Tales from a summer in Strasbourg
It doesn’t take Centre students long to fall in love with foreign cultures. Whether they study overseas for three weeks or three months, nearly every Centre student who heads to another country returns to the United States with a new worldview and a passion for new ways of life.
The 10 students taking part in the 2012 early summer Strasbourg program are no exception. Having just returned from their short summer stint in France, the students are still basking in memories from their recent adventures.
And adventures they did have. In addition to studying “France Inside Out” with associate professor of international studies Dr. Lori Hartmann-Mahmud, the group traveled around the country on seven different excursions and had a long weekend to travel on their own.
“During the three weeks we were in France,” Hartmann-Mahmud says, “we visited Struthof Concentration Camp—the only one in France, which allows students to better understand France’s experience with WWII and to see the long shadow of history and how that era continues to influence political discourse up to the present era; Haut Konigsbourg, a medieval castle that was refurbished by Wilhelm II of Germany in order to consolidate his control over the region of Alsace; Colmar, a nearby city with wonderful museum set in a convent; Mount Sainte Odile, a monastery in the Vosges mountains built in honor of Patron saint of the region; Kehl, Germany, which we visited by bike; the Roman Baths in Baden Baden, Germany; and Paris, the trip that concluded the summer program.”
In Strasbourg itself, the students enjoyed a guided tour of the Cathedral with Centre’s adjunct art history professor, Kate Sowley, a visit to the European institutions with Centre’s adjunct government professor, Pierre Nuss, and visits to several museums.
“Getting to see first-hand all these amazing sites and landmarks is an experience most people only dream of having,” says Emily Landherr ’13. “Learning about French culture is one thing, but actually going to France and experiencing the culture is the best way to learn, and probably the most fun way as well.”
Bryon Ellis ’13 agrees. “Learning about another culture by being fully immersed in it was the most rewarding aspect of this experience. I felt like a resident of Strasbourg, not an American tourist abroad.”
The government course held in Strasbourg this summer was, Hartmann-Mahmud says, “essentially a study of French political culture and how domestic politics interacts with foreign policy. Because the summer group was in Strasbourg between the presidential elections in France and the legislative elections, the issues we discussed in class are being debated in the campaigns. It was great fun to be there during this period.”
Like all Centre abroad trips, the summer Strasbourg program turned the city and surrounding areas into the classroom.
“The course would not be possible in Danville,” Hartmann-Mahmud says. “The setting is key for understanding many of the major issues in French politics—the long reach of history, the complex history of the region of Alsace and how it differs from the rest of France.”
She adds that the local museums “expose students to the wonderful cultural resources in France, the EU institutions enhance our discussions of France’s role in the EU and why Strasbourg is an ideal location for these institutions, and the bike ride into Kehl reinforces this as we move effortless from France to Germany—no visa needed, no border control.”
Although the course spanned only three weeks, it offered students plenty of experiences; experiences they might not enjoy otherwise, since many students are not able to leave campus to study abroad for a full semester.
“I’d always wanted to study abroad and travel to Europe,” Ellis says. “However, I’d been unable to do so for a semester because I play basketball. This short summer trip provided the perfect opportunity for me to travel abroad.”
For Landherr, the summer trip was a way to study abroad for a third time. Having taken part in Centre trips to Greece and China, she was eager to experience life in France as well.
“I had such amazing experiences studying abroad,” she says. “When I graduate from Centre, I’m not going to have the opportunity to travel, so I figured I needed to seize the chance while it was presented to me.”
Now that the program is complete and the students are back home, they, like many Centre students before them, are already eager to see more of the world. And, like Ellis, they agree that “if a student has yet to study abroad, it’s something they must to before they graduate from Centre. They will not regret it.”