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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Study Abroad: Service Learning and Surfing in Nicaragua

It's not just a spring break spent surfing.

Students who sign up for the spring break trip to Nicaragua with Lindsay Usher, assistant professor of park, recreation and tourism studies, will explore tourism and community development in the Central American country. And yes, surf.

Usher, whose research expertise includes surf tourism and its impact on communities, will lead the three-credit, service learning course. She spent 2006-2008 in Guatemala as a Peace Corps volunteer, working on ecotourism issues.

For her dissertation, Usher travelled back to Central America to study localism in surf communities. Since she started at Old Dominion University, in 2013, she has continued to study surf culture, traveling to Costa Rica this past summer, and conducting focus groups with surfers in Virginia Beach, exploring the sometimes contentious relationship between them and other beach stakeholders.

The trip, March 6-14, will include lectures, discussions and writing assignments during an on-campus portion, followed by an intensive, 10-day service learning project, where students will do cultural engagement and adventure activities.

Students will perform cross-cultural engagement through home stays with local families. They will volunteer with youth and sport organizations, discuss the impacts of surf tourism with local and foreign tour operators, and observe and participate in cultural activities.

Students will also have an opportunity to visit Masaya Volcano National Park, and surf some of the best breaks in the world.

"I'm excited for our students to be able to experience first-hand the complexities of international tourism, understand the impact of surf tourism on local communities and see how tourism is being used as a tool for community development," Usher said.

Class assignments include weekly response papers, a reflection journal, a current event assignment, a presentation on the field experience in Nicaragua and a final exam.

The course is open to full-time ODU students with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, with approval from the Office of Study Abroad. To register for the course, go HERE. The deadline for a deposit for the study abroad course is Nov. 7. For more information, contact Lindsay Usher at lusher@odu.edu.

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