In May 2017, the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) Honors Program took 19 students and three faculty members on its second study abroad trip to Sweden and Finland.
This year’s trip provided additional cultural enrichment and hands on learning to the students enrolled in Dr. Mari L. Nicholson-Preuss’s “History of Medicine Since the Black Death” and Dr. Travis Crone’s “Social Psychology” courses.
Each course required students to complete trip specific projects to draw connections between classroom content and the trip’s itinerary. History students were tasked with creating a presentation documenting physical examples and artifacts referenced in course readings focused on the history of medicine in Sweden and Finland. Psychology students implemented a comparative study exploring social norms through an in-country observational project.
In addition to the course specific learning objectives, students developed new perspectives on global citizenship and gained practical experience with international travel. Trip excursions included guided tours to three The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites, visits to museums devoted to the history of science and medicine in Finland and Sweden, a daylong walking tour of the university town of Uppsala led by a Linnaean expert, visits to “open air” living history museums, and a day trip to Estonia where students explored Tallinn’s medieval city.
“I made it a priority to arrange this year’s trip in a way that would engage the students familiar with the region, while also providing a good introduction to the students on their first trip,” said Nicholson-Preuss. “The combination of seasoned and new travelers truly enhanced the group’s experience. The comfort level of the students who had traveled with us before made a difference in the willingness of their peers to get out and explore during our free time in the evenings. They also played a key role in providing pre-trip advice to the other travelers in terms of what to expect, how to pack, and what to eat.”
UHD students recap their experience:
“Even though I had traveled to Sweden and Finland before, I realized that a classroom does not have to have four walls in order for you to learn. The old autopsy theater at the University of Uppsala and the Pharmacy Museum in Turku were the highlights of the trip. I was able to see and experience what medical education and healthcare were like in different countries and different time periods. I felt like a time traveler.” —Chisomnazu “Stephaine” Ibe, Junior, Biology
“The study abroad trip to Sweden and Finland gave me another opportunity to observe a culture different from my own. For my project, I analyzed the social norms surrounding the silence of Finnish public transportation passengers. It was fascinating to observe how different cultures behave in everyday settings.” —Magge Nunez, Senior, Psychology
“I fell in love with the Punavuori District and its vintage shops by reading about them online. When I got to Helsinki it was everything that I expected. I also got a tattoo to commemorate my trip and the milestone of my twenty first birthday. A few days in advance, I made an appointment with a local artist named Ella and she designed my lily of the valley tattoo. I chose the lily, or kileo in Finnish, because it was Finland’s national flower. I didn’t know until later that it was also the flower of my birth month, which makes it even more special to me.” —Estefania Rodriguez, Senior, Interdisciplinary Studies
“I was completely blown away by how skateboarding was so integrated into Helsinki. There were so many skaters, lots of skate shops, and the community dynamic that goes with it all. I think it’s pretty amazing when the skaters there didn’t have a park, or enough places to skate, they decided to build their own. It was cool to see something built from the ground up to be used by so many talented people. The park is completely covered in spray paint and there’s a little piece of everyone who built it memorialized there. Even though it was a locals’ only park, everyone was nice enough to let me stay and hang out. I hope to one day go back and try to spend more time at the park.” —Christian Tijerina, Sophomore, Psychology
Sixteen of the 19 students returned to Houston the first weekend of June 2017. Three Honors students stayed in Finland to attend summer classes at the University of Jyväskylä as part of a new exchange program.