Undergraduates to present at study-abroad conferenc

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BOWLING GREEN, O.—Morocco might be an unusual destination for one’s first trip abroad, but for Emily Gunner, a junior from Oregon, Ohio, it was much more than a vacation. Gunner made the one-week capstone trip with Dr. Beatrice Guenther and classmates from her Morocco Today class immediately after the end of the spring semester.

Gunner will be among those sharing their experiences Sept. 17 during the undergraduate research conference “Embracing Global Engagement: Internships, Service- and Experiential Learning in BGSU Education-Abroad Programs.” The event is sponsored by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURS) and will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union Theater and its foyer.

While CURS does not specifically fund education abroad, it can provide support for a student’s research or scholarly activity during international study, said director Dr. Cordula Mora.

The study-abroad conference will run simultaneously with the fall Education Abroad Fair, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room. About 30 exhibitors will be on hand to provide information on study, intern and volunteer opportunities in over 50 countries around the world. 

With an introduction by President Mary Ellen Mazey, the conference will feature poster presentations and short panel discussions by undergraduates in a variety of disciplines who participated in study abroad during the 2013-14 academic year. The top presenters will receive an original glasswork by BGSU alumnus Austin Littenberg.

Adding to the international flavor of the fair and conference, student organizations will sell a variety of ethnic foods that day at the tables on the first floor of the union.

For her class final project, Gunner created a “Newsflash” about the course and what she learned in Morocco, which she will present at the conference. Formatted like a newspaper, the document touches on issues currently under discussion in Morocco such as the Moudawana, or family code, inheritance, violence and job equity.

“It was a really lovely format to highlight her experiences and the readings (current events and theoretical texts),” Guenther said. “In fact, I recommended to her that she submit her ‘Newsflash’ to the online journal of the International Studies program and think that it may very well be accepted.”

“The conference is designed to acquaint undergraduates with the process of presenting their experiences in a scholarly manner to students, faculty, community members and prospective BGSU students,” said Mora. “It will also help them build their CVs.

“Being able to have an overseas experience like the one Emily Gunner had during her recent trip to Morocco is incredibly valuable and transformative for undergraduate students. They return to BGSU full of new ideas and with their horizon having significantly expanded,” she added.

“It was a big step and a big commitment to go,” Gunner said, “but it was very eye-opening. We learned so much in only a week. Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I've made and was a great experience, which sounds cliché, but is how I feel. Morocco is always going to have a special meaning to me now.”

The Morocco Today class, an international studies/French course, spent a week in Rabat, the capital city, where each student investigated a self-chosen topic. Gunner chose gender inequality. The class visited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other groups and learned more about human rights in the Islamic country.

“Before we went, we had researched minority groups focusing on women, children and the indigenous people of Morocco known as the Berber,” Gunner said. “We also discussed refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. Near the end of the semester we pinpointed a topic that was most interesting to us and began to research it more. When we got to Morocco, we talked to people and asked questions related to our topic and got to experience firsthand how things actually are.”

Gunner’s main focus was the woman who founded an NGO to aid single mothers, an outcast population in Morocco.

“In Morocco it’s a taboo subject, and she was even accused of prostitution at one point for trying to help these single mothers,” Gunner said. “It was just amazing to be in the presence of someone who risked so much to help these women that were pushed aside in the past. Meeting and getting to talk with her was incredibly interesting, and it was also heartwarming to hear how she has been able to help all these women, even through all the struggles, to get education and support for themselves and their children.”

She also learned a lot from observing and talking with her host family, Gunner said. The parents had differing views on subjects — the mother more strictly religious and the father more liberal — and Gunner said she and her roommate felt completely comfortable discussing issues with them. “We could ask them anything,” she said.