by REBECCA HICKOK
Drake University offers a number of opportunities for students to study abroad. Over the 2020 J-term, abroad courses were offered in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Senior Melanie Dahlstrom traveled to Israel and Jordan in the Religions of the Middle East travel seminar. The class of thirteen toured cities, saw the Roman theater, visited many religious sites, went to museums, gardens, hiked, and floated in the Dead Sea.
Dahlstrom said that the Israel Museum in Jerusalem was her favorite part. Although she likes visiting museums in general, she found that this on in particular was “stacked” with information.
According to the museum’s website, the museum, built in 1965, now measures 20 acres and is home to almost 500,000 objects. These objects include the largest amount of “biblical and Holy Land archeology in the world.”
“The history in these places in the world is like nothing you can ever imagine, and gives me chills thinking about today,” Dahlstrom said.
Drake senior Allison Kaefring also studied abroad over the 2020 J-term. She was in the course Researching Thailand: Research, Exploration & Reflection. The class spent time in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Thailand, visiting local restaurants and temples, attending lectures, hiking the mountains, walking the night markets to purchase food and souvenirs, touring art museums, and riding through Elephant Valley, Thailand.
During their time spent in Elephant Valley, students had the opportunity to cut down banana tree branches to feed the elephants. In the hands-off sanctuary Kaefring said they learned about “ethical elephant tourism and how harmful different animal tourism is to animals.”
Kaefring also said that she was able to learn not only how different culture in Asia is, but also how similar it can be. While touring one of the more modern temples in Chiang Rai, Kaefring saw paintings of Iron Man, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Elvis on the wall, all of which were designed by famous Thai artists. In a nearby art museum, she saw a painting (by the same Thai artist) of “George Bush and Osama Bin Laden riding a rocket together in space.”
Dahlstrom said that her biggest takeaway was that people are only able to fully understand what is going on in the Middle East until they experience it in person. “The way the region is portrayed in the media is hurtful, and it is important to go out there and make connections,” she said, “I am so grateful for the opportunity that Drake provided to take us out there.”
Kaefring said she learned a lot during her time in Thailand, including how different conflicts impacted northern Thai culture. These conflicts include “genocide in Burma and Mianmar, China’s dams and railways, and the U.S. soldiers during and after the Korean War.”
“It was sunny and high 80s the whole time,” Kaefring said. “I miss the fresh fruit!”
J-term courses aren’t only for classes in your major, but they can also fulfill and AOI requirement. J-term courses may be held on campus or on a different continent.
For more information about J-term courses, you can contact Arthur Sanders at Arthur.firstname.lastname@example.org