Students discuss value of EL terms

This year, about 120 students will participate in one of Allegheny’s six experiential learning (EL) seminars. However, some have wondered if the educational value is worth the monetary cost.

EL seminars are educational courses run primarily through the Office of International Programs and Services in ACCEL. The seminars are considered graded courses and are conducted by one or two professors who schedule the trip around a central, often interdisciplinary theme. For example, this year’s course, “Turkey: Meeting Place of East and West, combines religious studies and geology.

The prices of experiential learning trips, while varying primarily by location and itinerary, have generally increased little.

“I’ve looked at the numbers, and by and large, I would say there has not been a significant increase [in price],” said Eric Boynton, one of two instructors leading this year’s seminar in Turkey. “The increase has been, for the most part, inflationary and due to increases in travel.”

One exception remains in this year’s seminar to Italy. This year, the program has increased to $6200. According to Jenny Kawata, director of the Office of International Programs and Services, the increase comes from an added three days to the course’s itinerary.

Because students must fund the trips themselves, they are encouraged to meet with the Office of Financial Aid to construct payment plans.

Natalie Curtis, ’12, said that she would like to travel abroad but doesn’t know if she’ll be able to financially.

“I’ve talked to some people who have gone before and the payment plan doesn’t seem to be convenient,” she said. “I don’t think the scholarships are as grand as they seem.”

While minor increases have arisen across the board, many students and faculty agree that the educational and personal value of the trips far outweighs the actual financial costs.

“You can read texts, and you can talk about different ways of viewing the world, but it’s a really different thing to experience how those ideas are lived out,” Boynton said. “If you take those ideas and read them in the places where they were generated, those texts take on a meaning and brightness they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Last year, Maggie Hanafin, ‘13, participated in an EL seminar to Israel.

“The trip seemed really expensive at first, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It really gives students a different experience than they would traditionally get through a travel agency,” Hanafin said.

Annie Rosean, ’12, wanted to participate in the EL seminar in Greece but was discouraged by the price.

“It’s too expensive for me,” she said. “I’m still looking into it, but I don’t know if I want to tack on those extra loans to everything I have at Allegheny.”