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Study abroad class broadens students’ travel writing, global perspectives - Columbus State University Skip to Main Content

Study abroad class broadens students’ travel writing, global perspectives

March 18, 2023

Group photo of students and faculty in Guatamela

Each Spring semester, Dr. Allen Gee invites a small group of students on a study abroad service-learning trip to Guatemala—all expenses paid. Students are required to take a Travel Writing Class, ENGL 3107, in conjunction with the trip, to further inform their experience.

As the university’s Donald L. Jordan Endowed Professor in Creative Writing, Gee is able to offer students stipends through donor support that established the Jordan Endowment. 

The trip is very beginner friendly, so even first time travelers like Mackenzie Skeene (pictured), a senior from Duluth, Georgia, majoring in English, feel prepared to take on the unknown. “I was surprised at a lot of the similarities between our countries; like restaurants and the way classrooms were set up, but the differences were eye-opening as well,” Skeene noted of her experience. 

When on a resume, study abroad experiences signal to potential employers that you have the ability to work independently and a willingness to relocate if necessary. For students like Queen Briggs, this is especially useful for demonstrating a willingness and interest in working abroad in the future. 

Mackenzie Skeene with villager children in Quatemala“I think the fact that I did service work overseas will make me an attractive candidate for many job opportunities,” said the senior from Columbus studying English. “I'm hopeful that I can get [job] offers in the near future that relate to nonprofit work or education. Simply having the trip on a CV or resume is incredibly attractive.”

While the class requires them to write about their travel experiences, the primary goal of this excursion is service. Students get hands-on experience not only as a travel writer, but as an English tutor. They also build stoves for local residents of Vuelta Grande. This is arguably the biggest impact the students have on local villagers, as having a proper stove will do much to improve the health and livelihoods of those they support.

“Seeing the incredible amount of smoke damage in some of their homes really emphasizes the importance of our presence and why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Gee noted.

Columbus State students with Vuelta Grande community members.

The Jordan Endowment provides funding for up to 10 study abroad slots every year. These spots initially open to English majors on a first-come, first-served basis, but open to students of other majors if these slots are not filled. To enroll, students must go through an interview process and submit a brief paragraph about their motivation to take the class and what they hope to achieve through it.

Spears (left) and Gee (right) in GuatamelaCoordinated by CSU’s Center for Global Engagement, the university’s Study Abroad Program helps students expand their knowledge and cultural awareness while exploring various countries. Each year, more than 250 Columbus State students participate in study abroad experiences—which include opportunities in as many as 20 countries. These include both popular destinations as well as places off the beaten path like Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Jordan, Tunisia and Botswana. Short-term and semester-long study abroad trips allow students to travel the world as they accrue course credit toward earning their degrees. According to Dr. Eric Spears, the Mildred Miller Fort Foundation Eminent Scholar and Chair of International Education (pictured on left, Gee on right), as well as the executive director of the Center for Global Engagement, those experiences are vital to developing lifelong skills beyond classroom knowledge.

“We’ve developed our education abroad programs in a way that encourages students to develop the critical soft skills necessary for a successful career once they leave CSU,” Spears explained. “The majority of students who come back to me after they graduate tell me that their study abroad experience helped them land their first job, or get their first graduate school placement or assistantship, or entrance into a professional school.”

Scholarships are available to CSU students to defray program expenses, and professionals in the university’s Center for Global Engagement assist with all the paperwork and documentation required.For more information about studying abroad and the university’s on-campus international programs, visit

Jordan Stafford, a Spring 2023 intern in the Office of Strategic Communication + Marketing, contributed this article.

Media contact:
Michael Tullier, APR, Executive Director of Strategic Communication + Marketing, 706.507.8729,