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International Fellows tour the South in Study USA course

Nine students from around the world traveled to cities across the South in a class on regional culture, history, politics and more.

Assistant Professor Jason Husser (left) taught "Discovering Dixie" this month.


It's easy to pick up a book or watch a documentary if you want to learn about 20th century naval history. If you want to know how it felt for thousands of sailors stationed aboard ships, many of whom hailed form the South, that might require something different -  like touring the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier.

Same goes for learning about the Civil War, Southern cuisine and culture, or the rise of industry in cities like Atlanta and New Orleans. Lectures help, but as International Fellows in a Winter Term came to appreciate firsthand, nothing tops the "feel" of visiting a place you may read about in books.

Students toured sites in Charleston, S.C., as part of "Discovering Dixie."

That General Studies course, “Discovering Dixie,” was led this month by Jason Husser in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and was among six programs organized by the university's new Study USA office.

Husser, an assistant professor and assistant director of the Elon University Poll, is himself a Southerner from southeastern Louisiana.

"To really get to know America, you really have to know the details, and that's something you can't get unless you're actually seeing it in person," Husser said. "My goal is to tell people the South is not just the story of slavery, it's not just the story of civil rights, it's also a really special place."

Overlooking the mouth of the Cooper River in Charleston.

A recent three-day visit to Charleston, S.C., included site visits to city museums and to the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier at Patriots Point across the Cooper River from the historic French Quarter. Students toured local museums and parks while sampling Southern cuisine from some of the city’s well-known restaurants

Fellows also visited Atlanta, New Orleans and Asheville, N.C. Husser said he wanted students to develop a deeper cross-cultural competency while learning the importance of various locations and events that have shaped the course of United States history.

Politics, culture and economics are all important components to the region's ongoing growth and development.

Onboard the flight deck of the USS Yorktown (CV-10) at Patriots Point in South Carolina.

"It gives me a broader perspective, the identity of people who live in the south," said sophomore Ana Preciado of Panama City, Panama. "How do they feel about it? How did the United States grow to be what it is right now?"

Students raved about their visit to South Carolina's coastal port city, which preceded the week-long road trip through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. "I love Charleston," said sophomore Andreea Podgoreanu of Bucharest, Romania. "I love the city. It's beautiful. I like that the people are really friendly, and I like the food!"

During a fall semester course, sophomore Keegan Desilva, of Trinidad and Tobago, said he and his classmates "got to know about the Civil War and stuff like that." However, he said, it's important for them to see the locations of events for themselves.

Charleston, S.C., at dusk on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.

Started in 2012, Study USA is an Elon University office that coordinates a wealth of educational resources located inside the nation's borders. Study USA offers opportunities for students to travel and study at Elon-operated centers or through short-term, Elon faculty-led courses in a variety of locations across the United States.

Phil Smith is currently serving as interim director of the office, which is housed in the Isabella Cannon Global Education Center. Six academic programs this month fall under the Study USA banner, including those that have visited New York City, Kentucky, Arizona, Hawaii and Utah.

For more information on domestic study opportunities, including the upcoming "Elon in Los Angeles." and "Elon in New York City" summer programs, visit the Study USA website.

Eric Townsend,
1/20/2013 1:07 PM