UM-Dearborn offers three new Study Abroad excursions

February 22, 2023

Experiences in Spain, Italy and Mexico will explore how cultures come together to shape a city’s history, how today’s prescriptions evolved from medicinal plant use, and sustainable solutions for waste products in communities around the world.

A UM-Dearborn Study Abroad postcard

In 1545, Italian educators created a garden to teach botanists how to identify true medicinal plants and conduct research to discover their useful properties. In 2023, UM-Dearborn pre-health students will visit the nearly 500-year old botanical garden at the University of Padua as part of a new study abroad experience.

Developed and organized by Chemistry Associate Professor Simona Marincean and Biochemistry Professor Marilee Benore, the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in Cultural Practices program will teach biochemistry students how historic natural medicine was practiced  — botanical gardens often were located outside of European hospitals — and how it evolved into modern healthcare.

“Students will learn about medicinal plants that have traditionally been used in various cultures to treat disease and illness, and how these same plants and their compounds are now used to create modern therapeutic medicines,” said Benore, who said the experience is part of the three-credit Biochemistry 113 course.

Marincean continued, “It’s important for students to have experiences outside of their culture to see how other people live. It’s also beneficial to learn how medical practices in other areas of the world often are a blend of both traditional alternative therapy with modern knowledge and technology.”

This is just one of the new study abroad offerings for UM-Dearborn students. There are also faculty-led experiences that will travel to Spain and Mexico.

These courses complement the more established faculty-led journeys going this year to Poland, Canada, Italy and Norway. Norway is a new location for Geology Professor Jacob Napieralski's Field Methods course — previously that study abroad experience rotated locations between Iceland, Cyprus, Puerto Rico and Montserrat.

Global Engagement Director Scott Riggs said a key component of UM-Dearborn’s Study Abroad Programs is that they are faculty-led. This model was implemented and expanded on campus because many students haven’t traveled internationally before or haven’t traveled alone, which makes it a more supportive experience for students.

“With faculty-led trips, students have someone there that they know and trust who will help them navigate a new country,” Riggs said. “But we have noticed that by the end of the study abroad experience, students become more independent because their confidence has grown. That is the goal — we are there to support our students so they are comfortable to try something new. And we step back into a support role when the students are ready to navigate a new culture on their own.”

Riggs said UM-Dearborn’s study abroad offerings continue to grow — and so does its student enrollment. He attributes this to interesting programs, great program leaders, and increased financial support.

“If a student wants to have a learning experience in another country, we want them to have that,” he said.  “But we know finances can be a barrier. So we look for ways to make it possible. So far this year, we’ve awarded $90,000 in need-based study abroad scholarships and aid. We offer a variety of lengths and offer programs at different times of year so that students can find an option that works for their family and work schedules. Our students have noticed and the programs are growing steadily. It’s exciting to see.”

Riggs said he hears from employers how important it is to have different cultural experiences to move up in large companies with a global presence. He said it’s beneficial so students can see the world, challenge stereotypes, learn from others and grow as a person.

“Seeing life outside of what we know helps us see how the world comes together. Having lived in another country and immersed yourself in a different culture is a key asset to solving global issues,” Riggs said. “It’s not only a huge asset for career trajectories, it’s also important for our development as human beings.”

Interested in having a UM-Dearborn study abroad experience? Check out the M-Navigator portal and reach out to Scott Riggs for a personalized advising session.

Text by Sarah Tuxbury.