The 2015 Study Abroad program to Dublin Ireland ended with a full scale photographic exhibition of student work concentrated on their community based qualitative research projects. Students were challenged to develop a series of three images (triptych) telling a narrative about their project experiences. None of the students had completed such a project before at UIC. Skills and qualities students demonstrated included but were not limited to: building rapport with their community organizations and representatives; taking quality images; considering the editorial decisions behind the camera; relating the images to the course content; determining which images would satisfy their purpose and working with Joanna Domanski, a student peer who volunteered and organized the work into Photoshop.

The exhibit was the closing event to the program and all community organizations students worked with were invited. Several students gave their work to their site representatives and UCD received other work too. The event was our farewell to UCD, Dublin, Ireland and Europe. We have received generosity and willingness from our partners. Through this event we were able to thank them for helping us achieve our goals and hopefully bringing a positive experience to them too.

Click Exhibition Handout to read the full details of the capstone experience. The photos accompanying this post were taken from a selection of images taken at the time.

Reflecting On The Program

In retrospect this program was epic! It was the first program sponsored by our college. Nobody I knew had done anything like this before and the scale, scope and range of experiences, effort and intensity was amazing. This program was supported and made possible by so many people. They included colleagues from the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, Dean’s Office of Applied Health Sciences, UIC Study Abroad and the College of Arts and Architecture at UIC. In Dublin we worked with more than a dozen organizations including UCD. Everyone gave their effort to make the program a success. It was a remarkable achievement by everyone involved.

Looking Back At The Program

Pioneering Experiences

All of us were doing this kind of program for the first time. Being first means you lay the path for others to follow. We did not know the challenges and complexities that lay ahead. One thing was true though, the test of a plan is when it meets reality. I am happy I used Roald Amundsen and not Captain Scott as my role model for this program.

Challenges Set

Standard expectations; meet your student group; live, learn, travel and work together in a professional manner. Then, imagine your professor challenges you to learn how to write photo essays; conduct quality photo shoots; work with professionals artists a photo journalist and editors to create a meaningful expression of your work. Then, they set you up to follow your own ideas; do a community based project in a strange country with people you do not know in ways you have not used before with nothing more than a vision that has yet to take shape and at best a modest knowledge of sport psychology.These were some but not all of the challenges students on this course faced and met with real quality as shown in the work posted to this website.

Community Engagement

Students were expected to follow their own interest and connect to work as closely as possible with one or more community organizations so that they could study sport psychology using qualitative research methods. They built their own relationships and made their own opportunities. This website is a testament to the level and quality of engagement students undertook. This was more than a study tour, this was a field experience that could only be created through commitment to the process by the students.

Productivity

Students on this course worked at very high levels of discipline and productivity. See the chart below, it tells part of their story. It is quite amazing what these students accomplished.

Student Productivity. They did not think they were capable of producing the required work. They proved themselves wrong. It goes to show, if you commit, do what is necessary to achieve your goals, you'll be amazed how far and how well you can go!

Student Productivity. They did not think they were capable of producing the required work. They proved themselves wrong. It goes to show, if you commit, do what is necessary to achieve your goals, you’ll be amazed how far and how well you can go!

Exhibiting Work

Imagine the challenge of producing content grounded work for public consumption and scrutiny every week in image, text and in combination. It shows the fearlessness of students that they were willing despite their fears to do this. For courage to be shown, fear has to be present. By the end of the course, even those students who were a little anxious about their work quality finished by being brave with their work and the way they went about it. The final exhibition outlined in the handout above was the capstone project. From never having any work exhibited ever before to have it done in Dublin and then giving the work back to the community…what a story to tell!

Skills Developed

Where do I start with this? Well on a personal level students had to cope with the content, challenges and the characters around them. They had to organize themselves to prioritize their goals, activities and manage their effort to accomplish both. Academically speaking, students set goals, researched, wrote, presented, exhibited, discussed, evaluated, interviewed, documented, recorded, analyzed, read, created, developed and implemented their plans. Students used and developed these skills in tandem with the interpersonal concerns they had with their community groups, each other, Arin and me. It is hard to quantify the strength and range of skills developed, but a journey around this website gives you clues to the applied skills these students developed and used.

Closing Notes

I wanted to lead a top quality program but any program is only as good as its people. I think you will appreciate the quality, purpose and effort of UIC students by spending a few minutes navigating and learning about this program’s students and the organizations that welcomed them so openly. These students and organizations made this a great program and one we can be proud we participated in.

Lastly, my teaching assistant Arin Weidner provided exceptional support and this program would not have been as successful as it was without her effort and quality.

Looking Ahead To Barcelona 2016

Barcelona promises to provide a fantastic program! It will be quite different but no less challenging than the Dublin experience. The focus of the experience will be founded upon the World Health Organization’s Healthy Cities initiative. There will be plenty of experiential and research opportunities through the study of mood, movement and the Mediterranean Diet. The course will be 6 credit hours of intensive study and can be used as a substitute for KN335, Exercise psychology. Photography and writing like the contributions made by students in this program will be expected.

If you are a UIC student reading this, I hope you will apply to participate in 2016. If you are not a UIC student, I hope this post encourages you to visit the blogs of this program’s participant’s and see what a short term study abroad program can accomplish.