For my first series of posts, I’d like to invite you to join me in the summer-long process of turning an on-campus, lecture-based class on the history of World War I into a travel course that will see me leading a troupe of twenty students on a three-week tour of cities and battlefield sites in England, Belgium, France, and Germany. (“Over there,” as George Cohan’s popular patriotic song called Europe.)
I won’t actually be taking the first such trip until January 2013 (or maybe 2014), but the relevant proposals need to be completed by early October, so I’ve already spent much of my break working on them.
My goal is to take you through the course one day at a time, with each post previewing something I expect to emphasize at that point in the trip: a course theme, a pivotal event, a poem/play/painting/film, a museum or memorial site we’re visiting, a difficult question raised, etc.
To get started, let me ask for your feedback on a few questions. While I’ve traveled to Europe a few times, and even lived in England and France for half a year while doing dissertation research, I never studied abroad during my undergraduate years, nor have I led such a trip before. So I’m curious:
- If you had a study abroad experience in college, what was most valuable about it, at the time and in retrospect?
- What surprised you about the experience (positively or negatively)?
- If you’ve taught a January/May term (or semester) abroad, what have you learned about the process that you wish you knew the first time you did it?
- What about on-campus teaching was hardest to give up? What did you gain by going off-campus?
Coming up Monday: we get the ball rolling by helping students to imaginatively immerse themselves in turn-of-the-century America…