For Sam Swem, taking a Spring Term class in Quito, Ecuador, was one of the highlights of his Alma College education.
“We lived with a host family, which I enjoyed the most,” says Swem, who enrolled in “Intercultural Communication” taught by Joanne Gilbert. “We took Spanish classes in the mornings and explored cultural and natural sites in the afternoons. We also volunteered at a community kids club and interacted with the children.
“We prepared for the trip on campus, but you don’t really learn how to communicate effectively in another culture until you are thrown into the fire,” says Swem, a junior from Buchanan. “The 16 days in Ecuador was a full immersive experience. We had to take the classroom knowledge and apply it every day.”
Swem advises students to consider study abroad opportunities when determining which Spring Term courses to select.
“Get off campus and see a place you haven’t seen before,” he says. “Apply for a Venture grant to help with the finances. It will be more affordable now to travel abroad than any other time in your life.”
Spring Term is an opportunity for students to study a single academic topic for an entire month. With the option of on-campus or travel courses, students must take two Spring Term courses during their time at Alma.
Ecuador, England, Germany, Greece, Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland are among the international destinations for Alma College students during the 2018 Spring Term, which begins April 29 and continues through May 24. Below is a roundup of this year’s courses:
- Brian Doyle will lead biology students in a study of an indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazon. San Jose de Payamino is a Kichwa community of roughly 300 people whose primitive lifestyle includes the use of medicinal plants from the surrounding rainforest.
- Mike Bishop and biology students will visit the Bellavista Ecoreserve in the tropical cloud forests of the Andes in central Ecuador to observe, capture and measure the birds found there.
- Murray Borrello and Michael Selmon will take students to Greece for an interdisciplinary study of the Greek landscapes and how they shaped the history and culture of the people who lived on them. Students will explore how Greek literature uses the environment to trace the human condition.
- Dana Aspinall will immerse English students in medieval and renaissance drama during visits to York, Stratford and London in England. Students will visit the original locations where the dramatic works were performed.
- German language professor Holly Liu will take students to Berlin for a study of the 20th century political systems that shaped the histories of Berlin and Germany. The trip will include a visit to Auschwitz to reflect on the Nazi crimes committed against the Jewish people.
- Amanda Harwood and Eric Calhoun will lead students to New Zealand for an interdisciplinary study of the geological history, biodiversity and environmental issues of the southwestern Pacific Ocean island country.
- Dale Sanders will lead business students in a study of healthcare ideology and issues of disparity as they relate to women, children, the poor and minorities. The class will include trips to Toronto, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and other locations.
- Political science students will explore ethnic politics during their visit to Scotland. The course will examine Scottish identity and nationalism in the aftermath of the failed 2014 referendum that asked the Scots if they wished to become an independent country.
- The Alma Choir will travel to and perform in Scotland, including visits to Ayr, Oban, on the islands of Iona and Skye, in St. Andrews and at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.
- Dan Connolly and Sean Henne will take students to Ireland to study the country’s art and literature through its landscapes, culture and mythology. Students will examine the early myth cycles to the more recent works of William B. Yeats, James Joyce and Seamus Heaney.
Several Spring Term classes will travel but stay within the United States. Political science students will study historical topics at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Creative writing students will visit Key West in Florida to study the lives and works of the poets and writers who lived and worked there. New Media Studies students will visit digital film production facilities and sets in Detroit.
Business students studying strategic leadership will interact with Alma College alumni in Detroit and Chicago. English students will study fishing in literature along the Au Sable River. Anthropology students will survey a local archaeological site. Biochemistry students will participate in a beekeeping workshop to study the medicinal properties of honey.
Classes on campus cover a variety of topics, including “The Lord of the Rings and the Making of Middle Earth,” online game theory, dance and pop culture, health behavior, and geography and the Bible.