This summer, HSS students studied the gendered history of food in Italy, examined archival documents in English castles, traveled the Silk Road in Central Asia, installed solar energy stations in clinics in Tanzania, improved their mastery of Spanish in Madrid, and immersed themselves in the history and memorialization of the Holocaust in Central Europe, all this past summer season. The research tells us that students who participate in study abroad programs enhance their critical thinking and creativity skills while having experiences and making new friends they will cherish for their whole lives. I, Dean Rifkin, hope that all HSS students will seriously consider participating in a study abroad program, whether a faculty-led study tour or a semester abroad: Thailand and Tanzania, Germany and Japan, Ireland, Italy, and Israel, and many more places, all await you.
To be clear, there is one very important idea to take away from all of these trips: most college students learn about a book, a culture, a person, or an event in class. Only those who dare to explore get to see the places where they originated.
A few quick glances at the HSS faculty programs from this summer:
Central Europe: “Holocaust Study Tour”
Dr. Cynthia Paces of the History Department took 17 TCNJ students on a tour throughout Central Europe that focused on Nazi Germany and WWII. Dr. Paces and her students, along with Assistant HSS Dean Rosa Zagari-Marinzolli, visited the four major concentration camps from the Holocaust and other pivotal historical sites.
“The region has a long and vibrant history and a diverse population that contributed to its culture,” Dr. Paces explained. “We looked at the 1000 years of Jewish settlement in the region, as well as the influence of both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. We also enjoyed aspects of the culture, such as the food, drink and music.”
Students also were fortunate enough to meet with a member of the German Parliament, Harald Leibrecht, who is in close relations with TCNJ.
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the Silk Road: “Identity, Politics, and Culture in Central Asia”
On her second trip through TCNJ to the region, Dr. Joanna Gross of the History Department led students on a unique tour throughout Central Asia. Students learned about the spiritual and artistic aspects of Central Asian life as well as the historical trends that have transpired before and since the breakdown of the Soviet Union.
“Central Asia is a place very close to my heart. I have conducted research in Central Asia since 1979, and I have close friends and colleagues in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan,” Dr. Gross said. “It means so much to me to be able to share the people and places that I know so well and re-experience them with my students through their eyes.”
During their trip, students explored many cities, rural villages, museums, outdoor markets, as well as several ancient fortresses along the Silk Road. Dr. Gross recalled one point on the trip where students were able to meet with a family in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Long-time friends of Dr. Gross’s, the family warmly opened their home to TCNJ students—and the kindness was not lost on them.
“Reading about the history of the Timurids in fifteenth-century Central Asia, or the impact of Soviet rule on Uzbekistan, or the problem of labor migration of Central Asians to Russia today is one thing,” Dr. Gross said. “Seeing and experiencing it on the ground is another.”
Dr. Gross will continue her Silk Road tour in 2015.
England: “Literary Landscapes in Harlaxton” and “Magic of Archival Research in Cornwall”
Dr. Michele Tarter led two back-to-back, history-packed trips of students to England: one in Harlaxton and one in Cornwall.
The trip to Harlaxton involved discovering the history of English literature in real time: Dr. Tarter took students to locations such as the home of the Bronte Sisters and even to Alnwick Castle, the spot where Quidditch games were filmed for the Harry Potter series. They even visited the café in Edinboro where J.K. Rowling famously began writing the Harry Potter books.
“It was about stepping back in time,” Dr. Tarter explained. “It was about bringing (it) back to life.”
Students engaged in ‘literary travel’ as they studied “Bring up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel as well as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
In Cornwall, on the other hand, students lived in Tintagel, underneath which is Merlin’s Cave. Students primarily did archival research at the Museum of Witchcraft where they got their hands on never-before-seen documents about English history’s famous healers.
Next year, on Dr. Tarter’s Harlaxton trip, students will also be lead on an 8-day vampire-infested tour of Transylvania. Those interested will be staying in Dracula’s castle and will be visiting the famed Whitby Castle, the site where Dracula enters England in his story.
These excursions were—and will continue to be—an exercise in the exploration of history and literature, intertwined into one enormous journey across some of England’s richest historical place.
Italy: “Gendered History of Food”
Dr. Ann Marie Nicolosi of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department took 28 TCNJ students on a gastronomic and cultural tour of Italy—her second time conducting this trip.
Through visits at famed cities like Rome and Florence, Dr. Nicolosi taught students about “the relationship between food, culture and gender with special attention to the ways in which Italian American women have been the conduits of Italian culture and cuisine in their roles as mothers and grandmothers.” The course, called La Cucina Della Nonna—or Grandmother’s Kitchen—gave students a whole new perspective on the history of Italian cuisine.
“Our time in Italy also enabled students to understand the ways in which food is transformed, as well as migrants, in the process of acculturation, and for this historical period, the process of ‘Americanization,” Dr. Nicolosi explained.
Her program will be offered to students again in 2014.
Spain: Spanish Study at Complutense of Madrid
Dr. Deborah Compte and Dr. Teresa SanPedro led 20 TCNJ students on a trip to Universidad de Complutense in Madrid, where students were able to choose from 3 different course packages: SPA 302, Advanced Oral Proficiency, SPA 102 AND 103 (the basic sequence), and SPA 203 and 217, which are Intermediate Oral Proficiency and Hispanic Culture respectively.
Outside of the classroom, students had weekly excursions to sites such as the National Palace, the Reina Sofia Museum, Toledo, and Segovia.
“They really learned a lot, it is an intensive program, but we expect them to be doing more than just class activities,” Dr. Compte said, adding that Madrid is walkable, green city, which gave students myriad opportunities to bask in the outdoors life of Spain.
Tanzania: “Gender Politics of Development”
Last but most certainly not least, Dr. Marla Jaksch of the WGS Department taught WGS 377: Gender Politics of Development and traveled with 10 TCNJ students for 5 weeks in Tanzania.
Prior to the trip, students fundraised to purchase solar suitcases that they eventually installed in villages to power vital electrical equipment. The first of two solar installations occurred in a clinic in Maasailand where a young woman gave birth under lights that were, fortunately, powered by the solar lights that TCNJ students had brought there that morning.
“The goal of the course, language lessons, trainings and the international experiential learning program [was] to provide students with rich background and research on the broad field of gender & development in Tanzania,” Dr. Jaksch explained, adding that students were fortunate to “to be able to engage development practitioners and policy makers, and to participate in some relevant development work.”
In order to go on study abroad, you need to think and plan: study abroad opportunities will not fall out of the sky into your lap! TCNJ students should visit the Center for Global Engagement in 111 Green Hall to learn about the opportunities around the world that await them as soon as Winter Term (January program) 2014.