Marymount University Turns Spring Break Into a Global Classroom

It’s one thing to read about East Asian politics in a textbook. Discussing the topic with citizens of the Republic of Korea takes the subject to a new level, as a group of Marymount University students learned over spring break.

“I now understand so much of their mindset and traditions,” said Austin Bloom from Cleveland, Ohio, a senior majoring in economics. “I feel like this trip made me a more global and understanding citizen of the world.”

Bloom was one of 125 Marymount students who took advantage of the university’s annual Global Classroom Series, which involved a weeklong international trip over spring break as part of a three-credit, full-semester course. She and her classmates traveled to Seoul, visited the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, spoke with a diplomat and met North Korean refugees.

She also learned about Korean culture.

“Korean people are extremely mindful of rules and where they fit within the society,” Bloom said. “They place so much emphasis on their achievement and will do anything to move up. I see how this attitude has gotten them to where they are today, but it made me appreciate U.S. culture as well, where we are not afraid to fail and try new things. I think both cultures have a lot to learn from each other.”

This year’s Global Classroom Series offerings also included five other classes:
    • Literary Nonfiction, Spain
    • The Fashion Industry and its Promotion, London
    • Applications in Human Performance, Northern Ireland
    • Entrepreneurship, The Netherlands
    • Information Technology, Estonia and Finland.

While Bloom has also spent a semester in Brazil, six weeks in Oxford, England, and a previous spring break in Rome while at Marymount, for 40 of the Global Classroom participants, this year’s trip was their first abroad.

“Traditional semester study abroad programs are out of reach for many of our students for various reasons, including logistical and financial ones,” said Victor Betancourt-Santiago, executive director of Marymount’s Center for Global Education. “The one-week abroad field experience lowers these barriers, making global experiences far more accessible for a greater number of students.”

The school ensures that the program is affordable. The $1,100 fee includes round-trip airfare, ground transportation, accommodations, entrance fees to all required site visits and cultural activities, daily breakfast and international health insurance coverage.

For many students who work, have families or are athletes, it’s difficult to spend a full semester out of the country. Allison Novak, a sophomore majoring in fashion merchandizing, is a commuter.

“It was a great experience for getting to know my classmates,” Novak said of her trip to London. “Making new friends in this incredible place was something I never thought would be so absolutely rewarding and great.”

She was amazed by the classic styles she saw.

“I was able to see, first hand, how people from the other side of the world are interpreting the subject that I love so much,” she said.

She hopes to someday work in the city.

Dr. Katie Lyn Peebles, an assistant professor of English, took 20 students to Spain to focus on travel writing. They explored Madrid and Galicia, where they visited Santiago de Compostela, home to the shrine of St. James the Greater, which has attracted pilgrims for more than 1,000 years. They spent several days walking part of the Camino de Santiago – also known as the Way of St. James.

“It was amazing how enthusiastic the students were for walking and seeing everything around them once we got on the pilgrimage trail,” Peebles said. “We maybe had one student pull out an iPod. Everyone else was fully absorbed.”

Dr. Michael Nordvall took a class of seniors in health science to Belfast, where they learned about the University of Ulster’s sports outreach programs.

“It was a great experience to interact with students outside of the classroom and see them get out of their comfort zone in many situations,” Nordvall said. “We had quiet students who were able to engage with individuals and really come out of their shells.”

For more information about Marymount’s Global Classroom Series, go to

Photo Captions:    

Photo 1
Dr. Chad Rector addresses the students in his Politics of East Asia class while visiting the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.

Photo 2
Marymount University students April Westmark, James Decker, Vincent Nicosia, Joshua Shifflett and Ellie Sennett take advantage of the mass transit offered in Seoul, Korea. They studied East Asian politics during spring break as part of the university’s Global Classroom Series.

Photo 3
Marymount University students Danielle Hogan, Nicole Moreno, Faithe Lindsey and Natalie Phillips on a recent trip to Northern Ireland as part of the university’s Global Classroom Series.

Photo 4
Lisa Priebe, a senior at Marymount University, is shown at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. The Health Information Management major recently returned from a study abroad class in Belfast.

Photo 5
Marymount University students Rosie Diaz and Eva Anderson spent their spring break in Spain as part of a literary nonfiction class offered in the school’s Global Classroom Series.