North Central College - Naperville, IL

D-Term courses take students around the globe

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Jan. 24, 2011—North Central College’s trimester format offers students a break from regular classes between Thanksgiving and the new year. During December—or D-Term—students can take advantage of North Central’s study abroad opportunities.

Many students say their D-Term studies abroad are life-changing experiences that are not only incredibly fun and exciting, but profoundly educational events that help shape their career and life choices. In December 2010, students had unprecedented opportunities to enroll in seven different courses during the College’s D-Term. Destinations included Rome, Turkey and Northern Ireland for the first time.

The courses gave students a new appreciation for people who had different viewpoints and upbringings. All told, 155 students accompanied by 19 North Central faculty and staff took advantage of D-Term study abroad opportunities.

Brazil course examines racial equality

With the Global Studies course “Afro-Brazilian Culture in Brazil,” students traveled to Salvador, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro for 17 days. While these are places known for their beaches, nightlife and cultural propensity for celebration, a serious intellectual mission was taking place.

“We interrogated the myth of Brazilian racial equality, addressing the fact that Brazil was the last country in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery,” says Paloma Martinez-Cruz, assistant professor of Spanish. “While in Salvador, Bahia, we stayed with local host families, studied Portuguese language and observed and participated in Afro-Brazilian culture forms including Afro-Brazilian dance, Candomblé, cuisine, literature, capoeira and tours of colonial neighborhoods that contribute to the formation of Afro-Brazilian identity politics.”

In Rio de Janeiro the group stayed in a hotel on Copacabana Beach and visited Ipanema, Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugar Loaf Mountain and a number of local and international sites and performances that celebrate the history, challenges and prospects of the Brazilian people. 

 “The biggest discovery that I made during this course is that we all have a lot to be thankful for,” said Jacob Murphy, a junior from Woodstock, Ill., majoring in health and physical education. “Brazil is a beautiful country and they know how to have a good time. But not everyone there gets to live like we do here in the United States. Every person who went on the trip was amazing and made the trip memorable,” Murphy said.

Group explores historic sites in France
Students in the “Journey through the History of France” course experienced modern French culture through the lens of history. The group visited Roman ruins, medieval cathedrals, a Renaissance château, Versailles and Paris. “In the course, I promote experiential learning: What we can learn from being on site at these places,” said Norval Bard, associate professor of French.

“The course changed the way I look at life,” said sophomore Kourtney Macaluso, a psychology major from Niles, Ill. “Everything is always changing yet something is always being repeated as well. The course also helped me realize what is really important in life.”

Students treated to behind-the-scenes look in Germany

Students visited castles once home to Prussian royalty and toured World War II bunkers 20 to 60 feet underground. The course gave students “an opportunity to experience Berlin very intensely for three weeks,” including the city’s culture, history and society, said Greg Wolf, associate professor of German. Students were able to walk through German neighborhoods and visit shops that most tourists never see.

“Experiencing another culture directly and interacting with citizens having utterly different backgrounds than myself was informative and instructive upon my own world views,” said Trevor Sturm, a senior philosophy major from Franklin Park, Ill.

Originally the course was planned for Nov. 30 to Dec. 17, but when the group attempted to depart, a major winter storm closed London’s Heathrow Airport as well as various others across Europe. “For me having five extra days in a city like Berlin was nothing to complain about,” Sturm said. “This D-Term trip has taught me all the plans in the world will not stand up to the forces of nature.”

Dual opportunities to study economics, religion in Greece and Turkey

The 44 students who visited Greece and Turkey were enrolled in one of two courses that followed the same travel itineraries. One was a business course focusing on economies in Turkey, Greece and the European Union and the other was a religious studies course on Eastern Orthodox Christianity in a cultural context. During their 12 days abroad, students visited such famous sites as the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey as well as the Delphi and the Acropolis in Greece.

Sophomore Megan Shoemate, a Japanese and French major from Norwood, N.J., marveled at the Islamic architecture. However, the trip also opened her eyes to Orthodox Christianity. “I consider myself an informed person, but that view was shattered when I saw the complete dearth of knowledge I had about this huge branch of Christianity,” she said. In addition to encountering two very different cultures, students had the opportunity to witness how economic and religious factors have shaped Turkey and Greece.

Conducting independent research in London

A group of 18 students spent 10 days in London, where each conducted independent research projects in areas ranging from the Beatles to the European Union economy to environmentally green initiatives in the United Kingdom. Each day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. the class traveled across London visiting places like the British Museum, Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge and many more in an attempt to gain an appreciation of British history and culture.

After 2 p.m., students went about the city working on their own research projects. Senior Paul Madigan, a finance and economics double major from Streamwood, Ill., works full time, but the course was short enough so he was able to get the time off work. “The course was great in that it was structured enough to see the major attractions, but at the same time we were encouraged to go out on our own adventures and we did just that.”

Meeting the political elite in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland course provided 24 students the opportunity to study the politics and psychology of conflict. Students walked the route of the Bloody Sunday march with Jon McCourt, a former member of the Irish Republican Army turned peace activist, who was at the march and lost friends to British gunfire.

Students met the Speaker of the Northern Irish Parliament “to discuss his efforts to govern in a deeply divided, but reconciling culture,” said Tom Cavanagh, Schneller Sisters Professor of Leadership, Ethics and Values; professor of law and conflict resolution; director of leadership, ethics and values; and coordinator of master of leadership studies program.

Students toured Kilmainham Gaol, where the leaders of the 1916 uprising were imprisoned and executed by the British. “During the course, I learned that just because there may be two sides to the issue in Northern Ireland, it is not always just black and white,” said sophomore Daniel Kerley, a psychology and religious studies double major from Vienna, Ill. “I learned that with culture there is a deeper meaning than what is already there.”

A monumental experience in Rome

From Dec. 5 to Dec. 18, North Central students visited Rome for the first time during D-Term. The 27 students walked along stone roads and through crowded alleys to reach destinations like the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel.

“This course was a rigorous, in-depth study of Roman history, art and architecture,” said Michael de Brauw, assistant professor of modern and classical languages. “Students spent 12 days exploring historical sites and museums—not only famous ones, such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, Saint Peter’s Square, the Vatican, and the Sistine Chapel—but also many hidden gems, including often-overlooked archaeological sites, such as Ostia Antica and the Baths of Caracalla, and small churches housing masterpieces by the likes of Bernini and Caravaggio.”

Students appreciated the exposure to many different periods of art and architecture. “The size and scale of many monuments and art are amazing to me now,” said junior Jessica Kidd, an art major from Texas. “It's far different staring at a picture all day, it just doesn't compare to actually being there. I knew many sculptures and buildings were huge, but not on that level!”

Additional destinations

In addition to the seven credit courses offered abroad, three other groups of students experienced life in foreign countries during December 2010. A group active in Students In Free Enterprise visited Guatemala to meet coffee farmers involved in the student-led enterprise to sell Guatemalan goods in America. Eleven members of the men’s and women’s swim teams traveled to Costa Rica for competitions, and a group visited Haiti for a service trip.

Visit the D-Term photo album for pictures.