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Martinique Study Abroad Program Celebrates 30 Years

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Students with the late Aimé Césaire

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​​Students with the late Aimé Césaire (Winter Session 2004).​​

Since 1993, the Martinique Winter Session Study Abroad Program has been a beacon of cultural exchange and academic enrichment for University of Delaware students. As we mark our 30th anniversary, we reflect on three decades of connections between our students and the local culture. Since its creation, the program has provided students with immersive experiences combining French language learning with the vibrant culture of the French Caribbean. From exploring historical landmarks to engaging with local artists and scholars, participants have gained invaluable insight into the rich tapestry of Martinican life.

We owe our success to the dedication of our staff, the support of our partner institutions, and, most importantly, the enthusiasm of our students. As we celebrate this milestone, we hope to continue our mission of promoting intercultural understanding and academic excellence.

In 1993, the first group, led by Flora Poindexter and Veronica Eid, was welcomed by the Creole linguist and Dean of the Université des Antilles-Guyane, the late Dr. Jean Bernabé, who was an important figure in the Créolité movement. Earlier groups also visited poet Aimé Césaire, the father of the Négritude movement.​

Flora Poindexter explains: “I grew up in Paris, but I decided to show UD students another aspect of French culture by creating a program that combines the French language and French Caribbean culture with hands-on activities. I was fortunate to meet two professors from the Université des Antilles at a wedding in Paris, and the idea of the Winter session in Martinique was born."

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Students climbing Mont Pelé

​Climbing Mont Pelé (Winter Session 2019).​

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​Visit of the Bibliothèque Schœlcher with local guide and historian

​Visit of the Bibliothèque Schœlcher with local guide and historian, Gustave François (Winter Session 2019).​

​The Université des Antilles et de la Guyane has campuses in Martinique (Schœlcher), Guadeloupe, and French Guiana. Students at UD are immediately immersed as they meet with local writers, artists, and professors at the Schœlcher campus. Excursions include climbing the famous Mont-Pelé volcano, which erupted in 1902, marking the first-ever recorded instance of a unique type of eruption now called a 'Pelean eruption.' Students also visit the ruins and many other sites with long-time guide, historian Gustave François, whose narratives are precise and very enriching.​​​

Bèlè combines music, characterized by “call and response" patterns, with traditional dance, showcasing Martinique's rich African heritage. Professor Daniel Valléjo instructs UD students in traditional songs employing the “call and response" format and the Bèlè drum. This drum consists of two mains parts: one central drum played by a single musician and two smaller “Ti Bois," long sticks used to create a steady rhythm.​

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​Two students learning Bèlè with Professor Daniel Valléjo

​Two students are thoroughly enjoying their learning experience of Bèlè with Professor Daniel Valléjo (Winter Session 2020).​

​At the end of the program, students present a performance in front of their host families as a gesture of appreciation for their hospitality. Host families are renowned for their culinary skills and warm welcomes. "Many students keep in touch," says Thérèse Ramphort, who always looks forward to the arrival of our groups.​

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Ian Shotwell with his host family

​Ian Shotwell with his host family: Mme. Leïla David-Dehal (Winter 2023)​

​Students are required to complete a two-day internship, during which they contribute their skills and enthusiasm to local schools and businesses. These institutions are always delighted to receive assistance from our students. Many students often mention that the internship gives them the opportunity to experience life as a regular Martinican for two days, allowing them to go to work like everyone else.​

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Students Stefanie Severin and Jackson Bauer are talking to Dr Gérard Gaube

Students Stefanie Severin and Jackson Bauer are talking to Dr Gérard Gaube, who welcomed them as interns in his veterinary clinic. (Winter Session 2023)​

​​ Three students, Jack Ausmus, Micah Greenzweig and Sarah Reynolds have participated in the program twice, demonstrating their deep appreciation for the cultural and educational experiences offered. Former participants frequently return to visit in January, further highlighting the lasting impact and fond memories created through the program.​

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Gommier practice

Gommier practice (Winter Session 2020)​

​The Gommier is a traditional native boat crafted from a single-piece trunk and named after the tree from which it is made. Lacking a keel, it relies on “bois dressés" as counterweights. UD students learn the art of balancing the Gommier, a skill that demands teamwork. Typically measuring between 5 to 7 meters in length, students have described the experience of maneuvering the Gommier as a fantastic team-building activity.​

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The group at a cultural event in martinique (Winter Session 2023)

The group at a cultural event in martinique (Winter Session 2023)​

Over the years, new activities have been introduced in Martinique. Recently, more attention has been given to environmental issues and the survival of endemic species. As part of their program requirements, students must undertake a research project on a topic of their choice. The range of topics is broad, including the pre-school education system, the survival of local iguanas, organic agriculture, the evolution of the transportation system and more.

Several professors and instructors have experienced directing alone, or co-directing the program alongside Flora Poindexter. These include Veronica Eid, Alice Cataldi, Dr. Gary Ferguson, Dr. Bruno Thibault, Lisa Thibault, Dr. Persephone Braham, Dr. Edgard Sankara, Dr. Anny-Dominique Curtius, Odette Kugler, and Anna Ogunnaike. Additionally, recent graduate students such as Milagros Chiri-Zapata , Mackenzie Campbell and Tommy Panezai have accompanied Flora Poindexter during the program.

We hope Martinique will continue to inspire students in the future!​

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Since 1993, the Martinique Winter Session Study Abroad Program has been a beacon of cultural exchange and academic enrichment for University of Delaware students
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