Global Diseases Cultural Experiences

hac in Cameroon
Heather A. Cook '02 studying parasite infections in Cameroon, Africa

To help others effectively, experiencing the people and the environment in which they live has a value far beyond what one can find in a book. A situation is much more real if one is present, and therefore one’s dedication to a particular cause would be enhanced. Students interested in completing the Global Diseases minor are required to spend at least one week in a foreign land where they will learn how others live and see the problems the residents face; international students may have already fulfilled this requirement. Each student thesis, a requirement for the capstone course, will build upon this cultural experience. To ensure that a cultural experience satisfies the requirement of the minor, a student must complete a brief proposal & approval form, and ultimately receive written approval from the director of the Global Diseases program. Prior to departure, forms administered by the Office of Global Initiatives and International Programs must be submitted.

Value of a Cultural Experience

  • To address the needs of the less fortunate, it is valuable to learn firsthand what these people are facing. There is only so much that one can learn from a book or a news broadcast.
  • If working to effectively help a community deal with an epidemic, one must understand the culture. Approaches used in the United States would likely not work in Sierra Leone.
  • There are no barriers to disease, and globalization is here to stay. A global perspective can increase one’s efficacy.
  • The more one travels, the more one becomes aware and interested in regions around the world. Each trip will likely lead to another.

Joining others during a normal day; an experience not found in a textbook.  [Liberia, Africa]

Examples of Past Experiences that Would Fulfill the Cultural Experience Requirement

  • Heather A. Cook ’02 (Genetic Engineering); Cameroon, Africa; Earthwatch Institute; extended spring break 2001 (~2 weeks)
  • Jessica Simmons ‘02 (Biology); Queensland, Australia; The School for Field Studies; semester 2001
  • Cheryl Parrott ‘04 (Biodiversity & Conservation Biology); Kenya, Africa; Study Abroad; semester 2003
  • Nicole R. Fox ’07 (Anthropology), Kenya, Africa; Study Abroad; spring 2007
  • Alexis Hart '12 (Biodiversity & Conservation Biology); Bhutan; The School for Field Studies; summer 2010
  • Devan Turcotte '11 (Social Work), Ananda Weaver '12 (Art) and others; faculty-led, 10-day trips to regions of the world, e.g., Egypt (winter break/A. Richardson), India (spring break/A. Richardson); Great Britain (spring break/R. Amico, L. Fletcher and C. Pulham)
  • Katriana Garcia '12 (Biochemistry); Cusco, Peru; International Student Volunteering Program; spring semester 2011

Characteristics of a Cultural Experience for the Minor

  • One week or longer, though not necessarily in one community.
  • Significant interaction with members of the community beyond those associated with the tourist industry.
  • A location and culture of interest to the student. The capstone course for the minor (spring semester senior year), including the student’s thesis, will focus on this experience.
  • A diary must be kept during the travels; it should include at least comments about the culture, the people, the living conditions of the people, and if possible, health-related observations. The notes should facilitate the writing of one’s thesis.
  • Taking photographs judiciously during one’s cultural experience is highly recommended. These will be integrated into one’s thesis presentation and written document. They will also be available for the annual event: An Evening of Cultural Experiences.
  • Recommended travel date: preferably during the junior year or the following summer. The experience must be completed before participating in the capstone course, which is taken spring semester of the senior year.
Last Updated: 8/10/11