Many Buena Vista University students traveled the world during this year’s January Interim —a three-week program that gives students the opportunity to take travel courses, enroll in unique classes on campus, and participate in internships.
Nine domestic and international travel courses were offered to students this year, enabling them to further explore their academic interests and broaden their cultural and global perspectives. In addition, the university sponsored a “Global Fellows” trip to Chile and a trip for students to teach English in South Korea.
Here is a selection of comments from students and faculty members who participated in several of the travel experiences:
“Searching for Dracula”
The course entitled “Searching for Dracula” took students to London and Transylvania where they explored the historical and cultural origins of one of popular culture’s most mysterious figures, the vampire. The group focused on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Vlad Tepes (also known as Vlad the Impaler), who inspired Stoker’s famous 1897 novel.
“Vampire legends are an essential part of the human psyche because they encapsulate every animal instinct we are born with, but that culture and social rules force us to hide in our unconscious minds,” says Dr. Wind Goodfriend, associate professor of psychology and a co-leader of the trip. “Vampires bring these hidden desires to life, by showing themes of hatred and prejudice, aggression and fear, and forbidden love and lust.”
Kristen Bracker, a junior philosophy and religion major from Beebeetown, thinks the infatuation with vampires started long ago. “One of the biggest reasons is the romance and mystery entwined with the stories of vampires,” she says.
Beyond learning about the history and fascination behind vampires Kristen says the experience made her realize she would like to expand her studies. “I have never been interested in history, but after seeing places out of the history books, and hearing stories from real people who saw things like Communism in their homeland, I have so much more of an appreciation for history and even politics,” she says.
“The trip opened up students’ minds and hearts to other cultures, other types of food and architecture, other languages, other customs,” Goodfriend adds. “This openness and sense of adventure is, I think, the most valuable aspect of international travel.”
This year six students and two faculty members embarked on the inaugural BVU Global Fellows trip to Cape Horn, Chile. The trip began in Puerto Williams on Navarino Island in Chile, where the Fellows participated in the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program, a program coordinated by the University of North Texas in the United States, and the University of Magallanes and the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity in Chile.
Global Fellows is a competitive and academic endeavor that provides a select group of students the opportunity to participate in an international travel experience with an overriding focus of global sustainability. Upon their return, the Fellows participate in campus endeavors that place them in the role of ambassadors for the Global Fellows program and its philosophical focus.
Dr. Melinda Coogan, assistant professor of biology and a co-leader of the trip, says the program examines the link between human cultures and the environment by placing emphasis on biological and cultural diversity. The goal, says Coogan, is to protect endangered ecosystems and indigenous cultures.
As the University’s first Global Fellows, the students have the opportunity to advocate international travel, sustainability and globalism. “With my new outlook on sustainability and globalism, I hope I can pique other students’ interests so that they become more globally aware,” says Laura Page, a sophomore biology major from Hutchinson, Kan.
At the program station, the Fellows studied native birds and collected data with other students. The Fellows also went to Puerto Natales to tour the Torres del Paine National Park, Punta Arenas to visit a penguin colony, and Valparaíso and Santiago to experience urban Chilean culture.
Makensie Brown, a sophomore Spanish and graphic design double major from Huxley, says her travel experience to Chile broadened her perspectives. “I intend to keep the lessons learned from my international experience close to me throughout life, and to be open to embracing all types of people and willing to gain knowledge from them and their lifestyles.”
“My hope is that the experience was a life-changing one for the Global Fellows,” Coogan adds. “When we are invited into another culture, we have an opportunity to share experiences and find potential similarities. These opportunities allow us to broaden our perspectives and challenge our preconceptions.”
“Change the World…One Child at a Time”
Students spent over two weeks at Lebenshilfe School—located in Vishakhapatnam, India—providing service to children with special needs as a part of the course entitled “Change the World…One Child at a Time.”
According to Ellen Holmgren, assistant professor of social work, and Dr. Robbie Ludy, professor of education, the goal of the course was for students to influence Indian students and teachers through personal interaction and infusion of new ideas. As part of the experience, the BVU students worked alongside Lebenshilfe teachers and were assigned to work with the children on educational, developmental, and vocational learning activities.
“It is hoped the world of the BVU students will be changed by an enhanced perception of how culture impacts what is done in an educational setting and that there is no one ‘right’ way to provide educational services,” says Ludy.
Angela Holstedt, a senior elementary education major from Kansas City, Mo., says the experience reinforced her future aspirations. “Working at the school was amazing. It served to verify the fact that I really have a passion for working with the students who so many wrongfully think of as ‘problem students,’” she says.
The experience also provided many BVU students with a new outlook on life. “I see the world through new eyes now that I have been to a developing country,” says Carrie Sorenson, a junior social work major from Sheldon. “I think about how much I use, the food I eat, what I waste, and everything I take for granted every single day.”
The group spent the final week of the trip touring the cities of Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Hyderabad.
“The Lands of Hot Beaches and Hotter Volcanoes”
Several students ventured to Costa Rica and Nicaragua (The Lands of Hot Beaches and Hotter Volcanoes) where their activities included visiting several beaches and volcanoes, and hiking in rainforests to learn about the biodiversity and culture of each country.
Dr. Stan Bochtler, professor of education and a faculty co-leader on the trip, hopes students will be more informed and open-minded after traveling to Central America. “Traveling has the potential to help us realize that we are more alike than we are different,” he says. “Human beings, regardless of nationality, have similar wants, needs and desires.”
Students also participated in a number of other adventurous outdoor activities on their trip including ziplining, white water river rafting, and visiting the natural hot springs near the Arenal Volcano.
