a chance to showcase their businesses on campus.

5. I want to continue a legacy.

There is a good reason that SDSU alumni are so active on campus: they know it’s always a great day to be an Aztec. Aztec connections run deep to local businesses and community leaders who get you involved with internships, job opportunities, and scholarships in every area of study. With all SDSU has to offer, it’s no wonder everyone wants to be an Aztec for life.

Check back early next week for reasons 6-10 to choose SDSU. Admitted students – don’t forget that your Intent to Enroll is due by May 1! You’re spot is waiting for you, what will you do with it?

~ Desiree Roughton, Communications Student Assistant, Enrollment Services

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alternative spring break in Buenos Aires, Argentina

This spring break I, along with 14 other SDSU students, had the opportunity to spend a week studying business in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fifteen students from different backgrounds, class levels, and majors brought together in a country none of us had ever visited. This is the first study abroad program of its kind at SDSU, and all of us agreed it was a great success.

It’s hard to capture an experience like this in a few simple paragraphs. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of pictures, a lot of inside jokes, and a lot of memories. We had the opportunity to explore another side of the hemisphere while learning about more than just the tourist attractions of the city.

Monday, March 29

Group at Ketchum Argentina

Our group at Ketchum Argentina. (I'm on the far left.)

Today was our first official day of programming in Buenos Aires. First we heard from the CEO of Ketchum Argentina, a sector of one of the world’s most successful public relations firms. Public relations serves the same purpose in every country, making your company look good, but how you go about doing that all depends on the culture and people you are serving.

A representative from the American Chamber reiterated this theme by teaching us about business differences between Argentina and the United States, and we learned about some failing attempts certain U.S. companies had when trying to infiltrate the Latin American market. Our last stop of the day was at Norton Winery (they sell their unique Malbec wine at Costco), where we heard about the changing wine market, exporting globally, and then played games and toured the facility.

At night, a few of us headed to La Bomba, a drum show where many of the locals gather to hang out. It was definitely the best part of the trip so far. The intense energy and vibe of the music pumped us all up as we were immersed in the Argentinean culture. Each of us got an idea of what locals our age would normally do with friends. Here are a couple videos of the La Bomba show:

La Bomba Video #1 – http://twitc.com/Pz2vlJoy

La Bomba Video #2 – http://twitc.com/Pxr5ohPj

Tuesday, March 30

This morning we got the opportunity to tour Ford Argentina. We watched a car being built from start to finish and met some of the factory workers on the line. No doubt, it was probably the only time any of us will get to see the process up close.

We all ate together at the normal 10 p.m. Argentine dinner time. Steak in Argentina is ridiculously good and ridiculously reasonably priced, which is a pleasant escape from our normal college student food choices.

Wednesday, March 31

Group at Bimbo Bakery

Our group at the Bimbo bakery.

Today we visited another factory, Bimbo bakery. Once again we got a tour of the factory and saw the product from start to finish. Our tour guide gave us some insight into advertising for Bimbo.

In Argentina, kids don’t eat cereal or Pop Tarts for breakfast; they have toast, so Bimbo’s cuddly bear icon is the perfect tool to help with their family-oriented marketing. They loaded our tables with muffins, crackers, and other products to try, then sent each of us home with a bag of more food. Free food for college students…definitely a win.

Later we visited one of Argentina’s premiere business schools and heard a lecture from a marketing professor. Many of the foundational business practices were complemented by Argentina’s unique styles and customs.

Thursday, April 1

Group volunteering with kids

Visiting a local home for low-income kids.

Today was by far the best experience of the trip. We visted a local home where over 300 low-income children come to eat every week.

We played games, made snacks, and spent a few hours getting to know the kids. Seeing the joy of these kids who had so little inspired all of us. Having the opportunity to wrap up a week of business-style meetings by getting our hands dirty and hanging out with kids was a priceless experience.

Even though only a few people in our group spoke Spanish, we had no trouble interacting despite the language barrier. The kids were happy to have someone to talk to, whether we knew what they were saying or not.

Group at Tango lessons

Our group at the Tango lesson.

Later on we headed to a local Tango show and received dance lessons. The Tango is Argentina’s claim to fame. The passion and energy of the dance is representative of the whole culture.

We weren’t the most talented group they’d seen, but hey, we gave it a try and learned a little something to bring back to the states. Check out my Tango video to see what it was like:

Tango Video – http://twitc.com/Psc6ikUo

Friday, April 2

Our final excursion was a visit to Tigre, an area just outside of the city on a delta that connects over 500 small islands. Boat taxis and buses help people get around to shopping, school, and home. We kayaked down the river to one of the islands. Let’s just say it was an experience…some of us fell in, some ran into stuff, some ran into more stuff, but in the end we all had a pretty good time.

~Desiree Roughton, Communications Student Assistant, Enrollment Services


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