CSM Professor Launches Travel Study Scholarship

College of Southern Maryland student Gian Karlo Santos received the first Travel Studies Scholarship awarded at CSM for his trip to Belize to complete a marine biology course. Here

Study Abroad Course to Belize Opens New World for First Scholarship Recipient

Swimming among turtles, sting rays and nurse sharks in the warm waters of Belize this spring literally opened a view on another world for College of Southern Maryland student Gian Karlo Santos, the first CSM student to benefit from a new Travel Studies Scholarship.

Santos, of California, Md., who said he has always had an interest in travel, said the group of fellow students in the travel study course worked in teams to identify 100 organisms and record their field observations as part of the marine biology course.

Richard Siciliano, professor of English and the donor and creator of the scholarship fund, said that while the college’s travel studies courses are a unique experience, the courses aren’t inexpensive. 

“I started the travel studies scholarship partly to assist students to take part in what I consider to be one of the most valuable educational experiences there is — international travel,” said Siciliano. “Having organized and taught a travel studies course myself (to London, England, in 2004), I know how hard it is for a student to afford a travel-studies course, no matter how valuable that experience might be. It can be expensive particularly for a community college student when you consider it's not just the travel costs, but there's the tuition as well.”

CSM offers a number of travel studies courses to various places including Belize (spring), Ireland and Vietnam (summer). Students register for the accompanying course, such as the marine biology course Santos took, complete academic work before the trip and then get real life “lab” experiences in the country of travel.

“[Biology Professor] Paul Billeter and I have been leading travel-study courses to Belize for CSM for more than 10 years now,” said Carolin McManus, CSM professor and coordinator of the Cultural Studies degree program. “These courses have the highest impact on students' learning and worldview than any other coursework we do. We've weathered a great number of obstacles in keeping the program going, one of which is struggling to keep travel-study activities affordable.”

While the scholarship doesn’t cover all the costs of a travel studies course, it helps offset expenses, said Siciliano, who had the opportunity in 1994 to travel and study throughout the People's Republic of China on a Rhodes Scholarship.

“[That trip] influenced the way I have approached my teaching,” said Siciliano. “So, I'd like to think that a student taking a travel studies class can have a similar experience.”

For Santos, who said he’d like to work for “a big tech company where I can help push and develop new tech projects maybe in another country or market,” the trip was just the beginning of what he hopes will be more world exploration.

“It was fun; I’d definitely do it again,” said Santos, who currently lives in and works at a boarding house for Korean exchange students in St. Mary’s County while completing his associate’s degree in Applied Science and Technology.

CSM’s travel studies program falls under the auspices of the college’s Integrative Learning Center, whose staff has assisted with the bursar's office to restructure fees and offer payment plans for these courses. For information about the program, visit www.csmd.edu/ILC/TravelStudy.html.

“It was a pleasure to watch Karlo engage with the Belizeans, clamber to the top of the ancient Maya temples, and comb the reefs for corals, fishes and sea turtles,” said McManus. “Experiencing his enthusiasm and personal growth is precisely what motivates all of us who work to promote travel-study.”