CentreTerm: 'Peoples of South America' class journeys to PeruRELEASED: January 8, 2009
DANVILLE, KY—CentreTerm, the College's distinctive three-week January term, has begun, and many students and professors are heading abroad to delve deeper into course topics ranging from Vietnam history to Puerto Rican ecology to primate behavior in Cameroon. Dr. Phyllis Passariello, Matton Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Andrea Abrams, visiting assistant professor of anthropology, and 18 students left this week on a 16-day tour of Peru for the course "Peoples of South America."
"I love taking students to other cultures because it allows me the opportunity over and over of seeing things for the first time," says Passariello, who has been taking Centre students to Latin and South America and Western and Central Europe since 1990. "I'm convinced that experiential learning, learning 'in the field,' as an anthropologist would say, trumps other ways of learning, and is especially important for our open-eyed, relatively inexperienced, and impressionable students."
To prepare for this trip, students did preliminary readings and studied the geography of places they will visit, which include, among many others:
· the Peruvian capital city of Lima
· Arequipa, known as the White City for its beautiful white walls of sillar, a volcanic stone
· the Colca river and canyon, filled with beautiful landscapes and thermal baths· Puno, the Folkloric Center of Peru where monthly festivals of music and dance fill the streets
· Cusco, the two-mile high famed capital of the Inca Empire and the oldest inhabited city in the western hemisphere
· Monkey Island, an area of Puerto Maldonada, Peru's center of biodiversity, that is home to a variety of monkeys and flora
"It's best to let the newness of the cultural experiences wash over us without too many perceptions about what we may 'see,'" Passariello says. "Then, of course, while in the field, students will have the chance to participate and observe and evolve informed opinions for themselves."
Ashton Burke '09, a double major in art history and anthropology from Ft. Worth, Texas, chose to study in Peru for two reasons, with an ultimate goal of discovering a completely different perspective on people, places and humanity.
"First, I've loved every class I've taken with Phyllis and have loved hearing about her adventures abroad," Burke says. His second reason stems from his interest in New World cultures, which grew in the fall of 2007 when he studied in Merida, Mexico.
"Although I tend to be more interested in archaeology and ancient civilizations, I understand the value of learning the perspectives of contemporary Peruvians," Burke says. "One reason I'm so excited about this trip is because of the destinations: not only do we spend time in some of the larger, more modern cities, but we also get to visit Machu Picchu. Also, the natural beauty of Peru is incredible, and I can't wait to witness it first hand."
Emily Reynolds '10, a pre-med major from Owingsville, Ky., was so excited about heading to Peru that she woke up at 5 a.m. the day before departure, unable to sleep because she started thinking about the trip, especially since it's her first time traveling abroad.
"I'm really excited to learn about different peoples and gain a broader and more complete view of the world around me," Reynolds says. "I think this class will really push me beyond my comfort zone and dismiss any inherent ethnocentricity I might have."
Reynolds is looking forward to the uniqueness of studying in Peru. "Everyone goes to Europe," she notes, "and it's fun to be doing something different."
"Peru has the second deepest canyon in the world—twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The rainforest there is one of the largest, they have a huge amount of biodiversity, and ornithologists flock there in droves to watch the hundreds of endemic bird species," Reynolds says. "The country holds a unique opportunity in that it provides a chance to observe indigenous peoples and the effect European colonization had upon them and their culture."
Centre is unusual among colleges with its 4-1-4 structured academic year. Students take four classes in the fall and four classes in the spring. In between, they participate in CentreTerm, three weeks of total immersion into fascinating, interdisciplinary subjects. Students take one class with a professor who is teaching only one class. Centre is known for personal education, and this intensive short term allows students and professors the opportunity to get to know one another in a shared, concentrated learning adventure.
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