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Kinesiology Trip to New Zealand One of Many Examples of How LSU Study Abroad Helps Students Get a Global Experience

Twenty-two LSU undergraduate students participated this summer in the College of Education Department of Kinesiology's Study Abroad Program in New Zealand. In addition to 14 Kinesiology students, other majors represented included biology, business, elementary education, engineering, mass communication and political science.

Twenty-two LSU students traveled to New Zealand this summer for kinesiology credit through the LSU Office of Academic Abroad. Here, the students pose in front of Milford Sound.

This was the university's first academic study abroad trip to New Zealand.

"We chose New Zealand because it is a country that boasts a very physically active culture," said Laura Stewart, an assistant professor in the department's division of exercise physiology. Stewart's husband Russell Carson, an assistant professor in the department's division of pedagogical and sport sciences, directed the program.

The students and professors visited Christchurch, Mount Cook, Te Anau, Milford Sounds, Queenstown, Fox Glacier, Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura on the South Island. On the North Island they visited Wellington, Tongariro National Park, the scene of Mordor and Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings movies, Waitomo, Rotorua and Auckland.

"I liked that we were able to see the entire country while taking the study abroad classes," said Cory Cortez, a kinesiology major from Ponchatoula, La. "Without seeing the culture and the way that the people act, the course material wouldn't have made a lot of sense."

Each student earned six credits from two classes: Kinesiology 3660, the Holistic Health Approach to Stress, and Kinesiology 4501, Contemporary Issues in Oceania Sport and Culture. Class sessions were held on the bus, in hotels and outdoors.

Contemporary Issues in Oceania Sport and Culture is similar to, but more in depth than, a course conducted here on campus, Kinesiology 2530, Sport and Society, as the students are able to experience and critically observe the sport and physical activities available in another country. By doing so, it becomes easy for students to make comparisons to their own sport experiences and those popular in the United States. Discussions and critical reflections on socio-cultural dynamics and historical perspectives in contemporary Oceania sport, including the symbolic experiences, ideological meanings and historical significance of sport and physical activity involvement, were largely based on visits to a variety of sport and physical activity settings.

"I truly enjoyed this class," said Cortez. "Through Dr. Carson's teaching methods and his enthusiasm about the subject matter, it was easy to learn. One of my favorite events was when he took us to see a rugby match.We weren't expecting to enjoy it very much, but when the game started, we were all enthralled."

"We spent a lot of time discussing the differences and similarities in sport and physical activities across cultures and why they exist," added Carson. "Sociology of sport classes are common to kinesiology departments, but not to this degree, another advantage of experiential learning."

The holistic health approach to stress course, taught by Laura Stewart, is similar to the course on campus, but there are many opportunities to utilize the skills and concepts that they learn about in the class. For example, outside of class, many students participated in extreme activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping and river sledging – which is similar to white water rafting without the use of a raft – and were able to use their new stress management techniques to successfully complete these activities.

"I really enjoyed Dr. Stewart's incorporation of our bodies' stress responses to our hikes on mountains and glaciers into her lectures because she explained to us what we were experiencing in regards to soreness and fatigue," said Kyrie Deslatte, a kinesiology major from Lafayette, La.

While they were traveling, the students were able to engage in some other activities outside of their classes that are unique to New Zealand, such as blackwater rafting, which is rafting in a cave; skyline luging or go-carting down a mountain; swimming in natural thermal springs; observing and learning more about rugby; and experiencing Maori culture and language.

Outside of class, the students were able to explore New Zealand's diverse terrain, such as the Southern Alps.

The students also were provided opportunities for activities outside of class time, including skydiving; hang gliding; bungee jumping; zorbing, which is rolling downhill in an orb; shweebing, or recumbent cycling in a one-person monorail; and horseback riding.

"I really learned a lot more than I expected. Not only did I learn a lot from the classes, but I learned a great deal about a different culture and expanded my outdoor experiences," said Matt Abboud, a kinesiology major from Port Allen, La. "I even got the opportunity to swim with sharks in a shark cage!"

Carson and Stewart are strong advocates of experiential learning as opposed to sitting in a classroom memorizing academic content.

"I loved the trip. I felt like the class content was incorporated perfectly into the agenda of the trip, and the activities were not only fun and action-packed but very relevant to the curriculum," said Elizabeth Carmena, an elementary education major from Baton Rouge.

Deslatte agreed. "The classes were incorporated into the activities and made the experiences interesting and useful," she said. "The people, the classes and the activities all culminated into a really unique and amazing experience."

This course was offered to LSU and non-LSU students who paid the program fee and LSU summer tuition. It is offered every two years, with the first program having been conducted in Italy in 2008. Potential destinations for 2012 include Australia, Scandinavia and the Canadian Alps.

"This study abroad experience can help students make informed choices about their sport participation and the place of sport in their lives and U.S. culture. As a result, students will hopefully look beyond the scores and winning tied to sport and see sport as a manifestation of society," said Carson. "I wouldn't be surprised if this course transforms the way students think about and participate in sport and physical activity in the future."

The LSU Office of Academic Programs Abroad helped facilitate this kinesiology trip, and can provide a gateway for any student who would like to spend time studying in another country. Academic Programs Abroad offers students the opportunity to learn more about other cultures while still working towards the fulfillment of their degree requirements.

Students can take art classes in Ireland. Business classes in China. Agriculture classes in Thailand. In all, LSU offers more than 20 different summer abroad options, giving students the opportunity to study in places as far-flung as France, Morocco and Tanzania. There are three options for students who wish to study abroad: Summer Programs, International Exchanges and the National Student Exchange program.

Students of any major with a 2.5 grade-point average or higher and at least 30 credit hours can go on a National Student Exchange for one semester or an academic year to more than 180 universities in the continental U.S., as well as Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Guam and Canada. Students go for various reasons: they enroll in courses that LSU might not offer, do research on a different region of the country, explore their graduate school options or simply want to have a different experience. National Student Exchanges normally cost no more than it costs to go to LSU, and TOPS and other types of financial aid apply.

A large number of International Exchange opportunities are open to students with at least a 2.75 GPA . Students have the opportunity to study either in English or a foreign language, depending on program location. In most cases, students pay LSU tuition as they would normally pay for a semester on campus and, in some cases, students also pay LSU room and board costs as they normally would during a semester at LSU. Additionally, most financial aid, including TOPS, may be applied to an international program and students can apply for scholarships to study abroad.

Directed and designed by LSU faculty members, Summer Programs take students to destinations all over the world. For example, in summer 2010, destinations included countries such as Spain, Morocco, Ireland, Greece and Tanzania. Courses included English, political science, mass communication, dance, language instruction, social work and history. Encounter Engineering in Europe, which took place in Germany was a new addition this year. Summer programs last from four to six weeks, and students take six hours of credit in LSU courses. For the student with summer commitments, there are opportunities to study abroad with LSU programs during spring break and intersession. Summer programs range in price from $3,000 to $5,000, which includes housing, meals and any excursions that are part of the program.

Students will have an excellent opportunity to learn about LSU's various Study Abroad Program's during the Study Abroad Fair, which will be on Oct. 18-19. For more information on Academic Programs Abroad, visit the office in 103 Hatcher Hall, call 225-578-6801 or visit the website, www.lsu.edu/studyabroad.