FARMINGTON – Students at the University of Maine at Farmington recently returned from a two week trip to Tanzania as part of the college’s initiative to inspire more global thinking.

“We’re realizing that employers are increasingly looking for globally-minded applicants so we’re trying to teach them how to think beyond borders,” Director of Global Education Linda Beck said.

Beck was the teacher for the travel course, which was credit-bearing for the students. The course not only had a focus of expanding cultural horizons, but introduced students to the fundamentals of eco-tourism and environmental activism. The group met with different non-profits to learn about the subjects, as well as follow up reading and discussion. The majority of the students even took a crash course in Swahili before departing for their trip.

“One of the most exciting things about these courses is that they are truly life changing experiences for some of our students. For a lot of them it’s their first time out of Maine, or they’ve never had the opportunity to be on a plane before,” Beck said.

The students not only had the chance to fly across the ocean, they got to hike a portion of Mount Kilimanjaro and search for the “big five” on safari. This particular group of students included a female UMF student who had grown up in Kenya but hadn’t returned for 20 years.

“It was neat to be able to bring her back and gave the rest of the students insight they wouldn’t have normally had,” Beck said.

Travel courses have taken UMF students all over the world thanks to the work of inspired professors and the Department of Global Education. In recent years the program has extended its offer to the wider Farmington community- offering carefully designed trips to the public to countries like Italy, Germany and China. Community trips are not credit-bearing but do offer the same crash courses in language before the trip is scheduled. Beck said they hope to include a crash course in travel photography as well.

The department will hold its annual International Bazaar this fall, selling arts, crafts and other goods from their trips. Money raised goes directly to a Travel Course scholarship in an attempt to make the program affordable to any student interested.

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