Teaching abroad leads to new perspectives for faculty, students


Costa Rica provided a picturesque setting for teaching James Madison University nursing and health science students last May, but the experience certainly was no vacation.

“It turned out to be a lot more rigorous for us than I had anticipated,” said Linda Sobel, associate professor of nursing. “Certainly, it was teaching in a wonderful setting with students who were very motivated. So that aspect was very rewarding.”

From Costa Rica to South Korea, JMU faculty and students have spent time away from the Harrisonburg campus to learn, teach and interact with different cultures through study abroad programs. JMU currently offers more than 80 international study programs, including short-term, semester, graduate and exchange options.

In Sobel’s case, she taught a four-week nursing course to students studying nursing and health sciences. Along with the nursing course, students took Spanish language immersion courses for five days a week. Weekends were spent traveling around the country.

Study abroad provides a learning experience that opens minds and leaves students and faculty with new perspectives.

“What we want to be able to do is to provide our students with knowledge on what to do and what to say and how to act when you’re caring for someone of a different culture,” explained Sobel.

While on the trip, Sobel and her students visited a community of Nicaraguan refugees who have fled the poverty in Nicaragua to the outskirts of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.

“It’s huge for our students to see this,” Sobel said of the living conditions and how the refugees impact housing and other aspects of the area. “That is something that really makes them think, ‘How can people live in situations like this and what should we do as a society to impact that. That was something that struck me as being so profound.

Besides giving students a change of perspective, Sobel said that studying abroad lays a foundation for students and allows them to step out of their comfort zones. The experience also allows students to forge connections with what they’ve learned to what they experience.

“This experience becomes part of them, their being and there will be other experiences then that will build on that as they mature and become contributing citizens in our society, our communities,” said Sobel.

For an interactive map of the study abroad opportunities available though JMU’s Office of International Programs, click here.


By James Hong ('14), JMU Public Affairs

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Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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