Fall 2016 Academic Travel Experiences!

Hello all, 

As you may know, Franklin students are freshly returned from Academic Travel, which took place during the last week of October and the first week of November this semester. 
My friend Maddie and I in protective beekeeping gear while exploring European Food Systems
(More at the end of the post.)
I asked other students to report how their courses went, in terms of memorable experiences, course projects, and the moments in which they learned or were surprised by something. I think you'll find that their responses eloquently reflect the true spirit of Academic Travel.

So keep reading to find out more!

. . .

Visiting Gödöllö Castle
Name: Gioia Chaouch
Class level: Junior
Major/Minor: History and International Relations, minors in Italian Studies and Management
From: Melrose, Massachusetts and Tunis, Tunisia

Briefly describe your Academic Travel course - what is the concept behind the course, what did you learn about, and where did you go for the travel component?
Our class studied the last decades of the Hapsburg Empire towards the turn of the century, focusing on how the political developments of the time were reflected in the arts and theatre. For the travel component, we went to Vienna and Budapest, with a day trip to Bratislava in between the two. We began by studying the paradigm shift that occurred towards the turn of the century, which was influenced by the increasing role of technology in society and the proliferation of democratic values that undermined the cohesion of the empire. The paradigm shift also helped bring about the modernist art movement and Art Nouveau, so we studied the work of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, particularly through Sigmund Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Finally, we learned about the Viennese Operetta and how it reflected the changing social and political environment at the time. 

What surprised you during Academic Travel?
I was really surprised by how unique the Hungarian language is! I always try to learn the basics of the country’s language before visiting, but I’ve never heard anything quite like Hungarian and found it very difficult to learn. 
At the Hofburg in Vienna, part of the Imperial Palace that hosts various museums and the treasury.
What was your most memorable experience during Academic Travel? 
My most memorable experience during Academic Travel was visiting Gödöllö Castle outside of Budapest, which was the favourite castle of Empress Elizabeth (also known as Sissi). It was originally owned by a Hungarian count and was bought for the imperial family in the 1860s, and was later occupied by Soviet troops during the Cold War era. I felt that its past really encapsulated Hungary’s recent history, and of course the castle was stunning as well. 

What was your favourite learning moment during Academic Travel?
While we were in Vienna, we visited the Belvedere Museum (home to many of Klimt’s and Schiele’s works) and the Secession Building, which hosts the Beethoven Frieze. Seeing so many important works by these artists helped me connect their progression from the convention school of art to the avant-garde style they became famous for.

. . .

Eric with Pumpkin, the hostel cat. Photo credit Mary Newton
Name: Eric Bishel
Class level: Sophomore
Major/Minor: Combined History/Political Science, Minors in Economics and French
From: San Antonio, Texas

Briefly describe your Academic Travel course - what is the concept behind the course, what did you learn about, and where did you go for the travel component?
This course was about the culture and literature behind food. Essentially, it dealt with how we view and talk about food, and how our cultural background affects that. So we read and discussed both primary and secondary texts about food and saw how the food we eat effects who we are. We traveled to Charmey, Lausanne, Lyon and Annecy for the class.

What surprised you during Academic Travel?
Probably when we visited the Glion Institute of Higher Education in Lausanne. When you think about a university, even one that focuses on hotel management training, you probably don’t picture a campus set up in a former five-star hotel perched on a cliff 1000 feet above a lake. But that was exactly what it was. They use the campus for practical training, and it’s where we had our lesson on wine and wine pairings. The view was spectacular, and I definitely wasn’t expecting it.

What was your most memorable experience during Academic Travel?
The meals. I mean, it was an Academic Travel about food after all. From large group meals, to meals in a university cafeteria in a former five-star hotel, to six course meals at an old fashioned Lyonnaise bouchon, to meals we made ourselves, I think we all ate really well. And the enjoyment was heightened by the background knowledge we got from the course. French etiquette and wine lessons were used on a nightly basis, and our knowledge of the history of French cuisine informed our meals.

Gruyere, Switzerland

Is there a course project? If so, what is it and how is it supplemented by the travel component?
The project was a journal that we kept daily, documenting our experience on travel as well as relating it to our personal central theme. For example, my theme was the relationship between labor and terroir (the taste of place). Therefore, I talked with each of the people we met about their concepts of labor, and how vital it was compared to the quality of raw ingredients.

Talloires, France

What was your favorite learning moment during Academic Travel?
Definitely our meeting with a beekeeper. Not only did we see the bees, get to wear bee suits, and taste their honey, but we also got to chat for about two hours with the beekeeper, both as a class and as a small group in a cafe. A lot of times people don't even think about bees, and they rarely know exactly how beekeeping works. So getting to chat with someone who is knowledgeable about the subject opened my eyes to the complexity of the profession. Did you know bees actually produce multiple harvests of honey in a year, and each tastes different depending on the season as a result of the flowers that are blooming? I definitely didn't.

