Last week, nearly 200 Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) students took their academic studies abroad in the biggest week for education abroad at CWRU since 2020. Approximately 120 students spent their spring break on one of eight CWRU classes that included an international experience. These students explored the rich history of the UK, studied nursing or management in Spain, applied social sciences in Poland, global health design in Uganda, classics in Greece, and bioethics in the Netherlands. They traveled with their faculty and fellow students for a deep dive into how one culture and country handles one particular issue.
"Offering students the option to take hybrid on-campus/study abroad courses with the travel over spring break is a long-standing tradition at Case Western Reserve," explains director of education abroad Autumn Beechler Stebing. "These amazing opportunities were not available to students during the pandemic, so we are very excited that they are back now."
Additionally, nearly 70 CWRU students took a deep dive into many issues within one specific country, spending the full ‘22-23 academic year or the spring semester ‘23 abroad. These students are studying everything from computer science at the Sorbonne to pre-health at the University of Edinburgh, from psychology at the University of Auckland to finance at the National University of Singapore, from anthropology at Waseda University to civil engineering at the University of Cape Town and so much more. More than 30% of CWRU's undergraduate students study abroad during their academic career, furthering CWRU’s inclusive culture of global citizenship.
Claire Wong, a study abroad ambassador, who will graduate next spring with a degree in neuroscience and classics, sums up the benefits of her two study abroad experiences nicely. “I remember being on the fence about fitting study abroad into my course load. Now, having attended both short- and long-term study abroad programs, I’m incredibly glad I never gave up pursuing it. Studying abroad provides a unique opportunity to not just explore your academic and personal interests from a global perspective, but also to make connections and discover topics you otherwise would never have known about.”
Dr. Henry “Mauricio” Chaparro-Solano is a Fulbright Scholar studying in the Molecular Medicine PhD program at CWRU while also working in Dr. Ignacio Mata’s lab at the Cleveland Clinic researching the genetics of Parkinson’s disease in Latin American populations. Hailing from Colombia, Dr. Chapparo-Solano has found a home at CWRU and is slowly adapting to the colder, snowy weather.
What brought you to Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland?
During 2020, while working at the Méderi Hospital in Colombia, I virtually met Dr. Ignacio Mata from the Cleveland Clinic (currently my Principal Investigator and Thesis Advisor). He leads an important consortium that researches the genetics of Parkinson’s disease in Latin-American populations. As a medical geneticist, I was astonished seeing the translational impact of his work. I was also looking to pursue a PhD in the United States. After talking with Dr. Mata, I discovered an incredible option for achieving this academic goal while working with him at the same time. I am in the Molecular Medicine PhD Program at Case Western Reserve University and researching at the Cleveland Clinic, both world-class institutions. By receiving a Fulbright Scholarship, I am here in Cleveland, living the dream.
Tell us a little bit about your research and what you are working on at the Cleveland Clinic?
I am currently working on the pharmacogenomics of Parkinson’s disease, ensuring that in the methodological approach to recruitment and data analysis, characteristics such as sex, gender and ethnicity of the participants are always taken into account. This means that I am studying how a person's genetic information affects their response to a drug and how these genetic differences may vary, depending on other features such as sex and ancestry. All this is with the aim to reduce health disparities among populations and to be able to advance more towards truly personalized medicine.
You are from Colombia, what do you wish for the world to know about your country?
Colombia has a particular characteristic since it is located in the tropics, with a very unique geography (three mountain ranges cross the territory from south to north and has coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans), it has various climates. This not only allows us to easily change the temperature we live in, just by traveling a few kilometers away (either by plane or car), but also promotes a favorable environment for growing a wide variety of fruits, flowers and coffee as well as serving as an ideal habitat for countless animals. We are especially known for our butterflies, and we are listed as the country with the largest number of different bird species in the world. Colombia is like paradise on earth!
What have you enjoyed most during your time at CWRU? What has surprised you? What has been a challenge?
What I’ve enjoyed the most are the infinite opportunities that CWRU offers to us as graduate students: seminars, webinars, workshops, sports activities and so on. Additionally, I’m very comfortable with the campus and the options we have to easily move around it. I feel that the university provides us with all the resources we need for really taking advantage of what it has to offer us. I’m also very surprised with the kindness and support of the faculty and staff from different university areas. Especially with the Center for International Affairs. Thanks to them, I had the chance to connect with other Fulbrighters, increase my network and meet new people with incredible and interesting backgrounds. So far the major challenge that I have faced is winter. As I mentioned before, Colombia is in the
tropics so we don’t have seasons throughout the year and, definitely, we don’t have snow. Anyway, I consider this as a one-time life experience and, now that I know how to move through it, I really enjoy the way some days Cleveland can be turned into a marvelous white landscape.
With mobility resuming and immigration services being more available than they had been during the pandemic, Emily Aronson, Associate Director of the Office of International Student Services (ISS), is rebuilding and reinvigorating the J-1 Student Intern Program, a program designed to provide experiential learning opportunities at Case Western Reserve (CWRU) for students pursuing studies at their home institutions abroad.
From the program’s inception in 2019 until early 2020, nine J-1 student interns arrived on campus to pursue experiential learning with faculty in the School of Medicine, Department of Geology, Department of Music, Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Biology, and the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The program was then stalled due to a lack of visas and mobility.
Emily will be focused on reinstating the J-1 intern program by providing strategic leardership for administering the program, its sustainability, and growth. Some of her early goals will include outreach to faculty and leading workshops to promote awareness of the J-1 Student Intern Program and to cultivate relationships with campus partners. Emily will also be focused on streamling efforts to provide more concentrated support through intentional collaborations for our J-1 student interns to help them adjust to a new university, community, country, and culture.
In addition to Emily’s leadership in the J-1 Student Intern Program, she will be working with CWRU’s enrolled international graduate students to help them thrive and liaising with the School of Graduate Studies and the departments through which degrees are offered.
Emily received her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies from The Ohio State University and her Master's degree in Geography and Urban Planning from The University of Akron. She studied abroad in Beijing, China and later taught English in Sichuan, China as a Peace Corps member. Emily worked at The University of Akron in its International Center as the Assistant Director of Immigration Services before joining CWRU’s ISS team in January 2023.
Promoting student success, international collaborations and research opportunities are integral components of CWRU’s and the Center for International Affairs internationalization goals. The J-1 Student Intern Program plays a vital role in supporting the university’s efforts by bringing all of these components together in ways that are meaningful to the students who participate, the faculty who mentor them, and our institution as their host.