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International programs: From here, go anywhere

From here, go everywhere.

Go to Ireland, China, Brazil and Vietnam. Go to Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala. TCC’s International Programs make it possible.

Tidewater Community College has long been nationally recognized for its outstanding achievement in internationalizing its undergraduate program. It is the mission of the college to promote global education, develop curricula that broadens perspectives and leads to responsible citizenship, provide professional development and study-abroad opportunities, and enhance educational partnerships.

Reading about another country’s culture, economy and educational system is one way of learning. Talking to its citizens, visiting its universities and working in its factories enhance that knowledge.

Jeanne Natali, coordinator of TCC’s International Programs, still has vivid memories of her students’ impressions when she took them to Vietnam several years ago.

“No matter how much you try to explain it to someone, when you get in the heat, the crowds, the sights and sounds and smells, then it really means something when you walk away as opposed to seeing it on television,” Natali said. “You learn firsthand what that country and a culture are really like.”

The International Program is really twofold – involving TCC students and faculty traveling abroad to learn and international students coming to TCC for their studies. A faculty exchange program is another offering; TCC has hosted faculty from Brazil and is hoping to do so again in the fall.

studying abroad in Guatemala 2010
Studying abroad in Guatemala 2010

Faculty initiatives drive the trips aboard, which can last from eight days to 3 ½ weeks. Professor Ken Spencer, program head of horticulture, took a group to Guatemala in 2010.

TCC graduate Kalynne Dakin, now studying at American University, took part in that trip and another to China.

“The program was pretty significant to me,” said Dakin, who decided to minor in Spanish after her travels. “Both trips were very important to me, helping me professionally and academically but more so personally. I took away from them a better understanding of the world.’’

Trips with Spencer typically involve a service element, such as collecting school supplies for an impoverished nation or helping the natives with a project. In Honduras, TCC students helped construct a bridge.

“We really like those programs that mix service with study because that’s where students get on the ground and talk with people and share experiences as opposed to getting on a bus and driving by,” Natali said.

Professor Sean LaCroix focused his grant-based trips on the effects of globalization, first having his students study it regionally and then taking them abroad in Brazil and China for a personal perspective. His students attended an international trade show in Shanghai, discussed recycling options with the mayor of Curitiba in Brazil and visited a Brazilian industrial park.

Professor Doris Jellig will make her 10th trip to Ireland on behalf of TCC in May. “The land of 1,000 welcomes,” she said, is ideal, especially for the first-time traveler abroad. Not only is Ireland welcoming, she said, it is rich with history, and students do not have to struggle with a language barrier.

“Students are always so impressed with the history, because our country is so young,” Jellig said. “They go and see stone from the Stone Age and bronze from the Bronze Age.”

“I’m excited to see the museums and the village life,” said TCC student Charlotte Zach, who will experience Ireland for the first time in May.

Scholarship assistance is available for students in good academic standing. In addition to the trips abroad, students generally take a hybrid class that can include journal entries, readings and a final paper.

TCC has also become a popular option for students from other countries. Currently more than 100 students from 30 countries ranging from Germany to the Ukraine to Morocco to Cambodia attend the college. Most are business administration majors.

“Our international students are a treasure,” Natali said. “It’s unimaginable how students from all over the world find us. We literally have students from all over the planet.”