Two-way international study benefits English and Abington students

Global studies Abington

Penn State Abington students study for a week at England's Bucks New University before British students from Bucks travel to Abington for coursework.

Credit: Penn State

ABINGTON, Pa. — The legendary cry ‘The British are coming!’ isn’t cause for alarm at Penn State Abington, it’s cause for celebration. The spring arrival of British students is synonymous with new perspectives and new friends, academic and career awakenings, and making the world a little more accessible to all.

For almost a decade, the college and Bucks New University (BNU) in Wycombe, England, have hosted each other’s students as part of comparative criminal justice courses with required international travel.

"The world is bigger and smaller than you think."

— Penn State Abington student

Whether in Abington or an hour outside of London, the students attend academic seminars and explore the other country. The coursework focuses on the American (for BNU students) and British (for Abington students) criminal justice systems within legal, cultural and historical contexts.

One student, who traveled to BNU and then served as a buddy to the English students while they were in Abington, said the experiences made her realize that “the world is bigger and smaller than you think.”

Abington Students in England

Abington students enrolled in CRIMJ499 focus on a body of scholarship addressing critical issues, policies and complexities of the criminal justice systems in the United States and the United Kingdom. And what better way to compare and contrast the two than travel to England and experience it for themselves?

Lisa Morris, senior instructor in criminal justice, has taught this course for several years and has developed relationships with her colleagues in England. As a result, Morris' students benefit from established connections within the British academic and law enforcement communities.

Abington embedded courses

An Abington police officer helps a Bucks New University student try on a protective vest during the tour of the police training facility.

Credit: Regina Broscius

English Students at Abington

One month after the Abington students return home, the BNU group arrives to explore the American justice system, from on-the-streets police work to examining the effectiveness of drug policies.

Highlights, according to one student, included meeting a Philadelphia judge and visiting the city District Attorney’s Office, as well as coursework on the death penalty led by Oren Gur, assistant professor of criminal justice.

“Since we did away with capital punishment in the 1960s, I haven’t been exposed to this in my lifetime,” the student said. “It was awesome to see what the students and the teacher thought of it.”

The group engaged with modern law-enforcement officers during a daylong visit with the Abington Township police and then jumped back more than a century and toured Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, once the most famous prison in the world.

'Bringing the world to Abington'

Dolores Rafter Arevalo, coordinator of the college's Office of Global Education & Engagement, believes international experience should be a cornerstone of an undergraduate education.

This includes engaging with Abington's growing international student population, enrolling in courses with brief required travel (embedded courses), or semester-long study abroad experiences. In addition, Arevalo coordinates academic engagement for visiting German, English, and South Korean student groups.

"Many students for personal or academic reasons may never have the opportunity to study abroad, so, in addition to sending students abroad, Penn State Abington brings the world to our campus,” she said.

Penn State Abington, formerly the Ogontz campus, offers baccalaureate degrees in 18 majors at its suburban location just north of Philadelphia. Nearly half of its 4,000 students complete all four years at Abington, with opportunities in undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more. Students can start the first two years of more than 160 Penn State majors at Abington and complete their degrees at University Park or another campus. Lions Gate, Abington's first residence hall, will open in August.