Cyprus Study Abroad Program Immerses Students in Mediterranean Culture
- Dec 14, 2023
- Gwendolyn Reed
Imagine traveling across the world to a site located amid natural wonders that offer unparalleled opportunities for geological research, as well as a welcoming environment and rich cultural traditions.
A new faculty-led study abroad program on the island of Cyprus offers exactly that. Established through Texas Global and the College of Natural Sciences UTeach initiative, the monthlong program will begin in July 2024.
UTeach Primary Professor and Program Coordinator Antonia Chimonidou will lead the excursion, during which students will study geology and chemistry while immersing themselves in the island’s Mediterranean culture. Chimonidou was born and raised on Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and lived there until leaving to attend UCLA for her undergraduate studies. Leading this program will give her fresh eyes for the place where she grew up.
Establishing a Research Location
Cyprus presents a unique location for geological research because of its role in the development of plate tectonic theory. The island exhibits incredible rock layering, as seen in the world-renowned Troodos Ophiolite.
Unlike other ophiolite formations around the world, the Troodos is unusually accessible because it formed in an anomalous way. Its formations remain above sea level and uneroded, providing visitors the opportunity to observe and even hike on top of the rock’s layers.
“There's no better way to do hands-on science than going to the place that we're talking about, especially with plate tectonics,” Chimonidou said. “When we physically go to a place where this has happened, we can see in front of us what we talked about in class. That's unique.”
Chimonidou returns to Cyprus annually to visit family, and she has always dreamed of bringing students to study and experience her homeland. However, for a faculty member to create an education abroad program, they must be able to thoroughly justify the location and its educational assets.
In June 2022, the island experienced an earthquake while Chimonidou was visiting. Citing vivid memories of frequent earthquakes she’d experienced growing up, she dove into researching why these occurred. Her research ultimately led to a realization that the island is a gem for geologists, and she knew she had found ample justification to host a study abroad program there.
“Dr. Chimonidou has showcased her dedication and knowledge to the UTeach program, but will now have the opportunity to highlight this in her home country of Cyprus,” said Alex Schnurpel, program coordinator in Education Abroad at Texas Global. “I truly think the students will have a tremendous time learning in this new and exciting program.”
Balancing Academics, Cultural Learning
Chimonidou plans not to overwhelm students with content but instead supply them the resources to learn in an experiential way. The program was established in collaboration with the University of Cyprus, where classes will be held. Additionally, the curriculum emphasizes a field trip component so that students can experience the range of what Cyprus has to offer.
The course, UTS 306K: Hands-on Science II, will set students up with the conducive structure for an enriching and engaging learning experience while also providing them time to relax and participate in local cultural activities during their time on the island.
Cyprus’ emphasis on community and hospitality will provide a home away from home as well as abundant opportunities for adventure. Whether swimming in crystal-clear waters of Makronissos Beach, enjoying souvla at a local restaurant, hiking the island’s geological wonders or sightseeing ancient ruins, students will enjoy an edifying and refreshing learning experience.
“I'm hoping that it will be equal parts learning, experiencing and having fun,” Chimonidou said. “I've taught this course so many times that I’m comfortable making adjustments. That way, we have a good balance of active learning and also just enjoying the island in July.”
Educational Transformation for All
For greater accessibility, this program is not designed exclusively for science majors; students from all colleges and schools are encouraged to join Chimonidou in Cyprus. In fact, the majority of students currently registered for the course study education, due to the course’s integration with the UTeach program.
Schnurpel says that the program “creates opportunity for those in underrepresented majors to experience the transformative nature of an education abroad experience.”
Nothing bonds people quite like traveling to and exploring a new place together. Chimonidou says she’s most looking forward to connecting with students on a more personal level — an experience that’s not always possible in classes held on campus.
Encouraging fellow students as they leave their comfort zones, sharing stories and learning in community are some of the most valuable aspects of the education abroad experience. Doing so on a Mediterranean island brimming with rich natural and cultural elements is sure to be unforgettable.