“Berlin to Warsaw” to take students to Europe

Experiential Learning Seminars continue to offer experiences abroad

Students gathered in the campus center Thursday, Oct. 27, for an informational session on the 2017 “Berlin to Warsaw” Experiential Learning Seminar, led by Eric Boynton, department chair of philosophy and religious studies. The session came just days before the deadline for applying to attend the EL Seminar, Nov. 1.

Every summer, Allegheny College’s office of International Education offers students a chance to study abroad. EL Seminars send students to different regions and countries for two to three weeks. Over the summer of 2017, five EL Seminars will be offered.

Through EL Seminars, students will be able to travel to Cuba, Greece, Italy, or Germany and Poland. A departmental seminar to the Great Lakes, based on the maritime history of the historic U.S. Brig Niagara, will also be offered by Allegheny’s history department. An EL Seminar is the equivalent of a two- or four-credit course at Allegheny.

Each seminar is led by at least one faculty member who plans the trip around a central, often interdisciplinary theme. For example, this year’s course, “CUBA: Revolutionary Products,” combines history and political science.

The prices of EL seminars vary by location and itinerary. According to some students who have participated, price can be a determining factor of whether a student signs up to go. This summer’s seminars cost between $2,500 and $5,650, with the Nicaragua seminar being the least expensive and the “Berlin to Warsaw” seminar being the most expensive.

Claire Pickhardt, ’17, went on the EL seminar to Italy in 2015 and said that the seminar was worth the expense. Students typically spend more on studying abroad than on EL Seminars, according to Pickhardt.

“The cost of going back and forth is small comparing to how much experience you get [from EL Seminars],” said Pickhardt. “I went for cooking classes and wine tours. Moreover, you get credit for it.”

Jenny Kawata, director of the International Education Office, detailed how the price for each seminar is considered.

“We have to consider the tuition fees, flight costs, in-country expenses such as housing, excursions, transportation, meals if they are included, international travel insurance and shuttle expenses back and forth,” said Kawata. “It is not a money-maker nor a profit-maker. It is simply the cost to coordinate the program. This year’s prices are lower than some of the prices from last year’s programs. We are trying to keep the cost at a range that is affordable for students.”

According to Kawata, the process of setting up an EL Seminar takes up to a year and a half in advance. The program proposal request goes out to faculty and administrators every year in January and is due in February.

Proposals are then reviewed by the Study Away and Campus Internationalization Committee. The committee is comprised of faculty, staff and administrators.

Once approved, Kawata and the faculty leader solidify the proposed itinerary by making living arrangements and price estimations for the seminars. During the fall semester, the seminars are announced to the community.

Students receive an Allegheny grade from the faculty member running the seminar upon successful completion of the course. Each seminar has different expectations for grading.

“Our requirements include participation, a number of readings and seminars in the spring in getting ready for the trip,” said Mark Cosdon, the faculty leader of the 2017 Italy EL Seminar. “When we are in Italy, we have a handful of class sessions with common readings to build up some understanding and awareness of what we are seeing and what we are thinking about as we travel.”

Besides the EL seminars, the Office of International Education also offers off-campus studies. According to some students, the seminars serve as a starting point and an alternative choice for those who have never traveled abroad or are not able to study abroad due to other commitments.

“It was a perfect little short trip. As I am a computer science major, it is hard to study abroad for me, due to the requirements,” said Pickhardt. “I also don’t want to miss out on anything on campus.”

The EL course offers a hands-on experience that a student will not get without traveling abroad. The seminars aim to link rigorous liberal arts studies to global realities, and demonstrate the significance of the courses of study at Allegheny.

Eric Boynton, faculty leader of the 2017 “Berlin to Warsaw” EL Seminar, said that the seminars are not just tourism opportunities. They challenge students to engage with what they are seeing in the context of their studies.

“You can talk about and see images of… Berlin. But if you are going to talk about a memorial site as a way of evoking memory, you have to go to the site in Berlin, be around the monument and in proximity to it, and you have to hear scholars talk about it maybe even on-site. The whole experience is a way that the course becomes something more than it would otherwise,” said Boynton.

Caroline Grace Pacey, ’19, plans to apply for the EL Seminar “Berlin to Warsaw.”

“I plan to major in German and English with a minor in history, so by going to monuments and museums and learning about the Holocaust, it would be helpful toward my academic goal.”

None of the seminars have pre-requisite classes, but some seminars recommend taking language classes before enrolling. All seminars require permission from the instructor leading the course. More information can be found on the Experiential Learning Seminars page on the college’s website.