New opportunities to study away

New Experiential Learning seminars offered spring break, summer

While students may be aware that Allegheny College offers myriad ways to travel for class credit, they may not be able to take a semester or more to explore and learn off campus. Long-term study away programs may be feasible for some, but Experiential Learning Seminars are designed for students who want to travel abroad within the confines of a typical class year.

ELs usually count as two or four credit courses, and take place over spring break or shortly following the end of the spring semester. Courses range from about one to three weeks in duration and take students all across the globe. This spring, Allegheny will be hosting six ELs on  four continents: Paris, Barcelona, Oslo, Norway; Belize; Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos; Colombia; Ukraine, Moldova; and Yellowstone, Yukon.

“A Melting Pot or an Unwelcoming Host?: Europe in the Era of Globalization & Migration” will take students to Paris, Barcelona and Oslo, Norway, over spring break from March 13 to 22.

Led by Stephen Onyeiwu, professor and chair of the Economics Department, and Lucinda Morgan, director of international education, the trip was inspired by research into the impacts of globalization on immigration, according to Onyeiwu.

“We thought that this was a very good time to experience these changes in Europe, especially immigration,” Onyeiwu said. “We felt that an EL that focuses on immigration would be very valuable for our students to understand the dynamics of this phenomenon.”

Along with the study of globalization and immigration in Western Europe, Onyeiwu said that ELs are also an opportunity for students to learn how to travel and experience the world, an essential part of education in a globalizing world.

“I have this joke I normally tell when I’m (preparing) students for an EL,” Onyeiwu said. “Learn how to go through security at the airport.”

Led by Kirsten Peterson, director of health professions office, and Jim Fitch, director of career education, students will travel to Belize from May 17 to 30 for an international service-learning course titled “Poverty & Health: Social Issues in Belize.”

The course will center on service work within a Mayan community, the Q’eqchi’ people, who “are struggling to preserve their cultural identities and traditional livelihoods in the face of the 21st century factors that range from globalization and climate change, to narcotics trafficking and high unemployment,” according to the International Education office.

While Peterson has led four ELs to Nicaragua in the past, it will be her first time taking a class to Belize. The class will partner with 7 Elements, an organization that focuses on mental and social health, as well as physical health, within a community, according to Peterson.

“We’ll be doing building projects (and) healthcare education, … but the point is that we’re working with the community not for them,” Peterson said. “I think that’s an important distinction. The community decides what they need and what their priorities are, and we work with them to help accomplish those things.”

“Wars and Waterways,” an EL led by Associate Professor of Communication Arts/Theatre Ishita Sinha Roy and Professor of Biology and Neuroscience Lauren French, will take students to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from May 12 to June 5.

The course will follow the Mekong river and the impacts of climate change on the region. The course will provide students with non-Western perspectives on topics like the Vietnam War, which can take students out of their comfort zone, according to Sinha Roy.

“We want students to understand the river not just as a physical entity or a geographical entity, but in terms of the politics, history, culture, ecology and global health aspects,” Sinha Roy said.

According to Sinha Roy, ELs are especially valuable because of the friendships and education that students carry with them for life. Allegheny provides a rigorous itinerary during ELs that could not be found cheaper through a third-party travel service, Sinha Roy said.

If students cannot wait until May to escape the snow in Meadville, Colombia will be approximately 86 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit from March 13 to 22, according to Wilfredo Hernández, associate professor of Spanish.

Led by Hernández and Professor of Political Science Shannan Mattiace, “Culture and Politics in Contemporary Colombia” will be one of the two ELs featured over spring break in 2020.

According to Hernández, he and Mattiace have both visited Colombia multiple times over the past few years and had incredible experiences.

“Not many people know about Colombia,” Hernández said. “What people know about Colombia tends to be what (the TV show) ‘Narcos’ depicts. I saw that the country had reinvented itself.”

The EL is broken into two contrasting parts as students will visit the modern, fashionable city of Medellín for three days followed by three days in Cartagena, a well-preserved colonial town, according to Hernandez.

Focusing on the 1980s to the present, Hernández will cover aspects of Colombian culture while Mattiace will incorporate Colombian politics. Much like the disparity in weather from Meadville in March to Colombia, the EL course emphasizes contrast.

The deadline to apply for the Colombia EL has been extended to Monday, Oct. 28, according to MyAllegheny. Interested students should contact professors Mattiace or Hernández.

Kenneth Pinnow, professor of history, will lead an EL to Ukraine and Moldova. He has led ELs to Ukraine five times, and to both countries twice. The trip runs from May 12 to June 2 and focuses on “the challenges facing newly independent nations since the collapse of the USSR,” according to the international education office.

The course is tailored to students of all departments and examines the role of history in the shaping of national identity, Pinnow said. The course will examine popular memory and monuments across the two countries.

“We get into the complicated messiness of history,” Pinnow said. “It’s a really good way to see history alive and how history matters in a fundamental way to what goes on in our lives.”

The deadline to apply to the trip has been extended to Oct. 28, according to MyAllegheny. The EL is specifically tailored to the interests of students on the trip and interested students should visit Pinnow during his office hours.

“Spine of the Continent: The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative,” an EL led by Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability Casey Bradshaw-Wilson and Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability Kelly Pearce, will allow students to traverse a portion of the Yellowstone to Yukon habitat corridor..

The trip will take place from May 11 through 25, and students will visit Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Banff National Parks. According to Bradshaw-Wilson, this is the largest area of connected land ever attempted for conservation, and the primary effort is to protect large mammals like the Grizzly Bear.

“Yellowstone and Banff are both the first national parks in their countries (U.S. and Canada respectively), … hitting both of those is really important in terms of thinking about protected land and what that means for wildlife and what that means for people,” Bradshaw-Wilson said.

The application deadline for this course has been extended to Oct. 28, according to MyAllegheny. Interested students should contact the professors to apply.

Some students may not be able to incorporate a semester abroad into their collegiate experience, but ELs offer students an opportunity to see the world, learn about new cultures and make connections that can last a lifetime.