By Audrey Smith, The Daily Iowan 
Instead of staring at a PowerPoint presentation, Introduction to International Relations students could soon be gazing onto the beaches of Normandy.
University of Iowa students will no longer have to wade through all their general-education requirements in classrooms overlooking the Pentacrest. Instead, they’ll have the opportunity to take in London, Paris, or Florence.
The UI’s new Iowa International Summer Institute , which will allow students to earn general-education credit while studying abroad, is set to be launched this summer.
Study Abroad officials generated the idea around two years ago with the intention to encourage more students to consider studying abroad and to do so earlier in their college careers, said Janis Perkins, the director of Study Abroad.
During the 2008-09 school year, fewer than 1 percent of the 884 UI undergraduates who studied abroad were first-year students. More than 50 percent were seniors, according to the study abroad website.
UI professors will teach the institute’s courses in English, a point Perkins said she hoped would be attractive to students who otherwise would not have considered such a program.
“It’s not a question of needing to adapt to a different style of education or teaching,” she said. “It really is as if you’re taking the course on campus.”
While the institute will offer courses that are taught in Iowa City, each of the five courses is adapted to incorporate elements of the surrounding city.
“A good study-abroad course takes advantage of the place in which the course is offered,” said Liz Wildenburg de Hernandez, a Study Abroad adviser. “It changes the content of the course to reflect where you are.”
Kelly Kadera, an associate professor of political science, will teach the Introduction to International Relations at the institute’s site in Paris. While the class is taught at the UI, Kadera’s course, which fulfills the social-science requirement, will include visits to French art and military museums, as well as a weekend excursion to the beaches of Normandy.
“A good study-abroad course takes advantage of the place in which the course is offered. It changes the content of the course to reflect where you are.”
Kadera said the trip will bring to life concepts covered in her class, illustrating, in particular, the loss of American lives in World War II. This, along with other activiin France, will make her course more meaningful, she said.
“[Seeing the beaches of Normandy] is such a strong experience, whether you’re a freshman in college or 65 years old,” Kadera added.
The program fee of only $3,550 — which includes tuition, lodging, activities, and weekend excursions — may also serve as an attraction.
Study Abroad officials said going abroad earlier in life is beneficial for college students.
Study Abroad peer adviser Suzanne Wedeking, who spent her junior year in Morocco, said if she had studied abroad sooner, she might have participated in another program later in her college career.
“Your interests are probably going to widen, and you might be interested in a different program later on,” she said.