This semester, Champlain Abroad had four classes on faculty-led trips during spring break. Depending on the course, students visited the UK, India, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, or Italy. Each group spent the week abroad, visiting locations that were relevant to the course, such as religious sites in India, the Warner Brothers Studios in the UK, among several others. Each of the four courses studied different topics, concepts, and ideas. To learn more about two of the courses, I spoke to some of the students who attended these trips and asked them questions about their experiences and feelings about their time abroad.
To learn more about the trip that traveled to India, I interviewed Ashley Lenze, a third-year digital forensics student. The course she took, Dar al-Islam: India, studied the Islamic religion and its place in Indian culture and society. During the trip to India, students visited various religious sites with significance in either the Islamic religion or the Indian culture. Ashley explained to me during our interview that not all of the locations they visited were relevant to Islam, but were still relevant to the outwardly religious culture of India, and therefore the course. They were able to learn and experience the history and culture of the country with aide from tour guides with biases different from those of their textbook authors. She also told me about one of her biggest takeaways from the trip: “Religion [is] in the public sphere and at the forefront of what’s going on [in India], in comparison to the US where religion is a private thing.” She felt that, had the class not been a travel course, there would have been a piece missing. She also explained to me how she felt that her entire community benefits from her spending time abroad. “Going abroad allows us to let our friends and family learn about the world outside of where we are.”
To learn about the trip to the UK, I interviewed Alexa O’Kane, a second-year professional writing student. The class, Heroes and Heroines, was focusing on Harry Potter. During their trip, they visited places like the Warner Bros. Studio in London for a tour of the sets of Harry Potter, as well as walking tours of the areas they visited, learning about the history of the area or visiting places that inspired or were a part of the magical universe of Harry Potter. Students were exposed to the culture of the UK and analyzed the effects the seven-book series had on the country. Alexa told me about visiting the Warner Brothers Studios in London, “We walked into the great hall, and I almost cried, a few people actually did cry.” As a fan of the books, I understood why some of the students were so overcome with emotion, as they were seeing a piece of their imagination brought to life, but Alexa elaborated why she had felt that way: “[J.K. Rowling] imagined this, and it came to life.[…] It encourages me to keep writing and sending out my work.” While I couldn’t directly relate to Alexa’s experience, I could see the way that the experience had affected her; she seemed more encouraged to write and do her best to succeed.
We also discussed the experience of traveling with a group of peers. Alexa explained to me that she felt she had learned more about herself; even though she never traveled alone, learning that she could travel and navigate places that she had never been before helped her learn that she liked traveling. She also told me that she had felt the class had bonded after going on this trip together, and that classes felt more intimate. She had known three of her classmates going into the course, but she had found that she was able to become friends with her other classmates while abroad. She also left me with this, and I felt that I should pass it on: “Travel courses are a good way to bond with people you never thought you would.”
One of the things that both of the students mentioned was the fact that the travel piece of the course made the course feel whole, cementing their learning of the concepts and ideas presented to them in a tangible way. As Ashley Lenze explained it to me, “Travel courses make the kind of abstract concepts you learn in classes more tangible. […] Non-travel courses are based on faith that what you are told is true, or it’s about the community in Burlington.” Another student I interviewed, Alexa O’Kane, a professional writing major who visited London and Scotland with the Heroes and Heroines course, told me that the class “would have felt distant”, had they not been able to visit the UK.
These courses encourage students to pursue their goals, regardless of what the goal is. These trips are important to the students and encourage a different kind of learning that only course with a travel piece can cause. It exposes students to new cultures, people, and ideas that the students would never have experienced had they spent their time in Burlington.
Photos used were submitted by students.