New course abroad offers option for diversity requirement

Briana Barker

The geography department has a new summer session of the Geography of Europe course, which is offered in Geneva, Switzerland.

There is no prerequisite for the course, and students do not need to be geography majors to take the course. History majors, education majors and science majors have all attended the class, said Thomas Schmidlin, geography professor and instructor of the course.

“We want them to have a Kent State University experience in Europe,” he said.

The course is worth three credit hours and would satisfy the university’s diversity requirement.

Students lodge in dorms, which Kent State uses regularly. There are students from all over Geneva as well.

The purpose of the class is to examine not only the physical geography, but the cultural, political and economical elements of Europe, according to the course catalog.

Schmidlin said the course starts from scratch, teaching fundamentals of geography, and leads into the specifics of the area.

The class is structured in a classroom setting from 9 a.m. to noon each day Monday through Thursday, and students are free to explore and see Geneva the rest of the day. In addition to the free time in the afternoons, Schmidlin said there would be two three-day weekends students have free.

“A lot of students travel on the weekends to see more of Europe while they are over there,” Schmidlin said.

The summer intercession of the course runs May 20 through June 10.

The cost is $2,900 plus tuition. The fee includes airfare, lodging, meals and day trips.

There needs to be at least 15 students interested in going in order to make the trip happen, said Jay Lee, geography department chairman.

The funding for these types of courses not only come from the students, but from the departmental funding as well. Lee said for every 15 airline tickets they purchase they get a 16th ticket free to provide the instructor’s airfare. In some cases the instructor will pay his or her own way.

Lee said the cost of this trip is somewhat higher because it is a three-week trip, and the longer time frame adds cost, but it includes plenty of places that are worthy of seeing.

“I simply think there are particular disciplines that can’t be delivered in a classroom,” he said.

Mutual understanding and becoming more open minded are things Lee said he hopes students gain from the experience.

“Students being there and getting a chance to talk to people over there get a better understanding of the culture, and the people over there get a better understanding of us as well,” Lee said. “Hopefully, that will equal a better future.”

Senior psychology major Kelli Howard said she has never studied abroad and feels like it is an opportunity she cannot pass up.

“I hope this trip will add depth and richness to my collegiate experience by allowing me to gain firsthand a worldview of different cultures,” she said.

Howard had previously taken the Geography of Wine course and said she knew she had to go to Paris and she most looks forward to that experience.

Graduate student Vanessa Myers said her lifelong dream is to get to go to Europe, and the fact that this course takes place during intercession and is relatively short, makes it possible for her to go.

“It’s a lot harder to study abroad when you’re in grad school, especially if you’re on assistantship,” Myers said.

Myers said she feels the trip is most definitely worth it because she may never get the chance to go to Europe again, and she thinks this is a great setup because Geneva is located in the center of things and there are a lot of opportunities to see other countries.

“I hope to gain knowledge of the different governments in Europe as well as a better understanding of the different cultures,” she said.

Students who are interested need to speak with Schmidlin by early February. He can be contacted at (330) 672-3227.

Contact College of Art and Sciences reporter Briana Barker at [email protected]