BY Margaret Distefano, ’19 // professional writing
Part of Champlain’s unique academic experience centers around a Core curriculum instead of “general education” classes. The Core promotes the ability to express oneself intellectually— through four years of discussion-based classes that focus on the inner self, the Western tradition, global themes, and then a final Capstone connecting all three years. Travel courses are spread throughout second and third year Core classes, so students can take a travel course as early as their third semester at Champlain. The travel component not only provides another dimension to Core classes, but also works as a miniature study abroad experience for students who may not be able to study abroad for a full semester. For others, it confirms their desire to study abroad; for me, I’ve been toying around with studying abroad in London, and going with a travel course to the United Kingdom solidified my desire to try to study abroad in London in the Spring 2018 semester.
All of the Core travel courses highlight and add depth to the subject of the class—heroines and heroes, religion, history, and cultural themes. I went on a trip to the United Kingdom with a “Heroines & Heroes: Harry Potter” travel class, where we visited places all over England and Scotland that were related to Harry Potter film sites and landmarks. It was interesting because Hogwarts, the central location of the series, is not a real place. So unlike the other travel courses, we had the challenge of visiting fictional places.
But that made for a more well-rounded trip; instead of just settling on just seeing the model of Hogwarts in the Warner Brothers’ Studio, we also went to Durham Cathedral, whose two front towers were used as models for the towers over the entrance of Hogwarts in the films. We not only got to see inspirations for the movies and books, but also slices of British history and culture. While on the Muggle Walking Tour in London, we didn’t just get to see the front of a sandwich shop that was used as the façade for the Leaky Cauldron (a magical pub); we also explored the Borough Market, one of the oldest, continuously operated marketplaces in Britain.
This class was, by far, my favorite that I’ve taken here so far. And it wasn’t just because I traveled to a different country for the first time; the actual class itself was interesting and never dull. My professor and students were passionate about Harry Potter, and we never lacked for discussion in class. I felt comfortable to share my opinions, and I was content with being in a new country because I had thirteen other people whom I trusted with me. The travel component elevated my experience; without it, something would have been missing. In conclusion, I urge all students to take advantage of travel courses when you can. Who knows; you may decide to study abroad there!