Colorful buildings and boats line the Nyhavn Canal in Copenhagen, Denmark at sunset.

Associate Dean Prizes Faculty-led Study Abroad Programs for Students’ Global Literacy

  • Feb 26, 2024

[Editor's Note: This article celebrates the spirit of International Study Abroad Day, which aims to raise awareness for the lasting impact of study abroad for student travelers, university and college campuses, and the global community.] 

At the College of Education, Professor John Bartholomew’s dedication to international awareness has put him at the forefront of faculty-led study abroad initiatives. These programs provide students with opportunities to explore new cultures and expand their understanding of the world around them while they pursue studies in their majors. 

Dr. John Bartholomew poses for a portrait

Currently the associate dean for Academic Affairs and formerly chair of the Kinesiology and Health Education (KHE) Department, Bartholomew has served as a longstanding advocate for initiatives that cultivate students’ understanding of global health and wellness. When he became department chair, Bartholomew said, he realized there were “no study abroad options developed for KHE majors.” 

A dedicated faculty member and mentor, he’s a major proponent of cultivating comprehensive international perspective among students and their immersion in cultures and populations worldwide. He spearheaded the department’s first course in Sydney, Australia, in 2012, and went on to teach courses in Lausanne, Switzerland.  

He is now leading a course with Associate Professor Thomas Hunt in Copenhagen, Denmark each summer. Bartholomew said these kinds of faculty-led programs provide valuable experiences to students who are first-time travelers abroad. 

“Many of our students are, like me, first-generation in college,” Bartholomew said. “Often, they have not traveled. A trip overseas can be intimidating. Faculty-led programs are nice because [they offer] a UT course with UT students and a UT professor.” 

The Copenhagen course focuses on international sports and includes a visit to the Danish anti-doping agency, as well as several guest lectures and games of team handball in parks around the city. Bartholomew selected Copenhagen due to the abundance of activities — sports-related and beyond — that the city provides. 

For instructors and students alike, completing a semester’s worth of coursework in the span of four weeks is intense. Bartholomew explained that professors guide the class, plan excursions and spend time with students on top of their usual work. Despite the added workload, he said, the reward is great, allowing him to “learn about different cultures, develop long-lasting relationships with students and interact with new colleagues.” 

John Bartholomew and students abroad ride bikes together

The thrilling adventure of international travel can be dampened by intimidation for those less accustomed to traveling. The group setting of a faculty-led trip mitigates stress and encourages students to learn together as they go. 

“I think there is a real benefit to being uncomfortable — this leads to growth — but in a friendly and supportive setting,” Bartholomew said. 

During their travels, students often find themselves becoming more confident in their ability to explore, gaining proficiency with travel modes from public transportation systems to weekend trips in neighboring countries.  

Bartholomew is always impressed by the number of students who travel together on their weekends off. Once, a group of 12 from his cohort flew to Prague together. The program produces a strong group dynamic, and many students make lasting friendships along the way. 

“They look out for each other — making sure they get to class or events — or let us know if someone is struggling,” Bartholomew said. “Those kinds of relationships are hard to find but seem to consistently happen with study abroad. And, because it is a faculty-led course, those relationships travel back to UT with the student.” 

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