Col­lege en­cour­ages travel study ex­pe­ri­ences

Maryland Independent - - Community -

It’s one thing to read or hear about an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal or his­toric site; it’s an­other to be able to see it, ex­pe­ri­ence re­lated cul­ture and get the holis­tic ex­pe­ri­ence that only comes with be­ing there.

The Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land be­lieves in the power of im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences that foster deeper learn­ing and un­der­stand­ing. CSM’s travel-study pro­gram, where stu­dents travel to other states or other coun­tries to tour cas­tles, work at a camp for chil­dren with se­ri­ous ill­nesses, snorkel in the Caribbean Sea or study an­cient ru­ins, is de­signed to pro­vide those kinds of op­por­tu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from CSM.

“If at­tend­ing col­lege does what it is sup­posed to, it is a trans­for­ma­tive agent in stu­dents’ lives,” CSM pro­fes­sor Paul Bil­leter said in the re­lease. “Noth­ing I do as a pro­fes­sor trans­forms my stu­dents’ lives as much as travel study.”

Cur­rent op­por­tu­ni­ties for CSM stu­dents in­clude trips to Belize, Ire­land, Florida and Scot­land. Reg­is­tra­tion for the 2017 trips to Scot­land and Florida has passed. How­ever, there is still room to sign up for the Belize trip this month and the Ire­land trip sched­uled for this sum­mer.

“Oh, my gosh. It was the best time of my life,” CSM stu­dent Me­lana Kriv­it­sky of New­burg, who went on the CSM Belize trip in both 2014 and 2015, said in the re­lease. “It def­i­nitely broad­ened my ex­pe­ri­ence with other cul­tures. It made me more will­ing and en­thu­si­as­tic to learn more about the marine en­vi­ron­ment.”

This month will mark the 14th year of CSM’s Belize Travel pro­gram. Par­tic­i­pat­ing stu­dents can en­roll in two cour­ses tai­lored for this travel pro­gram, which in­clude both on­line prepa­ra­tion and in-coun­try ex­po­sure to the marine en­vi­ron­ment and the study of the cul­tures of Belize.

The first three days of the March 17 to 26 trip, led by CSM pro­fes­sor Carolin McManus, are ded­i­cated to ex­plor­ing ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence of an­cient Mayan sites near the small town of San Ig­na­cio.

McManus said stu­dents can climb mil­len­nial-old tem- ples, sam­ple freshly ground choco­late and tra­verse the un­der­world via Ac­tun Tu­nichil Muk­nal, a phe­nom- enal, sa­cred cave sys­tem that has been fea­tured in Na­tional Ge­o­graphic and Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel spe­cials.

“It is a rare priv­i­lege to in­tro­duce stu­dents to a re­gion of the world not many of us get to ex­pe­ri­ence first­hand. Belize’s in­dige­nous his­tory with its over­lay of Spanish, Bri­tish and African-Caribbean groups has cre­ated an un­beat­able liv­ing cul­tural class­room,” McManus said in the re­lease.

Af­ter a short flight in small planes from Belize City, the CSM group ar­rives on the is­land of Am­ber­gris, lo­cated ad­ja­cent to the world’s sec­ond largest bar­rier reef sys­tem. There Bil­leter and staff from the Trop­i­cal Re­search and Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter in­tro­duce stu­dents to an ar­ray of marine ecosys­tems pop­u­lated by col­or­ful corals, sponges and fish. While snor­kel­ing in the clear, warm wa­ters, stu­dents have the chance to pho­to­graph and learn to iden­tify the myr­iad species for a co­op­er­a­tive group project in the marine bi­ol­ogy course.

“Of all the cour­ses I have taught and ac­tiv­i­ties I have as­signed in my 43 years of teach­ing for CSM, tak­ing stu­dents to Belize and watch­ing them in­ter­act with the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment in per­son is the best thing I do,” Bil­leter said.

For more in­for­ma­tion on CSM’s up­com­ing travel study op­por­tu­ni­ties, visit pro­grams-cour­ses/credit/ flex­i­ble-learn­ing-op­tions/ travel-study/.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land stu­dents on a pre­vi­ous travel-study trip to Belize take a break dur­ing one of their ex­cur­sions.

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