. . .

Name: Elena McGuire
Class level: Senior
Major/Minor: (Double) Environmental Studies and International Management; Minor: French
From: Needham, Massachusetts USA

Briefly describe your Academic Travel course - what is the concept behind the course, what did you learn about, and where did you go for the travel component?
The course is about understanding how Botswana has created some of the world's strongest wildlife conservation programs in the world. We examined political leadership, international agreements and cultural values that have made their natural resource protection programs quite comprehensive. To study this, we traveled to the Okavango Delta with river Bushmen guides for camping and nature walks, met with a rhino conservationist, interviewed a hunter turned farmer, and then moved east to Chobe National Park. To end the travel, we relaxed in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe before returning home. 

What surprised you during Academic Travel?
The most surprising thing on this Academic Travel was how the animals we saw and so often view through a romantic, Westernized gaze can be a nuisance. We saw elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, donkeys, kudu, crocodiles, lions and more. For us, this was exciting. However, for farmers, politicians, and everyday community members these animals can often represent economic loss, danger, hassle and frustration. No one wants lions around since they kill the cattle, a primary source of livelihoods. Seeing this different perspective was quite surprising since I had never thought of the logistics of living near lions or elephants. 
What was your most memorable experience during Academic Travel?
Definitely camping in the Okavango Delta. We were guided by local river Bushmen through canals surrounded by reeds until we reached our island campsite. Each day we went on nature walks to see game, leaving early in the morning and returning by 11am when it was too hot to do anything other than swim in the clean delta water (up to 44°C). In the afternoon we bonded together, played cards, learned how to pull the canoes and journaled before a campfire dinner and stargazing. It was pretty magical.
What was your favorite learning moment during Academic Travel?
My best learning moment during Academic Travel was when we got an impromptu talk with Chris, a professional hunter turned farmer. Having lived in Botswana his whole life, Chris detailed how livelihoods and environmental issues have changed as the government has introduced anti-hunting legislation due to their shift toward photo-safari tourism. This shift is causing large economic, cultural, political,and environmental changes that Botswana now has to grapple with. It was interesting to see clear arguments of how environmental conservation policies aren't always practical. We were also able to touch on what it takes to be a farmer in Botswana (a lot of dedication, planning and luck), as well as some of the future investments into natural resource management that Botswana is considering. 

. . .

Photo by Yana Smith
Name: Camila Arguedas Najarro
Class level: Sophomore
Major/Minor: Social Justice and Sustainability, minors in French Studies and Management
From: Brasilito, Costa Rica
Academic Travel Course: Understanding Environmental Issues: Iceland



Briefly describe your Academic Travel course - what is the concept behind the course, what did you learn about, and where did you go for the travel component?

This course has two components, in the first part of the class we learned about different environmental issues that are part of our daily lives such as human overpopulation, energy consumption, economics and urbanization, water management, climate change in the 21st century, energy sources and biodiversity issues. The second part of the course took place in Iceland where we learned from different experts how Iceland deals with these environmental issues. Now we will continue discussing what we learned in Iceland by analyzing it through what we learned during the first part of the course.


What surprised you during Academic Travel?

Iceland is famous for its hydroelectric and geothermal power and as an environmental course we visited the Hellisheiði Power Plant. During our tour at of the power plant we learned that Iceland produces more energy that it actually needs which encourages Icelanders to use more energy than they need when they heat their homes. People will warm up their homes to an extent where they need to open their windows while still keeping the heating system on. I found it very interesting how they care about the environment by making sure not to exhaust the mountain when extracting water, but when it come to conversing they don’t to it.
Ísafjörður Northern Lights
What was your most memorable experience during Academic Travel?

There were so many memorable experiences from travel that it is difficult to choose only one. Everyone got along well and people were always playing instruments and singing along during our free time on during the long bus rides. However everyone in the travel can say that they will never forget our second night in Ísafjörður. After watching a one man show of the famous Grettis saga we all headed out to the beach to watch the northern lights. We all sat down by the rocks and just stared at the sky. The way the light dances from one side of the sky to the other was so beautiful, graceful and majestic that many of us got tears in our eyes. After spending the entire night outside, bundled up in at least three layers of clothing staring at the sky, we understood why people who live in northern areas believe that these lights were spirits of their ancestors, because it felt magical. There is no way to describe it, it has to be lived and left to be understood and we were all there, sharing that experience with each other.


Is there a course project? If so, what is it and how is it supplemented by the travel component?

