Each year when January rolls around and the temperature dips into the negative numbers, it’s easy to envy the many Gustavus students spending the month abroad.
If jealousy has not occurred for you yet, pictures of sunsets over warm beaches might do the trick.
“We are not here to help students find new beaches around the world,” however, said Director of the International Education Office Patrick Quade. “We are in the business of running academic programs.”
According to Quade, all the time spent reading textbooks and writing essays does not compare to experiencing ideas and places first hand. “You won’t know the Chinese culture until you try to get on a subway in Shanghai…There is no way that students here in St. Peter, Minnesota can get a full understanding of Spanish speaking cultures,” Quade said.
Around 600 people left the Gustavus campus to study abroad this year, and the majority of them traveled in January. This constitutes approximately sixty percent of each graduating class.
This heavy participation results from a long tradition at Gustavus of instilling worldly outlooks in its students, and using programs abroad to achieve this goal. “We work [in] anyway we can to fulfill the college’s mission to make sure every student at Gustavus is exposed to a world larger than the U.S.,” Quade said.
Head Men’s Tennis coach Steve Wilkinson led a trip to Australia and New Zealand. “The class was the ‘experience of a lifetime’ for everyone who went on the trip,” said Wilkinson. Many students and professors agree that their Januaries abroad had a similar impact.
“This trip was pretty much the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Junior psychology major Amanda George of her time spent in Fiji for the course, “Gender and Intercultural Communication.”
What is it about moving out of the classic classroom setting that has such strong impact on students? “J-Term study abroad offers an immersion experience into another culture, an experience from which students gain insight into their own culture and values,” said Communication Studies professor Leila Brammer, after teaching the class in Fiji.
“Education and learning become real and alive,” Professor of Health and Exercise Sciences Bonnie Reimann said. “There is learning occurring in every experience, every day. You can read…about the Ancient Olympics in Olympia, but you don’t really understand or get a sense for it until you go there.”
The International Education office is already looking towards next year. In 2009, 15 off-campus domestic and international classes will be taught by Gustavus professors.
The office is preparing a brochure that will be available to students starting March 17.
Photo By: Tasha Carlson