New Classes on Madrid, Shakespeare’s London Popular with Students
By Katharine Webster
After two years of canceled or limited study abroad, the Honors College added two new international experiences this year to meet student demand.
One was Shakespeare’s London, taught by English Assoc. Teaching Prof. Kevin Petersen. He and Honors College Assistant Director Erin Maitland took 17 students to London and Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace and home to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, for two weeks in early summer.
Madison Feudo, a rising junior majoring in peace and conflict studies, says the play they saw in Stratford, “Henry VI,” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” which they saw at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, were the highlights of the experience.
“I cried at the end of ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ it was so good!” she says. “Sometimes, you can see a Shakespeare play and you don’t understand a word of it ... but the actors did a fantastic job of bridging the gap between Shakespeare’s time and now.”
The new classes are in addition to two honors study abroad experiences that have run for several years: three weeks in San Sebastian, Spain, during the summer, studying Basque history and culture and taking Spanish language classes (three sections each summer), and a study abroad program in Cuba over the winter intersession. Both are taught by Zabalbeascoa.
Honors College Dean Jenifer Whitten-Woodring says she is looking for more faculty interested in partnering on new courses with the Honors College and Fern MacKinnon, director of international experiences and study abroad. She hopes to add one per year for the next few years.
“Honors study abroad programs are always in high demand – we always fill them, and in the past, we’ve sometimes had to turn students away because there weren’t enough course openings,” she says. “Study abroad is such a wonderful opportunity for our students. Many have never had a chance to leave the United States, and we want to be as inclusive as we can.”
Warren, a commuter student who just finished her first year at UML, didn’t know anyone else who had signed up, so she was both excited and nervous before traveling – and a little overwhelmed during the first few days in London, a “go, go, go” city.
But she quickly made friends with the other students, figured out the map of the London Underground rapid transit system and acted as navigator whenever a small group went off on their own to visit a museum, park or historic site.
She says she gained confidence in her ability to travel independently while also making good friends, a realization that struck her as she and a group of students walked to the Underground after “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“It was nice to have a group of people to share the experience with,” she says. “I think we’ll be friends into the fall, and hopefully beyond.”
Students in honors study abroad courses must write papers before or after the international experience, as well as one or more blog posts during travel. Among other assignments, those in the Madrid class had to research and write about Ernest Hemingway’s relationship with Madrid before the travel portion of the course.
“Because of that list, we got to experience a lot more,” she says. “And it was really nice to see the places we’d written about. When you see everything with your own eyes, it’s very different.”
Nick Trunfio, a business major with a minor in history, says he was fascinated by the historical information provided by their formal guides – and was shocked at the near-absence of monuments in Madrid commemorating the Spanish Civil War.
That made an excursion to the Valley of the Fallen, established by the late dictator Francisco Franco to memorialize the Nationalist dead, but where Republicans also lie buried in mass graves, especially poignant, he says.
For business major Maddie Gear, already an experienced traveler, the highlight of the Madrid experience was a day trip to Segovia, a city with a Roman aqueduct, a historic cathedral and the castle that Walt Disney used as a model for the one in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
“My main takeaway from this trip stems from something Prof. Zabalbeascoa said: ‘The more you put into studying abroad, the more open you are, the more adventurous you are and the more you listen, the more you’ll take away from it,’” Gear says.
“At first I thought it was kind of cheesy, but during that week, I began to experience what he meant,” she says.
“And I’ve definitely taken that home with me, because why would I only be open-minded while traveling when I could get more out of life every day?”