The Baker Orange

Travel interterms enhance learning

Story by Taylor Shuck, Editor

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Some students took this interterm as an opportunity to explore more than just their hometown–they went abroad.

Three groups of students took different travel interterm adventures to Spain, Yucatan and regions of Europe in what senior Shelby Equels says was a “fun experience before going back to school.”

“It’s really cool that Baker offers this to students,” Equels said.

Equels went on the travel interterm titled “A Yucatan Adventure” to Yucatan, Mexico.

“At most universities, students would have to travel abroad to get this kind of experience, but this was just eight to 10 days, which was a perfect amount of time, and it was a chance for students to learn a new culture. It just makes Baker really stand out.”

The trips are meant to be both educational and entertaining. The Yucatan group learned of Mexico’s history and reflected on the Maya of today in ways that couldn’t be done through traditional textbook learning. Students swam underwater with bats and rode bikes in the middle of a jungle as interactive ways of learning the Mayan culture and how the delicate ecosystems work in the area.

Leonard Ortiz, the instructor of the Yucatan adventure, believes that traveling during school, especially within the weeks of interterm, is a good way for students to learn hands-on, by really delving in to the culture and how other people live.

“I think that students should take advantage of travel interterms here because they may not have the opportunity to once they leave,” Ortiz said. “It’s just an amazing, and in some ways, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that students should just take advantage of.”

One other “really cool place” that Ortiz referred to is Vienna. This year’s European tour, led by Assistant Professor of Art History Brett Knappe, gave students a chance to experience the region’s cultural traditions, with a goal to survey the periods of art, history and culture.

Senior Stephanie Nelson went on the art history trip, titled “Vienna, Prague and More,” and said she left with a better understanding of the culture and a better appreciation of her own belongings, something that Equels also mentioned about Mexico.

“Now that I’m home, I’m really trying to implement the things that I’ve learned,” Nelson said. “I’m spending less time online and more time with individuals. I’ve gained kind of a sense of caring about my education more and also about myself more.”

Nelson is no stranger to travel interterms. She went on the Yucatan trip during her sophomore year. She believes, along with Ortiz, that the experience is something that can’t, and shouldn’t, be passed up. She said the culture shock and adventures force students “out of their comfort zones.”

According to the course description for the trip to Spain, led by Associate Professor of Spanish Sandra Schumm, students have “the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Spanish language and culture for three weeks.” The students lived with families in Salamanca as a chance to further their language abilities and to engage in cultural activities with residents.

Travel interterms are a distinctive option for students at Baker, not offered at many other schools. It is an addition to students’ liberal arts educations and, according to Ortiz, helps people gain a deeper appreciation of those who live in different areas of the world.

“I think that if students, for that matter anybody, has that opportunity to travel and experience what this world has to offer, it opens up our perception to different people’s cultures, ideas, and it helps us to understand each other in ways that we couldn’t with textbooks,” Ortiz said. “To experience other people and to embrace their lifestyles, their cultures, their environment is a wonderful transforming learning experience.”

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