CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – When Travis Tanner, an Austin Peay State University freshman, read “Oliver Twist” for his world literature class earlier this semester, he had a little trouble visualizing the young orphan’s journey through London.
Part of the problem was that Tanner, a physics major, had never visited Europe. In fact, his only experience with international travel occurred a few years ago on a road trip to Canada. So the drab, Georgian-style buildings of Victorian England were a bit hard to imagine.
To remedy this problem, Tanner and his classmates boarded a plane earlier this spring and flew to London to see first-hand the settings they were reading about in class.
“‘Oliver Twist’ is very London-based, there’s a lot of moving about,” he said. “Being in London, it kind of gives you some perspective on where these things are happening, what’s going on.”
The trip was part of an innovative new study abroad program offered by APSU’s Office of International Education, taking students in Dr. Daniel Shea’s world literature class and Dr. Jennifer Snyder’s art appreciation class to London for only a week during the spring break holiday.
“This study-abroad model provides an affordable and convenient introduction to study abroad and exchange opportunities,” Tina Rousselot de St. Ceran, coordinator of international education at APSU, said. “Many of the student participants returned from the trip and immediately began working on applications for their next study abroad or exchange program.”
The two courses offering this imbedded travel component were typical, three-credit-hour classes that met twice a week on campus. The world literature students spent the semester reading works such as “The Canterbury Tales” and “Mrs. Dalloway,” while the art appreciation students studied paintings by Raphael and other noted artists on display in London museums.
“We did a lot of prep work,” Shea, an APSU associate professor of English, said about his World Literature class. “Before we left, we did a lot of mapping of our character’s journeys through London.”
Shea’s students went everywhere from Bath, a site important to “The Canterbury Tales,” to the building Charles Dickens lived in while he wrote “Oliver Twist.” Shea also took his students to places mentioned in Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” a book they didn’t read until they returned from the spring break trip.
“Now that they’ve been there, as they’re reading more literature based in London, they’re able to picture things much more vividly,” Shea said. “As we’ve been reading ‘Mrs. Dalloway,’ I’ve had them pick one character and plot on a map that character’s course through London. And I ask them, ‘what did we learn about the characters from where they went in London?’”
Snyder, an assistant professor of art at APSU, took her art appreciation students to the major galleries in London, such as such as the Tate Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. They also made a day trip to Stonehenge.
“The students were all well behaved and enthusiastic,” she said. “To do it again, I would spend more time in the British Museum. Everyone seemed disappointed in not seeing everything in the museum. We watched a video on it before we left, showing highlights of it. Several took notes and were able to see what they wanted to see.”
What was truly unique about the program was that many of the participants were either freshmen or sophomores, or nontraditional students with children at home. That meant several of them didn’t have either the experience or the time to take a long study abroad trip.
“It was compact, but I think it was the right length for our students, whether they had family or work obligations and needed to get back for that reason, or because it was their first time abroad,” Shea said. “For all of my students, it was their first time abroad. For more than one, it was their first time on an airplane. We’re really opening doors.”
The program cost was also low due to the short amount of time spent abroad, and students were able to use financial aid and apply for a Global Learning travel grant to cover 25 percent of the program cost.
“I always wanted to travel abroad, and this was really the most affordable way to go,” Tanner said.
“Due to the success of the model with students and faculty alike,” Rousselot de St. Ceran said, “APSU will expand the travel-imbedded course options across the general education core. It is our goal to send as many students abroad as possible and allow them to stay on track with their degree program requirements.”
For more information on these courses, contact the APSU Office of International Education at 221-6851.
Photo cutline: Dr. Jennifer Snyder, APSU assistant professor of art, Tina Rousselot de St. Ceran, coordinator of International Education at APSU and Dr. Daniel Shea, associate professor of Languages and Literature, visit the Tower of London on a recent study abroad trip.