Jan Term study tours

February 10, 2009

They lurked about the Whitby Abbey, they spied the hometown of Vlad the Impaler and they followed the paths of countless narrow, winding cobblestone streets in their quest to retrace the steps of Dracula as depicted in Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel.

As part of their Jan Term experience, the 23 students who enrolled in English Professor Robert Kachur’s course, “In Search of Dracula,” spent two weeks exploring several key destinations: London, England; Whitby, England; Budapest, Hungary; and the Transylvania region of Romania.

Freshman Katalin Szoboszlay said the trip gave her an appreciation for other cultures as no textbook ever could.

“By studying Bram Stoker’s work, our class took literature to the next level, by turning words into living experiences,” said Szoboszlay, who is an English major. “From this experience, I gained insight as to how blessed we are as Americans, and learned more about the political, religious, cultural and economic situations of other countries.”

Szoboszlay was among the nearly 120 students who ventured to far away locations such as Israel, China, Italy, Belize, Cameroon and the Czech Republic for what many will recall as the educational opportunity of a lifetime.

After returning to campus from his trip to China, Fernando Gomes ’10, an English major, marveled at how he almost didn’t sign up for the class, “Globetrekking,” because the country is communist.

“The experience was amazing! I’ve taken plenty of trips in my lifetime, but this one nearly tops them all,” said Gomes, who joined 10 other students and two faculty members for a nine-day tour of China.

“We did all the great things that tourists must do, like climb the Great Wall and see the terra-cotta soldiers,” Gomes said. “However, our tour also allowed us to experience some unique things we would have never done on our own, like bringing us into the home of an elderly Chinese couple for dinner, visiting a middle school where we met some English-speaking students, and even being treated to a multi-course dinner and fully costumed performance befitting an emperor from the Tang dynasty.”

Gomes’ experience is exactly what McDaniel educators have in mind for the Jan Term study experience. The courses for the three-week term, which falls between the fall and spring semesters, are designed to give students and faculty an opportunity to get beyond the basics of a college education and explore unique educational topics and adventures.

All students are required to take a least one of the courses to graduate. This year, about 30 Jan Term courses were available. Nearly a third of those offered opportunities to study abroad.

While the study abroad courses offer exceptional opportunities to tour the sights and check out the scenery of a foreign land, students also delve deeper into subjects, topics and issues.

For example, students in Kachur’s course, “In Search of Dracula,” not only visited culturally significant cities, they also endeavored to address key contemporary issues that the novel and their visit raised – namely, the difficulties of cross-cultural observation and the role that literature and film plays in the effort to find the “real” Transylvania.

Senior Jennifer Sandler, an English major, said the experience was a sensory and cultural overload, “but in a good way.” She added:

“Going to countries that are off the beaten path, so to say, forces you to learn about yourself as much as it helps you learn about other places, the landscape, cultural and otherwise, of a novel.”

Click here to view an album of photos from the "In Search of Dracula" Jan Term course.