EXL 594: Experiential Learning Travel Seminars
As a passionate advocate of faculty-led study abroad learning, I have co-led more than eleven such
interdisciplinary Experiential Learning (EL) seminars with Allegheny College colleagues from various departments (Psychology, Geology, Art, Chemistry, Theater, and Neurobiology).
The seminars to different regions in India, East and South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Japan have sought to introduce students to non-western perspectives and experiences of neoliberal globalization. The three-week summer EL study abroad seminars have addressed topics such as:
the exploration of race relations and the experiment with peace and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa,
environmental sustainability challenges in Kenya and corporate interventions,
the re-definition of democracy and secularism in postcolonial India, following the rise of neoliberal Hindutva (Hindu fundamentalist neo-nationalism),
the recovery of Sri Lanka from decades of civil insurgency,
the study of water ecology and eco-tourism in southern India, and
the postmodern hybridity of a reluctantly globalizing Japan.
Most recently, in the summer of 2019, my colleague Professor Beth Watkins (Theater) and I co-led an EL seminar across north-west India. Here's a writeup on it from Athena magazine.
My next EL collaboration, hopefully in the summer of 2024, will be with Associate Professor Dr. Lauren French (Biology/Neuroscience). Together, we will take Allegheny students from different fields of study to East Africa, to study how this "cradle of humankind" is modeling Harambee ("pulling together") through collective community activism and initiatives and glocalization.
ABOUT THE ALLEGHENY COLLEGE SUMMER EL SEMINARS:
At Allegheny College, the summer EXL 594 Experiential Learning (EL) travel seminars (for 2-4 credits) typically include travel in the U.S. or abroad, and incorporate a range of on-site explorations, intercultural activities, and lectures/workshops by local experts, that complement or illustrate the seminar topic. The seminars encourage students to integrate their intercultural and experiential learning with theory and research from their fields.
Students are exposed to diverse ideas, peoples, cultures, perspectives, and ways of life. The EXL 594
courses are designed and team-taught by Allegheny faculty and/or staff educators. Individual EL Seminars are reviewed by the Study Away and Campus Internationalization Committee and approved by the Curriculum Committee. For summer EL seminars, there is intensive academic preparation on the seminar topic during the Spring semester prior to travel. Graded assignments include travel journals, reflective blogs and papers, supervised research or community projects in the host culture, and re-entry presentations to public audiences.
The 2018 Summer Japan Experiential Learning (EL) Seminar to Japan (video above) co-led by Associate Prof. Darren Miller (Art) and myself, introduced students to how centuries-old traditions have shaped the consciousness of contemporary Japan.
We visited traditional gardens, shrines, and palaces. Then, we explored different museums -- watching robots play music at the Toyota Museum, before traveling to a village where we saw how feminine entrepreneurship (making life-sized dolls) can produce economic and social feminist empowerment. The art island of Naoshima was a lesson in how small towns can collaborate with industry houses to re-create themselves creatively and profitably.
We learned how to make our own fake food (shokuhin sampuru), took an intensive language course at Keio University in Tokyo, and discovered the importance of mascots in all aspects of Japanese life. From animal-cafes to open-air markets; from tea ceremonies and coffee houses to conveyor-belt sushi, fantastically fluffy egg sandwiches at Lawson's and the best desserts ever, Japan proved to be a gastronomic delight. Students were quick to spot links between the symbols in the historical kimonos on display in museums, and myths informing anime and video game narratives, and it all came together when we got to the modern marvel of Studio Ghibli, a wonderland producing media fantasies that enthrall contemporary generations.
However, the highlight was meeting the 103-year old survivor of the Hiroshima bombings, who you see towards the end of the video above. She insisted on meeting each member of the group individually, saying our names aloud and blessing us. After a day spent re-visiting the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, that encounter taught us more about peace and reconciliation than any exhibit, and it left us humbled.
As Americans, though, we were also moved by the respect that the Japanese felt towards President Obama for visiting Hiroshima and apologizing for the nuclear holocausts there. His gesture of reconciliation -- an origami peace crane -- can be found in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
OUR GILMAN SCHOLARS
I have worked closely with students, guiding them through the application process for the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships awarded by the U.S. State Department to help low-income students study abroad. Here are four of my success stories:
Glimpses into previous EL Seminars I have co-led @
An amazing lesson in the construction of race and the classification of people as either 'native', 'colored', 'Asian' or 'white'
We learned about Apartheid and the Truth and Reconciliation Experiment in South Africa.
The violence of divide-and-rule under apartheid that even decided rations in prison, based on one's race. @Robben Island, off Cape Town.
In one swoop of the pen, twenty years of a life gone. Incarceration under apartheid in South Africa.
Who says the most important survival skills can only be learned in college classrooms? Our Maasai tutors in Kenya teach us how to build a fire from scratch.
Sri Lanka - learning to shimmy up coconut trees, a feat that only the women in our group achieved successfully.
A different kind of pedestrian crossing in Sri Lanka. The attempt for humans and animals to peacefully co-exist is something we all learned from.
Our group appeared on Sri Lankan television to appeal for relief funds for flood victims in Colombo.
Forming new friendships and breaking down barriers and stereotypes while traveling in India
V. Jose, the Periyar River Keeper, teaches us about his lonely crusade to stop this water lifeline from being irreversibly damaged by industrial pollution. Kerala, India.
Learning the ancient martial martial art of Kalaripayattu in Kerala, South India.
Naoshima is an art island town in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. The Chichu Art Museum has paintings from Monet's “Water Lilies” series. Benesse House Museum shows contemporary sculpture and installations. And one of Yayoi Kusama’s iconic pumpkin sculptures stands by Miyanoura Port. One of the most fascinating experiences of art blending with nature.
Ayano Tsukimi started making the life-sized dolls as a prank when she returned to her hometown of Nagoro, to look after her ailing father. Now, the dolls can be found all around the village and Tsukimi has found a new calling as an artist.
In Japan we met with a 103 year-old Hiroshima survivor whose blessings humbled us and demonstrated what reconciliation really means.
At the Hiroshima Children's Peace Monument is a statue of Sadako Sasaki who died of atomic bomb disease radiation poisoning. She holds a wire crane above her head. Shortly before she passed, she had a vision to create a thousand cranes. Japanese tradition says that if one creates a thousand cranes, they are granted one wish. Sadako's wish was to have a world without nuclear weapons.
Taking a tour of street art with our new-found friends in New Delhi, India
A twelfth grader whose family moved to India from Sind (now in Pakistan). She makes bangles braving the heat of the melting lac over the coal brazier, with bare hands. — in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
A centuries-old tradition of weaving "dhurries" or rugs, where each family guards its own patterns. Bishnoi village, India
Appreciating the skill that goes into making a perfect clay bowl. Bishnoi village, India.
Participating in the communal kitchen in a Sikh temple in Delhi, India. Worshippers cook meals that are then served to rich and poor alike. This tradition of "langaar" is a reminder that in God's house, everyone is equal.