Michelle Ludwin, For The Miami Student

(HANNAH MILLER | The Miami Student)

Imagine spending part of a month snorkeling off the coast of Costa Rica, cycling through Amsterdam, traveling around South America or attending an exquisite Italian Opera.

This is what a handful of select students get to experience this summer instead of working or spending time in a classroom setting.

Summer @ Miami University holds study abroad workshops through August for students that want field experience, the ability to earn credits and be immersed in a new culture. Myths surround the excursions.

Unless the program is major-specific, anyone can sign up and attend the trips, according to the directing faculty. The one requirement faculty ask for is an interest in the selected program. Also, previous students agree with this statement.

Senior Allie Mondini went on the workshop, Connections: Understanding Tropical Ecology and Natural History in Belize with Hays Cummins, professor of the Western program and geology and Donna McCollum, environmental monitoring coordinator. Mondini picked the workshop because of an interest in the rainforest and Central America.

“I think students should jump at the opportunity to participate in any workshop that catches their eye,” Mondini said.

Mondini benefited from choosing her trip.

“Go with the flow and you’d be surprised how those little unexpected experiences turn out to be some of the most eye-opening and memorable moments of the whole trip,” Mondini said.

Cummins had established a few ecology study abroad workshops that have lasted more than 20 years.

“Some of my best students are other majors,” Cummins said. “I enjoy watching them learn and develop over the two weeks.”

Senior Paul Duff traveled on the Tropical Marine Ecology trip. Duff said majors ranged from education to business.

“You feel as though you’re on vacation, when in reality you are planning and conducting research, learning more than 80 species of fish, and studying land use and its effect on our population and the ecosystems of the area,” Duff said.

Cummins said he is pleased when students have a strong interest in the topic and want to take the course for two or more weeks than allotted. Cummins teaches marine and land ecology in North and South American each summer.

For summer 2010, Cummins is taking his students to San Salvador to learn Tropical Marine Ecology starting out in the Florida Keys. All Cummins asks of his students? Effort.

“What I ask students to do is give me 100 percent and we will give 100 percent,” Cummins said. “Work at the level you are at, because we are seeing, reading and discussing as a group.”

Ok, yes. We are in a financial crisis. But you only get a limited number of chances to study abroad and earn credit. Without tuition, the cost to participate in the workshops range from $1,000-$3,500. Other expenses include costs for a hotel, transportation, meals, museums and specific events.

Andrea Ridilla, professor of music at Miami, is leading for the first year Culture: “A-LIVE” in Italy – Discovering Italian Opera for which students pay $1,800.

Imagine traveling all around Italy, learning about the ruins in Rome and taking your final exam on an Italian hillside.

“Some students do not know who Nero is,” Ridilla said. “So while the students learn opera, they learn history.”

Ridilla has been to Italy several times and will take students off the beaten path so they truly appreciate the culture they are being immersed in. Ridilla said she is pleased with the low cost, especially for how expensive the trip could have been.

Students can earn up to six hours of credit in a short time. Credits may also count toward the Miami Plan, thematic sequence, capstone or departmental requirements.

Brett Massie, assistant professor in kinesiology and health, is directing Critical & Reflective Practices in Kinesiology & Health this summer for the first time. Massie’s students can fulfill part of a thematic sequence or their capstone.

“It is a topical capstone which is an interest to student and could be taken during the course of the year,” Massie said. “But this way they are doing something unique.”

Ridilla’s course will fulfill Miami Plan segments such as world cultures and fine arts, while Cummins will fulfill departmental requirements and potentially Miami Plan.

Junior Lauren Graham, a student going on Massie’s trip, studied abroad last semester and is looking forward to another abroad experience summer 2010.

“I’m very excited to experience the industry in which I want to work in the future in a completely different culture than that of the United States,” Graham said. “I think this will provide invaluable experience in the athletics industry that will really benefit me.”

Graham said her experience was important.

“I think that in our global society, it is extremely important to gain experience globally,” Graham said.

Junior Kendall Ederer saw this opportunity as a time to accomplish an important requirement to graduate.

“I choose this workshop because it would give me a chance to go abroad again and see other places I missed out before,” Ederer said. “Also, I couldn’t think of a better way to accomplish your capstone.”

Ederer said she learned valuable lessons abroad.

“You will learn many valuable life experiences abroad while having the time of your life,” Ederer said.

Massie’s trip will cover part of Europe exploring in a broad sense the health and athletic industry in the European culture. Students will cycle through the Amsterdam, since that is the main mode of transportation. Amsterdam even has parking garages just for bicycles.

The group will also be meeting with the premiere soccer club in Amsterdam to see how they market for games and the medical side of the team. Other students will incorporate a business focus.

Toward the end of the trip there will be a meeting with the Olympic committee in London.

This is not the first time students studied abroad with these programs. In Cummins’ program, he has students come back for a second time, but as teaching assistants and mentors. Cummins said he is proud to have students return to teach the new ones.

Even though the mentors are there to guide the students, those couple of weeks is extremely intensive.

“There is nothing like a hands on experience,” Cummins said. “Give me 20 students out in the field and we can accomplish so much more on sight than in a classroom.”

There are spots still available for the workshops in summer 2010, and the advisers are looking for students. Ridilla, Massie and Cummins encourage students to sign up quickly because their deadlines are nearing in the next couple of weeks.

For more information, visit http://www.muohio.edu/summer.