Blair Helseth, a senior elementary education major from Overland Park, Kan., says she enjoyed comparing and contrasting her home culture with the cultures of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. “After visiting Costa Rica and Nicaragua and seeing how the people live, I am grateful for even the littlest things that I have,” she says.
“Experiencing life in other countries may actually help a person live and work more effectively in our ever-changing and increasingly diverse society,” Bochtler adds.
Teaching English in South Korea
Two BVU students, Jennifer McDaniel and Molly Lorenz, accompanied by Dr. Inez Schaechterle, had the opportunity to travel to South Korea to teach at an English camp during interim.
The South Korea trip, with BVU partner Chungnam Internet High School, is designed to give BVU students the opportunity for real and significant experience teaching English to non-native speakers in an international context.
“This was a fabulous experience for BVU students. They got an almost unimaginable amount of teaching and classroom management experience, and will be absolutely unflappable in their first teaching jobs,” says Schaechterle, associate professor of English composition.
The BVU students had the responsibility to plan and deliver teaching lessons with the goal of improving Korean students’ English skills in the areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening.
“This trip gave me a greater understanding of how to work with English language learners, which will be a great tool when I begin teaching on my own in the near future,” says Jennifer, a senior English education major from Des Moines. “I was also able to gain confidence in my teaching and lesson planning abilities.”
Schaechterle says the travel course had a lasting impact on the BVU students. “I know the students both put into practice what they have learned in their education courses at BVU, and learned a lot of new practices and perspectives about teaching.”
When the students were not teaching, they spent their time visiting nearby cities, including Seoul and Jeonju to explore Korean culture.
Exploring the Cultural Heritage of Europe
Several students experienced the rich cultural heritage of several European cities including Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Salzburg, Rome, Florence, Paris, and London.
“Seeing so many places brings a lot of history to life. I think the students got a better sense of Europe’s historical contours. Going from city to city was like traveling through time, through different eras,” says Dr. Matthew Packer, assistant professor of English and faculty co-leader of the trip. “It’s a busy itinerary, but it helps give students a rich, motivational sense of the many layers of European history.”
“The trip broadened my horizons in terms of cultural immersion,” says David Ekstrom, a junior digital media major from Odebolt. “Seeing the actual landmarks that I have always learned about was an educational dream come true.”
Meg Williams, a junior biology major from Braddyville, says the travel course is something she will never forget. “Europe is the best experience that I have ever had. I went to places that I had only dreamed of seeing,” she says.
New York City and Washington, D.C.
After BVU students toured New York City and Washington, D.C., Dr. Stan Ullerich, professor of economics and a faculty co-leader on the trip, hopes they will be better prepared to take on the challenge of interning or working at places that they would not have considered prior to taking the travel course. In addition, Ullerich anticipates students will be more apt to continue their education after graduation.
Emily Erickson, a senior communication studies major from Pine City, Minn., says the experience confirmed her professional ambitions. “Looking at many of the different theaters, museums, and event centers in both cities, I saw many different job opportunities that opened my thoughts on what I would like to do after I graduate,” she says. “Overall, the trip helped open my eyes to what other choices I have in my future career that I can take, and where I would like to end up in the upcoming years.”
“Although a whirlwind 15 days, I could see the students growing in their understanding and acceptance of history they’d only heard about, learned while in school, or seemed to be familiar with,” says Ullerich.
The Disney Experience
Students on the “Storytelling with Walt Disney” trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., attended classes at multiple theme parks that explored effective storytelling and how “Walt Disney’s Way” can be used in any area of study or profession. In addition, students experienced a “behind-the-scenes” tour of eight theme parks including Universal Studios Orlando.
“Walt Disney was innovative in so many ways and I think the students are able to hear the stories and experience his leadership styles and philosophies in the parks, and connect this to what they can do as a leader,” says Jerry Johnson, assistant professor of digital media who co-lead the trip with Henry Hardt, professor of business law and finance.
Specifically, students studied Disney’s eight storytelling strategies: service, presentation, listening, imagination, collaboration, experience, memorable and magical.
Bri Funte, a sophomore digital media major from Osage, says the Disney experience impacted her way of thinking. “Storytelling, although it seems simple, is a very in-depth and confusing word. Everyone and everything has a story. Each person, individually, needs to make sure that others are interpreting their intended story,” she says. “I’ve definitely thought of my own story a lot. I need to figure out how I want other people to perceive me and then relay that message.”
Ultimately Johnson hopes students will apply what they have learned as they grow into successful young professionals. “I dream that the stories of Walt Disney’s perseverance will motivate the students on striving to be the best, be curious, and be courageous,” he adds.
Hawaii and the NFL
“The History of the NFL and the Pro Bowl: A Hawaiian Adventure” course gave students an in-depth look at the NFL and the opportunity to tour the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Prior to departing, students prepared presentations as a way to learn about the AFC (American Football Conference) teams and the NFC (National Football Conference) teams. As part of the trip, the group toured the University of Hawaii athletic facilities and attended team practices for the NFL Pro Bowl and the game at Aloha Stadium.
Mike Wiegmann, a junior business management major from Dumont and member of the BVU football team, says attending the Pro Bowl helped him acquire skills that he will use on the football field.
Head Football Coach Jay Anderson agrees that the Pro Bowl experience was beneficial for his players. “I think our players have a great appreciation for the athletic ability displayed in practice and the game. The dedication to the game is something else I think our players saw; these guys work around the calendar to fine tune their craft,” he says.
“The exposure to a different culture or way of life was great for our students,” adds Anderson. “I think the things they experienced will stay with them for life.”