Study abroad program examines prisons

A study abroad interest meeting was held for “Prisons in the U.S. and Norway” on Wednesday, Feb. 20 from 5:00 to 5:45 p.m. in King Hall. Professor of Psychology Eva McGuire and Professor of Justice and Policy Studies Sherry Giles will both be leading this trip in hopes of allowing students to gain a better understanding of the justice system both here and in Norway.

Robert Van Pelt, assistant director of study abroad, was also in attendance to go over any additional questions students had about the study abroad process.

The three-week study abroad course for Fall 2019 will be held in Oslo, Norway, and would fulfill both JPS and PSY course requirements. As stated on the study abroad page, the opportunity would allow students to take an “in-depth look at the prison system in North Carolina and Norway.”

During the meeting, Giles shared her personal story of travelling to Oslo and meeting with different prison officials during her time abroad. She discussed the day-to-day impact of one of the courses she teaches on restorative justice.

“Restorative justice, a lot of people don’t know what that is,” Giles said. “Basically it is an approach to responding to people that have harmed someone else or committed a crime, but it can be in schools. It can be in communities. Restore the person that’s caused the harm, or the offender, back to the community. That’s a big focus on what will help this person.”

Likewise, there is an emphasis on restorative justice in Norway. However, this sort of emphasis isn’t necessarily present elsewhere.

“In our society there’s a lot of stigma and marginalization, othering of people that are charged and convicted of a crime and incarcerated,” Giles said. “So that’s part of the beauty of restorative justice. It really works in a way that it minimizes that. It really tries to bring people together and have the offender definitely take responsibility for what they’ve done.”

Both McGuire and Giles want to share this experience with Guilford students.

The pairing of this interdisciplinary approach with psychology and justice and policy studies seeks to provide participating students with the experience of venturing out into the respective fields of study while also allowing each individual to think about these issues on a deeper and more hands-on level.

The experience will be the first of the three-week programs to embark, with 10 days spent on-campus and 11 days in Oslo. While in N.C., students will have the opportunity to meet with head prison officials and learn more about the incarceration processes here in the United States.

A comparative structure will be implemented on the trip to Norway, where students will learn of the Norwegian incarceration process and the differences between the process in Norway and in the U.S.

“Part of my hope is that they will be exposed to and see how things can be different,” Giles said. “Because students are going to be doing presentations that we will share with the prison officials here and there, and it would be awesome if one of the prison officials would go along with this.”

McGuire spoke similarly on the subject of expectations and hopes for the upcoming course.

“We often get stuck about thinking more individually and not so much systemically, and I think this is a good opportunity for students to get that systemic perspective,” McGuire said.

With the new Guilford Edge curriculum, the departments of Psychology and Justice and Policy Studies see this as a great opportunity for students to participate in the study abroad experience without having to commit to being away for the whole semester, as was the case for previous abroad ventures.

Junior Emma Chaiken described the benefits she saw in the shorter study abroad opportunity, expressing interest in learning more about the specific course.

“(This is) an experience that I don’t have to prepare extensively for,” Chaiken said. “(This) being a short trip and a class all rolled into one gives me the chance to broaden my horizons as well as being home before any major holidays.”

The initial travel fee for this trip is likely to be around $1,800. Scholarship and grant opportunities are available for students who are interested. The deadline to apply is Friday, Mar. 15 and students are able to find the respective applications on the study abroad website at More information on similar opportunities are also available on the website.