Wabash Students Tour the Globe on Spring Break

by Jim Amidon

March 5, 2004

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Ben Farone in Turkey, 2003
For the fourth straight year, Wabash students will travel the globe over Spring Break as part of Immersion Learning Courses that are designed to give students hands-on experiences with the cultures and histories they study.

This year six classes will travel during Spring Break, while members of three athletics teams and the Glee Club will also conduct tours of their own.

Theater professor Jim Fisher and costumer Laura Conners are taking theater majors and minors on a magnificent journey through London’s best theaters and museums. Jim tells me they’ll see plays by Beckett, Shakespeare (a play starring Judi Dench and the Royal Shakespeare company), Wilder, Steinbeck, Gilbert and Sullivan, and a musical featuring the work of Cole Porter.

Not only will they see some unbelievable plays, they’ll also get behind the scenes on tours of the Drury Lane Theatre, the National Theatre of Great Britain, the New Globe Theatre, and the Theatre Museum.

Fisher says, "the opportunity to see the world’s finest actors in live performances of the plays the students have studied is perhaps the most effective way to heighten appreciation and knowledge of both the classical and contemporary theater."


Shay Atkinson in Rome, 2002
While Fisher’s class is roaming London’s West End, Andy Schlewitz and Bobby Horton will be taking political science students to America’s northern and southern borders to give students a "ground-level view of how NAFTA and border policies are enacted, and how they affect the daily lives of ordinary people on the borders."

The poli-sci students will begin the week in Douglas, Arizona and talk with folks who live in one of the nation’s most contentious border towns. Students will also meet with representatives from Humane Borders and also Border Patrol personnel. And, of course, they’ll walk to Agua Prieta, Mexico to study the issue from the Mexican perspective.

They’ll then board a plane and fly to Michigan, where they will conduct similar interviews with people on the Canadian border. In both places they will ask themselves and their subjects whether national identity is stronger or weaker in border towns—on both sides of the border.

Classics prof John Fischer, along with art historian Elizabeth Lee and religion professor Jonathan Baer, will take advanced classics students on a journey through Greece as they study the great Greek sanctuaries—this as the nation prepares for the Olympic Games.


Poli Sci and Econ Students at the European Union, 2003
The class will study those sanctuaries that were the center of Greek worship as well as sites of great athletic competitions. They’ll travel to Delphi, Olympia, Nafplion, Nemea, and Athens. Interestingly, one of the world’s foremost archeologists, Stephen Miller, is the 1964 Wabash graduate who has spearheaded the excavation of the site at which the Nemean Games were held thousands of years ago—before the Olympics.

As Fischer says, "seeing and understanding the physical settings of the sites and exploring questions about how the cults developed" is something the students could never get from books, slides, or DVDs.

There are other groups of students traveling for Spring Break, too, including a number of French language students, who will spend the week in Strasbourg with professors Corinne LaMarle and Michelle Rhoades.

Strasbourg is French professor LaMarle’s hometown, while historian Rhoades will bring another perspective to the students’ studies. Says LaMarle, "The opportunity to learn more about French history and culture on-site, and to practice French in a real-life setting will add enormous enrichment to the students’ understanding of another culture."


Religion Students in Turkey, 2003
The students will explore the history and culture of France through the rich and varied region that is Alsace. Students will tour museums and towns that will allow them to trace the history of the region from the Roman conquest through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the unification under Louis XIV, through modernization and industrialization.

Oh, and I should mention that students will be required to speak only French throughout their trip. Talk about polishing their language skills!

Warren Rosenberg’s New York City in Fiction and Film class won’t have as long of a plane ride, but they may need even more languages when they spend a week discovering New York City with a native New Yorker. Rosenberg says he hopes the students will "gain an appreciation of why artists have been drawn to the city as both location and subject."

Rosenberg will guide the students on walking tours throughout the city as they study historic and literary/film locations. They’ll attempt to gain a full and rich understanding of the immigrant culture, the diversity of the city, and the city’s economic and cultural vitality.

As Rosenberg rightly points out, "New York City may seem like a foreign country to many Americans" especially the Wabash students who have never left Indiana.

And, as he has done for years and years, biology professor David Krohne will be taking advanced ecology students to the American Southeast. They’ll travel to the Okefenokee in Georgia and the Everglades and Keys in Florida with lots of study breaks in between.

The class deals with a lot of theoretical issues, so the trip will, as Krohne says, "remind us that the abstract theories and ideas we’re working with are, in fact, connected to real organisms and ecological communities."

The ecology students will study a range of marine and aquatic habitats, including marshes, swamps, dunes, intertidal zones, coral reefs, and mangroves.

Of course, students will also travel with sports teams and the Glee Club will tour as well during Spring Break. The Wabash baseball team is in Florida, the golf team is in Arizona, and the tennis players are in California.

The Glee Club will have a whirlwind tour of the Mid-Atlantic states, performing concerts in churches, schools, and assemblies, plus the annual concert with the Chatham College Women’s Choir in Pittsburgh.

In all, approximately 200 Wabash men will spend Spring Break living out of a suitcase in places as close as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and as far away as Athens, Greece.

All of these trips will enrich their educational experience, and in almost every case they will have the opportunity to apply what they are learning in classrooms to real life. Studying theater in London, NAFTA on the nation’s borders, ecology in the Everglades, or classical sanctuaries in Greece will provide students once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Previous immersion trips already have had a dramatic impact on how students view their education, and these should have a similar effect.

 


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