Summer study abroad opens its doors to students


Lauren Boyle

Glasgow City Chambers centered in the heart of the city was built in 1882 and represents Victorian architecture seen throughout Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Lauren Boyle

Across Ireland and Scotland, a common phrase greets the eyes of locals and newcomers throughout airports, pubs, street signs and historic sites. Whether it’s spelled ‘céad míle fáilte’ or ‘ceud mìle fàilte’, the phrase’s meaning holds true in both countries: a hundred thousand welcomes.  For Celtic nations, it is not confined to a greeting. Rather, it is a cultural identity representing hospitality, generosity and acceptance. In Greece, the ancient concept of xenia, or guest-friendship, perpetuates a like-minded understanding. 

“We have our views, mentalities and thoughts ingrained into us based on where we’re from and how we grew up. It’s when you get away from that and out of the familiar that you begin to question and re-examine those things for the better,” said Jacob Butera, associate professor of classics and co-leader of UNC Asheville’s faculty-led summer study abroad program to Greece. 

After two years of discontinuing summer programs due to COVID-19, UNCA reinstated the study abroad programs. This year, UNCA is offering three programs, two of which are still open for applications through Feb. 11. 

“Pre-COVID, we often had 8-to-10 faculty-led short-term study abroad trips each May-June. All trips were cancelled in 2020 and 2021, but we are once again offering three trips this spring, departing in May for Spain and the Camino de Santiago, Ireland and Scotland and Greece,” said Deaver Traywick, senior director of academic success.

The study abroad office also works with students to make summer abroad opportunities more accessible and financially viable for interested students. 

“Study Abroad has a number of scholarship funds from which we can provide scholarships to UNC Asheville students. The Study Abroad Office works directly with Financial Aid to make a number of $500 awards each year to help defray the cost of student travel,” Traywick said.  

Anne Slatton, senior lecturer of mass communication, and Sarah Judson, director of women, gender and sexuality studies, will be taking 12 students to Ireland and Scotland from May 14 to May 30. 

From the stone walls of Trinity College in Dublin housing the infamous Book of Kells to the recognizable sites of the Cliffs of Moher, as well as Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr of the Aran Islands, students become fully immersed in the history, culture and atmosphere of Ireland and Scotland. Apart from sightseeing, students will participate in two classes, ARTS 310 and HUM 324 taught by Slatton and Juson.

“We try to take advantage of the fact that we’re in some of these places and how do we experience those historical events we’re learning about in a contemporary setting,” Slatton said. 

Butera and Lyndi Hewitt, associate professor of sociology, are offering a separate summer abroad opportunity for the Maymester session. Along with 16 students, Butera and Lyndi will lead a three week excursion exploring the Greek Islands. 

“We really didn’t want the trip to be discipline-specific or major-specific. Not every major has the opportunities to study abroad, so our program allows for good global engagement, global citizenship and experiential learning, things that are as open to everyone as possible,” Butera said. 

After spending two years living in Greece during graduate school, Butera said he adopted it as his second home. He said he hopes students will be able to experience the variety, complexity and regionalism of Greece as it relates to the United States’ own widespread and differentiating culture. 

“We are very much of the opinion that we want to cover as much ground as possible. Going to Athens, a large city of 4.5 million people, is a lot different than going to a tiny island like Amorgos. The cultural experience is going to be fundamentally different,” he said. 

The current itinerary consists of visiting nine Greek islands and a multitude of ancient, historic and cultural sites. Days will be composed of visiting museums, engaging in group discussions, practicing the basics of the Greek language and sharing newfound knowledge and experiences with others. 

“My course is all about art, architecture and the idea of the nation. Greece has a very long history. It has a very complicated national identity. It has this strong connection to the ancient Greeks, but also to the Ottoman period and the Venetians there and, of course, the Romans. The modern Greeks are still dealing with this complicated identity. It gives students the opportunity to see how complex the idea of the nation is in a national and communal identity,” Butera said. 

Studying abroad takes experiential learning to an entirely new level. Through Butera’s ARTS 373 and LA 478 offered by Hewitt, students engage in deeper critical thinking skills by learning on site rather than seated at a desk viewing slideshows. 

“We’ll discuss cultural appropriation and cultural property, and we’ll do that in the Acropolis Museum sitting in front of what’s left of the Parthenon marbles because the rest of them are in England. There’s just something quintessentially different about having that discussion when you’re looking at the product of it versus in a classroom,” he said. 

For the Ireland and Scotland trip, students will compile their experience into a final creative project for Slatton’s course. For HUM 324, a reflection paper integrating experiences from Ireland and Scotland in conjunction with the course material serves as the final assignment. 

“I’m teaching travel writing. I call it the travelogue because it doesn’t necessarily have to be writing. I’ve had two documentaries come out of the last one. I had some English majors who did more expressive writing. The travelogue is a way of organizing how to process all we’re seeing. Dr. Judson takes the principles from Humanities 324 and applies them to specific things we get to see,” Slatton said. 

For Slatton and Butera, summer study abroad is about so much more than academics. While creating a new understanding of learning certainly is a part of it, immersion in an unknown culture and the experiences gained from doing so will hold meaning long after the flight back home. 

“I’m excited just to have something to look forward to. I haven’t really been anywhere as of late. Our last trip was one a lot of kids who had never left the country before went on. I’m looking forward to meeting new students and getting to see what sort of projects they come up with during our time,” Slatton said. 

In past years, Butera pushed and encouraged his study abroad students to step out of their comfort zones. With learning opportunities occurring through exploration rather than in a classroom, days are dedicated to traveling and interaction. 

“The first trip we did, within the first four days in Athens we walked about 20 miles. I walked them up and down every hill we could find. For the students, it started to become a mark of pride. We got to one of the last sites we were visiting and, of course, it was on top of this huge hill. I said, ‘Look, it’s 999 steps, but there’s a road so we can take a bus. What do you want to do?’ Every single one of them said, ‘We’re taking the steps.’ For me, that kind of thing is really rewarding because it shows you’re reaching them on a much more than purely academic level,” Butera said. 

Accompanying the hours of walking, sight-seeing, meeting new people and bonding with fellow travelers comes the memories students will tuck away and pack along with their suitcases and souvenirs returning home. 

“Students will bring back a better global perspective and a greater understanding of the world, having visited another part of it. They’ll share that and be able to engage more on a local level because they’ve now engaged on a global level,” Butera said. 


For more information contact trip leaders: 

Ireland & Scotland: 

Anne Slatton: [email protected]

Sarah Judson: [email protected] 


Jacob Butera: [email protected]

Lyndi Hewitt: [email protected] 

To apply by Feb. 11, begin an application at: 


Ireland & Scotland: