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The World Is a Classroom

As international travel resumes, Northwestern sends students abroad for one-of-a-kind learning and research opportunities.

Documents Bring Medical History to Life

Sarah Rodriguez, an associate professor of instruction in global health studies, loves the serendipity of historical research. She hopes her students come to love it, too. Last September, just days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Rodriguez took eight students from her Maternal Health in the 20th Century course to the Wellcome Collection’s library and archives in London. The students examined primary sources related to the work of the International Confederation of Midwives in the 1960s and ’70s and the evolving role of midwives as a source of family-planning education.

Studying a Sustainability Expert

Photo Credit: Janka Pieper

Over the course of 10 days last September, Germany served as an ideal host to 18 Northwestern undergraduates eager to learn about the country’s advances in sustainability research, product development and policy making. Supported by the McCormick School of Engineering’s Global Initiatives office, students on the Global Engineering Trek engaged with climate activist student groups, discussed climate research projects with peers and learned about local universities’ sustainability initiatives. They also visited industry research centers and startups where alternative-energy sources are being implemented. 

Worldwide Water Leader

Photo Credit: Rebecca Lindell ’90 MS

Dominated by a desert and bound by saltwater seas, Israel is moving rapidly toward a sustainable water future. Last September, 16 undergraduates embarked on a Northwestern Global Engineering Trek to learn how this nation is coping with a hotter, drier world. The 12-day trek covered Israel’s history of water management, from ancient aqueducts to modern-day desalination plants, wastewater treatment facilities and drip-irrigation farms. “Every site we visited was completely contextualized, from both a historic and scientific perspective,” says junior Shyam Chandra. “As someone interested in both technology and the humanities, I really appreciated that.” 

Architecture and Art History

Photo Credit: Sasha Artamonova ’22 MA

Eight art history students spent 13 days discovering Spain as part of the summer seminar Space and Place: Madrid and Santiago de Compostela, observing sites of architectural and art history importance and gaining on-the-ground archival research skills. “We take the city not as a work of art but an object of study,” says professor and Madrid scholar Jesús Escobar, who led the seminar. They witnessed a medieval-style carnival on the streets of Santiago, got a close-up look at prints and drawings at the National Library and received behind-the-scenes tours at the Prado Museum and the Royal Palace. 

On-the-Ground Investigation

Photo Credit: Belinda Lichty Clarke ’91, ’94 MS

Debbie Cenziper and nine graduate and undergraduate students traveled to Panama City last May to investigate reports that a massive electricity-producing power plant was sickening residents of neighboring villages. “It’s one thing to get a quote over phone,” says Cenziper, an associate professor of journalism and ProPublica writer who runs Medill Investigative Lab. “It’s another thing to look someone in eyes and have a real discussion, and that’s what we did in Panama. It will ultimately help us tell a more robust and humane story.” Panama reporting is part of an international investigation that was published in late 2022 by ProPublica, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and media partners around world. ProPublica and the ICIJ identified at least 500 current and former so-called “honorary consuls” who have been accused of crimes or embroiled in controversy. In November and December, ProPublica published the multipart series about shadow diplomats as well as a documentary based on the team’s work. 

With support from Office of Global Safety and Security and Global Learning Office, Northwestern sent nearly 1,850 student travelers abroad from Sept. 1, 2021, through Aug. 31, 2022.

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