Over winter break, Knox’s European Identities program gave 14 students the opportunity to travel to Istanbul and Berlin to research topics of personal interest in the two countries. These short-term study abroad programs, offering both benefits and disadvantages in comparison to a more traditional term or year overseas, are increasingly popular at Knox.
European Identities is one of several short-term study abroad programs that Knox offers. Alongside Istanbul and Berlin, this year’s opportunities also included a trip to Ghana organized by the music department and a trip to Greece organized by the classics department. Many years there is also Japan Term, a more intensive program that requires students to take three classes in the fall in preparation for a trip to Japan over the break.
The Berlin and Istanbul trip was run by three Knox professors: Assistant Professor of Political Science Daniel Beers, Assistant Professor of German Todd Heidt and Assistant Professor of History Emre Sencer. Each professor taught classes that the students took as prerequisites for the trip to prepare for travelling abroad.
Sencer noted that their combined efforts made the trip “a true interdisciplinary experience.”
In two and a half weeks the group travelled from Berlin to Istanbul and back to Berlin. This allowed students to make connections between the two locations and their studies and to understand the countries’ influences on each other.
While the travel generally ran smoothly, Heidt noted that there were some problems with such a short time frame.
“A con is that students aren’t able to get to know the language well enough to connect with locals. . . . They are rather insulated in this setting.”
Sophomore Adrian Secter plans to study in Mongolia for two terms next year.
“It’s not really study abroad and it’s not really a vacation trip,” Secter said of the difference between going abroad for break versus a term. “It’s more like an extended field trip, so all the pluses and minuses of a normal field trip are magnified on it … But it’s also what you make of it.”
Knox’s study abroad coordinator Robin Ragan said that students should consider the financial aspects of study abroad when weighing their options.
“Financially speaking, if you study abroad for a semester or a term your financial aid goes with you,” she said. “Whereas if you go abroad for a two week term, those are all out of pocket expenses.”
Knox faculty and students also noted the potential benefits of studying abroad for a short break versus an entire term.
“For students who haven’t been outside the U.S. or haven’t traveled much or want to go to a location where they have very little familiarity and would feel uncomfortable going for a whole semester on their own, this is perfect,” Ragan said.
Beers agreed with this sentiment, saying that going abroad for break “can act as a stepping stone for students not ready to commit to studying abroad for a whole term.”
Overall, both faculty and students seemed to enjoy the trip and were happy with its outcome. Beers, Heidt and Sencer agreed that they would like to potentially offer the trip every two years for students who desire the opportunity to study abroad in such a setting.
For Secter, the most rewarding outcome of the trip was an enhanced appreciation for the time spent understanding a city. “The most interesting thing I took out of it was how these two cities felt so cohesive because of the trip, but also in many ways they couldn’t be more apart.”