Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

OMA&D Study Abroad Programs Broaden Student Horizons

Expanding World Views. It’s the Washington (and OMA&D) Way.

A group of OMA&D students pose in front of the University of French Polynesia in Tahiti

At the heart of the University of Washington’s Vision and Values statement is the idea of educating a diverse student body to become responsible global citizens. With five OMA&D-sponsored study abroad programs available to students, the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity is doing its part to expand the world views of current Huskies.

Programs are often offered in conjunction with various UW academic departments such as the two newest study abroad opportunities in Barbados (communication) and Ghana (social work). By participating in these programs, students will have the opportunity to embark upon a comparative ethnic and media studies analysis of the Black diaspora in Cave Hill, Barbados or examine race and identity development in Accra, Ghana.

Other OMA&D study abroad programs include trips to Brazil, Rome, and Tahiti. According to Val Espania, interim director of OMA&D Counseling Services and staff lead for the Tahiti program, students take away invaluable lessons from their experiences abroad.

UW students arriving in Tahiti

“Students will say that Tahiti allows them to be introspective and reflective, as our course material pushes on ideas and thoughts of how others, as well as ourselves, are living,” Espania said. “We build community through how we structure the trip: all staying together under one roof, small learning teams and KP duty. And the beauty of Tahiti strikes a chord within everyone who participates in our study abroad.”

The focus of the Tahiti course is for students to develop an understanding of the interconnections between this remote region in the Pacific and other islands that may be a part of the Polynesian diaspora. Students explore historical, geographic and cultural issues and engage in conversations about identity and place, cultural diffusion, and notions of community.

Fitradin Shanle, a junior political science major and a 2011 EOP Celebration scholarship recipient, participated in the 2009 OMA&D study abroad program in Tahiti. Shanle was drawn to the program because it was administered through OMA&D.

“It was a very enriching experience,” Shanle said. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity where I could see firsthand the effects of the academic material we were studying. We were able to move beyond sociological theories and have the theories applicable to our environment. It was a learning experience that moved beyond the classroom and gave me academic traveling experience.”

Because study abroad programs include added expenses, financial support is a key factor that allows students to be able to take advantage of these opportunities in the first place.

“Financial aid is paramount to these students having the ability to travel,” Espania said. “Even though scholarships are available, of the 47 students we have taken, only seven have received any kind of support through a scholarship.”

To help students like Shanle afford study abroad opportunities, please visit the OMA&D giving web site and look for the Foreign Student Activities Fund.