This course has two projects. This first project is called Ecological footprint experiment. Each student has to come up with their own way to track their consumption on water, electricity, waste and gasoline. For a minimum of 24 hours each student has to track their consumption of the four categories in both Switzerland and Iceland and then compare the two. The aim of this project is to understand and bring awareness of our consumption and waste when we are traveling. The second project consists in choosing from a list of different places that were visted during travel and analyzing a given quality. We have to write a report with our analysis on the location. Some examples are analyzing if Reykjavik is sustainable, or is Ísafjörður becoming more sustainable with tourism and how certain locations are dealing with high tourist level.
What was your favorite learning moment during Academic Travel?

My favorite learning moment was when we visted Þingvellir National Park and Professor Hale gave us a small lecture on Iceland’s geology and how the North American Plate and the European plate met in Iceland. Being in the open space, surrounded be geography made from the movement of the place made it easier to understand the power of nature and admire its creation.

. . .


Name: Dylan George 
Class Level: Freshman 
Major: International Relations and International Economics 
From: USA

Briefly describe your Academic Travel course - what is the concept behind the course, what did you learn about, and where did you go for the travel component?
Our travel course took us to Puglia in which we explored as much of the southern Italian region as one could in so little time. We were shown the lasting legacy of Italian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, even the Ottoman Empire in the region. We learned of the a uniquely different culture within Italy compared to other regions. By the end we learn or will have tried to learn the identity of the region.

What surprised you during Academic Travel?
What surprised me was the massive impact the Turks and or Turkish pirates had on the region. As a result of their raiding and attacks, much of the culture and architecture has grown accustomed towards that. Many castles and cities are built as fortifications rather than trading centers.

What was your most memorable experience during Academic Travel?
To be one hundred percent honest the most memorable experience was the food and the wine. Nothing compares to the food in Puglia - I could live off of that food. 
Is there a course project? If so, what is it and how is it supplemented by the travel component?
Yes. Each student is to write a comprehensive essay on a topic that we broach on travel. The topic selection is vast as there is so much to choose from, from fascism to organized crime.

What was your favorite learning moment during Academic Travel?
When it comes to favorite learning moment I don't really have one singular one, but many. One was seeing the actual lasting impact of fascism firsthand, and another was seeing how the political situation of an era can really change so much about the identity of a region.

. . .


Name: Alana Hindiyeh 
Class Level: Junior
Major: Double major in Psychology and International Economics
From: Livermore, CA

Briefly describe your Academic Travel course - what is the concept behind the course, what did you learn about, and where did you go for the travel component?
My Academic Travel course this semester was focused on village culture and service learning with a specific focus on international aid. Working with the Sainam Foundation, the travel group built three houses for families in need, worked in the local garden, and taught English to local children. Before entering Thailand, we read about the current political situation, basic Thai history, and Thai socio-cultural values. One main focus of the course was full immersion. When we were in Thailand we worked all day with the locals, we slept on the floor, and were completely submerged within the village life. 

What surprised you during Academic Travel?
One thing that surprised me in Thailand was the power of human connection. Despite speaking very little Thai, we were all able to make deep connections with all of the local people and the families we helped. It was really difficult to return to Franklin, to say the least. 
What was your most memorable experience during Academic Travel?
We were lucky enough to be in Thailand during the rice harvest. Therefore I would say harvesting the rice in the paddies was one of the most unforgettable moments of my travel (though there were many more!). After you cut out bundles of rice by hand with a sickle, you will never look at rice the same way again. 

Is there a course project? If so, what is it and how is it supplemented by the travel component?
There are two course projects: building a house and a research paper. The travel component mostly surrounding construction days and physical labor. Whereas the research paper is an assignment due after travel which allows us to investigate anything about Thailand that interests us.
What was your favorite learning moment during Academic Travel?
My favorite learning moment didn't occur during one specific moment on my travel. Rather, I realized slowly throughout my interaction with my construction team, the family we built the house for, and the local community that their is a clear impact on an individual when they follow an accepting and positive life outlook. 

. . .

Many thanks to everyone who participated and helped me in compiling this post! It's clear that each of these Academic Travel courses was unique, educational, and in some way life-changing. 

In case you're curious as to what I've been up to this semester, I'm enrolled in European Food Systems with Professor/Dean Steinert Borella. (Like Eric - see what he wrote above!) We traveled to French-speaking Switzerland and parts of France to investigate the concept of terroir (how place influences taste), artisanal versus industrial food production, and the process of farm to table. This was my fifth Academic Travel course. 
We met a cheesemaker from Charmey (Fribourg, CH) and got to sample a selection of his cheeses. They were incredible! We also discussed the influence of EU laws on cheesemaking, the process of transhumance, and how the environment affects the final product. 

Despite the number of Academic Travels I've been on, I still feel like each of them has been an extremely positive, enriching experience in its own way. I'm so glad that it's part of our curriculum! 

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know below! And don't forget that you can subscribe by email at the top of this page so that you never miss a post. 


Arrivederci and till next time, 


Gabrielle

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