TROY students experience new cultures in study abroad trips

301 students took part in study abroad trips or exchange programs in the last year.

301 students took part in study abroad trips or exchange programs in the last year.

Just over 300 Troy University students seized one of many opportunities to study abroad during the 2022-2023 academic year, thanks in large part to the Chancellor’s Award for Global Competitiveness (CAGC).

The Chancellor’s Award aims to foster international awareness and better assimilation of Troy University students in the worldwide work place while providing the financial assistance to make that goal a reality.

Sarah McKenzie, Study Abroad Coordinator, said the scholarship has grown over the last few years from $500 to the current $1,250 offering.

“It increased because it’s an important initiative to the Chancellor. He and his administration want to make it as easy as possible and incentivize students to go,” she said. “On average, most of our trips cost around $3,000, so $1,250 knocks off a third of that cost. It still sounds like a lot, but no one is going to give you that opportunity at that price once you leave TROY. Chancellor Hawkins wants everyone to have the opportunity to go if they want to.”

The CAGC is open to all TROY students, both undergraduate, graduate and online, who have successfully completed one full semester at TROY, are registered full time, are in good academic standing, possess a minimum overall GPA of 2.5 and have completed the TroyAbroad application, which includes the CAGC forms.

Over the 2022-2023 academic year, 301 students took advantage of the 15 faculty-led trips to 16 different locations with 15 students participating in an exchange program in six locations. The TROY men’s golf team also traveled to Nassau, Bahamas to conclude its 2022 fall season, marking the first time in program history the golf team played outside of the continental United States. In addition to competing in the NCAA Invitational, the team hosted a junior golf clinic with local youth to help grow the sport internationally. 

The choral performing in a church in Toronto.
The choral group performed solo in a church as well as at a music festival in Toronto.

Additional travel spots included Cuba, Costa Rica, Spain, South Africa, Benelux, London, Paris, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Greece, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, South Korea, Austria, the United Kingdom, Pietrasanta and the Digging Vada archaeological site in Tuscany. 

In June, Dr. Hui-Ting Yang, Interim Director and Professor for the School of Music, and Dr. Scott Sexton took 19 choral students to Toronto, Canada, to participate in a choral festival. Sexton said this was the first study abroad trip for the choral program in nearly 50 years.

“For most of the students, this was their first time out of the country, so we felt like Canada was a good first step,” he said. “This experience for me is two-fold: it’s the start of hopefully a continued international experience, and it showed that you can use music in so many different ways: for performance and to bring people together.”

Over six days, the group was able to work directly with a guest composer and two high school choral programs from Colorado. The TROY group was also able to perform two solo concerts, one at an outdoor festival in a Toronto suburb that attracted nearly 100,000 people and another in a church. 

When not collaborating with other music-minded students, the group had the opportunity to visit the CN Tower and Niagara Falls. 

Mia Sanchez, a junior music education major from Panama City, Fla., said it was amazing to see a place to similar to America, but so different in the diversity of culture.

“Performing in spaces that were completely different, performing with different people and getting to work with a composer was an incredible experience,” she said. “My big takeaway was how universal the choral experience can be.”

Yang said she was proud of how the students conducted themselves and that she hopes they’ll continue to have open minds and pursue a deeper understanding of music from other cultures.

“Not only for academic purposes, it’s a really great experience for each student to have some cultural experience and I’m extremely proud of each of them,” she said. “They showed professionalism and artistry through their performances and through their interactions with the guest conductor, faculty and the other performance groups. I can see that the leadership is really clearly there.”

Troy nursing students pose in a clinic in the Dominican Republic.
Students were able to visit several hospitals and clinics in Ocoa.

From May 22-29, Dr. Shunda Wilburn, Assistant Professor of nursing, led a group of seven students to San Jose de Ocoa, Dominican Republic. Commonly referred to as just Ocoa, the communities the group serviced were all located in the southern region of the Central Cordillera mountain range. 

The trip had a heavy focus on community-based healthcare and coincided with a course on nursing in the international community. The students visited a school for special needs children, several local hospitals and community clinics. After being set up in a local school, students were able to perform blood pressure checks, height and weight checks and blood sugar checks, and they also assisted nurses at a nearby nursing home with meal times and changing bed linens. 

The group was housed in the upper living quarters of a schoolhouse that was also home to an English immersion program. Wilburn said this was an incredible exposure for her and her students, despite living without the amenities many Americans have become accustomed to like air conditioning, hot water and stoves.

“Our resources are different from their resources, but they’re still able to maintain,” she said. “They still have healthy children, they’re able to get assistance and supplies. We saw a totally different way of living, and these people are content. They have clothes, they have a way to get around. Living in the mountains, you really rely on what’s around you.”

One of the communities the group visited, Los Martinez, is currently undergoing redevelopment. The new community features a few homes—with more planned—and a large garden with coffee beans, mangoes, avocados, bananas, sugar cane, soursop and other native foods that are freely shared between the households. A well system with plastic pipes was also implemented to deliver water from the top of the mountain to the neighboring communities. 

Anna Leigh Rushing, a junior nursing major from Troy, said getting to be a part of the community and seeing how people live every day was one of her favorite parts of the experience.

“The mountains in the Los Martinez community were beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “They offered us mangoes and coffee beans. We took a hike around the community and saw all the plants they grow; you felt one with the earth, honestly. It was very, very full of life. And every single person was so kind.”

For more information on TROY’s study abroad programs, contact McKenzie at troyabroad@troy.edu or call 334-808-6128.

The choral study abroad group poses for a group photo with a TROY flag
The choral group was one of several to represent TROY abroad over the 2022-2023 academic year.
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