Faculty members’ families thrive studying abroad

Associate professor of sociology and Graduate Program Director, Dr. Kevin Dougherty, who has been at Baylor for 14 years and lead the Baylor in Maastrict program in Spring 2016, encourages every student to study abroad in their college career. Photo courtesy of Meredith Proffitt

By Emma Whitaker | Reporter

Many Baylor faculty members participate in leading study abroad programs, regardless of the challenges. Associate professor of sociology and Graduate Program Director, Dr. Kevin Dougherty, encourages every student to study abroad once in their college career. The sociology professor has been at Baylor for 14 years, and lead the Baylor in Maastricht program in Spring 2016. The trip included 41 students.

“The motivations for me were both personal and professional,” Dr. Kevin Dougherty, associate professor of sociology and graduate program director, said, “As a student I studied abroad and it was transformative for me.”

He first experienced studying abroad as a student in his alma mater in George Fox College. His school had a program where every junior went abroad. Dougherty studied in South America, in addition to international mission trips, and has since been convinced of studying abroad’s advantages.

“One of the most powerful learning experiences students can have starts when they leave their comfort zones,” said Dougherty.

Now he is actively working to create a yearly study abroad program within the sociology department. While the location is undetermined, one of the settings they are closely looking at is Australia.

Faculty face challenges overseas, especially when moving their entire family. Dougherty’s wife, an elementary music teacher, took an unpaid leave of absence to help co-lead the trip. Dougherty and his wife have three girls, from elementary to high school ages. They ended up homeschooling their two younger children for the three months they were in Maastricht, while the eldest did school online.

This gave the family flexibility to get on a train every weekend, visiting 12 counties in the span of three months.

“It was a wonderful experience for our girls,” Dougherty said, “And my wife, Kim, loves to travel. She’s unflappable, meaning nothing really gets her worked up. Crossing borders, exchanging currency, navigating trains, she says, “Oh, we can do this.”

His and his wife taught their children different country greetings. Their family tasted the food from every region, enjoyed the terrain in every region. They gained just as much of an education overseas as they would in their classrooms. They learned to respect cultures and people of different beliefs and cultures.

Baylor provides faculty with housing, and the communication barrier is not bad, since most of the countries Baylor visits speak English alongside their country’s language.

“English is so pervasive, that we never went anywhere where we couldn’t at least get by in English,” Dougherty said.

Baylor’s Maastricht program is one of the few programs that rotates regardless of departments. While a number of study abroad programs are owned the department, Baylor Maastricht is unique in the regard that it is open to multiple departments. It operates year around.

“As part of your program fee you get a Eurail pass. The teaching schedule is Monday through Thursday, so there is a three-day weekend, and we have students who visited 15, 16 to 17 countries during their summer,” Dougherty said.

While many students do not want to miss out on their college friendships, the benefits of studying abroad might outweigh the costs. Junior Meredith Proffitt had a equally wonderful experience in Spain, as she stayed in a host home.

“It gave me the opportunity to learn about another culture firsthand. The host family that I lived with only spoke Spanish, provided incredible homemade meals and taught me about the beautiful city of Madrid,” Proffitt says, “I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to live in another part of the world and experience complete immersion into the Spanish culture.”

Dougherty encourages every student to study abroad once in their college career.