By: Bill Silvia
Over this past summer, WCSU students, faculty, and affiliates traveled to sites across Europe and Asia thanks to a variety of opportunities made available by the university. Travelers from the university community spent time in France, Taiwan, Spain, or Bulgaria with help from the Macricostas School of Arts & Sciences, the Ancell School of Business, the Kathwari Honors Program (KHP), and the Inter-Residence Hall Association (IRHA). Trip itineraries included visits to historical landmarks, cultural education, academics, and in one case community service.
Most of these trips were primarily academic, requiring students to register for a particular course or group of courses for university credit.
“Americans in Paris” was made available in the spring semester by the History and English Departments and the KHP, culminating in a seven-day trip to the eponymous city in May.
The other two academic trips counted as summer credits, for which students are billed separately as part-time enrollment. These trips were the World Languages and Literature Department’s twelfth annual trip to Spain and the Management Department’s visit to Taiwan.
The final trip, to Bulgaria, was sponsored by the IRHA, KHP, and Corawill for the purpose of conducting community service, though students had the option to receive independent study credits by working with the faculty member supervising the trip.
Nineteen students, two faculty advisors, and one additional guest spent the week after finals in Paris. This was the culminating experience for HON 398/AS 298, which met several times during the semester in preparation. This course focused on the relationship between historical American figures such as Benjamin Franklin and French national history. While this was the shortest of the trips offered, students were still able to visit sites such as the Catacombs of Paris; night-time visits to the Eiffel Tower were a highlight of the trip for many students.
One undergraduate student, four Master’s students, and three MBA recipients from WCSU’s business school were joined by Dr. Ming Ling Chuang and Dr. Alexandra Galli-Debicella in Taiwan. This trip lasted from May 19 to 31 and was part of an International Business: Asia Pacific Perspective (MGT 345/598) course. The Ancell School partnered with Soochow University in Tapei for this course. Travelers attended lectures by researchers and executives, visited corporate sites in a variety of fields, and were introduced to the local culture.
The longest trip, spanning a full month from mid-May to mid-June, was the World Languages Department’s annual trip to Spain. Twelve students and two professors, led by Dr. Galina Bakhtiarova, chair of the World Languages department, stayed in four cities and attended a three-week intensive Spanish language course; this applied as an SPA course credit depending on what level the student had achieved in their prior studies. For some of these students, this was used to satisfy their foreign language general education requirement.
Activities included five museums, multiple flamenco performances, and many optional activities including tours of castles and historical religious buildings. Students were given the opportunity to taste signature dishes from different regions of Spain and received a presentation from an award-winning ham cutter on the cultural importance of Spanish ham.
Twenty-three volunteers from WCSU, the University of Connecticut, and Danbury High School, as well as former adjunct faculty member Jeannie Hatcherson and her husband David, spent the first ten days of August in Bulgaria.
The majority of the time was spent in Vratsa, where volunteers led activities for children in a group home, took them on trips, and performed maintenance work on the grounds. Several first-time volunteers described the experience as “life-changing.” When not spending time with the children, volunteers explored landmarks in Vidin, Vratsa, and Sofia. The trip was organized by Krysta Scriven, a repeat volunteer who hopes to teach English in Bulgaria after completing her degree.
All of these trips had three things in common: they were intellectually and culturally stimulating to travelers, they offered a remarkable linguistic experience, and represented opportunities that would have been out of reach to many outside the university setting. Due to the combination of funding and discounts making travel more accessible for WCSU, as well as the trip supervisors’ connections in these countries, it opened up opportunities that the average tourist may not have had.