Carly MacLennan, a senior studying health education, knew she wanted to attend a study abroad program before the end of her college career. The only problem was that none of the available programs complemented her specific area of study.
“Most study abroads focus on subjects like art and history,” MacLennan said. “Those are subjects I’m not really interested in and didn’t need them for school.”
Instead of settling for a pre-approved program, MacLennan took matters into her own hands and proposed a study abroad idea to her health behavior change professor.
“I asked him if there was any kind of study abroad program that had to do with body image, health perspectives in other parts of the world as well as cultural and eating habits of various cultures,” MacLennan said.
Her professor said there wasn’t and then submitted a proposal to the International Study Programs (ISP) committee for evaluation.
MacLennan received an email in July 2015 stating the proposal was approved. The following summer, she attended what is now listed as the Europe Public Health study abroad.
The Summer 2016 program consisted of 30 students and directors Cougar Hall, Josh West and Ben Crookston. The group studied how environment affects health while traveling to various countries including Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands. They also visited Paris, Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam and London.
“We stayed in smaller cities in order to get more of a feel of the culture and environment,” MacLennan said. “I got to go abroad and study exactly what I wanted and what I was passionate about.”
MacLennan said the program participants learned about locals’ perspectives on food, exercise and wellness by talking to them and visiting farmers markets. They also took cooking classes in Siena, Italy, and helped a Swedish church member with her garden.
International Study Programs director Lynn Elliott said the Europe Public Health program was a success. The program will continue next year, he said.
The ISP program evaluation committee comprises of associate deans representing various colleges across campus. They receive about 15 to 20 proposals a year.
“We look over the logistics side and then the form is sent to an academic oversight committee for ISP that overlooks the academic content and makes sure there is a certain standard across campus,” Elliott said. “Once we both approve it, we will create a flyer and start advertising the program.”
The process of getting a program approved takes about two to three months, but it can go faster if the academic department has a detailed outline clearly stating the learning outcomes.
“There’s no harm in asking,” MacLennan said. “It’s hard getting a study abroad, but why not ask? Maybe no one’s thought of your idea before.”