Clarksville, Ark. --- Travel broadens the mind, as is famously said. Each of us has experienced this, looking out the car window at a new place or walking out the airport into a world where the colors are somehow brighter, the air fresher, the sounds of traffic more exciting.
Why should this be?
The University of Ozarks’ Study and Travel Abroad program gives students the opportunity to find out. The program, in its 17th year this spring, will offer its students a chance to explore "Castles and Cultures of the Danube," an 11-day excursion in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and Germany.
"Since joining the Ozarks faculty in 1996, I’ve led study abroad tours for Ozarks to Greece, Italy, Egypt, Australia, England, France, and India," said Professor Bruce B. Brown, who will lead the Study Abroad trip this spring. "We consult many people about the proposed destination – people both here at home and from the country where we plan to visit. Then I put together a course curriculum and a custom tour based on my research. I always leave extra ‘free’ time in the locations I choose. You never know what fascinating side trip might come up that was not on our schedule, and these unplanned expeditions make the experience feel freer and less rigid."
What is the appeal of this part of the world? "I have always been fascinated by castle architecture, and this part of Europe along the Danube River is the perfect place to delve into a deeper study with first hand observations," Brown explained. "I love experiencing and seeing others experience different cultures. It expands our lives in so many positive ways. Any travel abroad changes a person, but travel connected to a course where you investigate beforehand and learn more about where you are going and the history behind what you will see enhances the entire experience and allows students to experience ‘Aha!’ moments. They absorb so much more while on the tour."
Brown require his Ozarks Abroad students to keep journals in order to help them comprehend what they are experiencing and to reflect on their experiences. "Being able to read about and see their reflections/connections makes the prep work for creating a course and travel opportunity like this totally worth it," Brown said. "By becoming more aware of how we live in comparison to the unique cultures we visit while abroad, students are able to see their own prejudices and realize the broader implications of their actions and associations. They are no longer limited in their perspective; their experience has forever changed the way they will see another human being and human life. It is my opinion that every student who comes to Ozarks should take a study abroad course as soon as possible in his or her college career. Doing so would help expand their world views and prepare them to be the lifelong learners we hope to help them become."
Other faculty and students who have gone on Ozarks Abroad trips agree. "I thought the trip to India was amazing and life changing, for us and for the students," said U of O Gift Records Coordinator Kody Eakin. "You really can’t appreciate a country or a city until you walk around in it, smell it, eat the food, and meet the people, and try for a little bit at least, to walk around in others’ shoes. It makes you appreciate your own country as well. As for the trip next spring, I have to say that Bruce Brown plans a great trip! He’s organized, fun, and enthusiastic, and loves to travel. If he weren’t a theatre professor, he would make a great travel agent."
Dr. Bill Eakin, professor of philosophy and German, who also made the India trek last year, applauded the upcoming trip. "The route Brown is taking is unbeatable for getting a feel for Germanic and European cultures, from the castles outside Munich to the Opera – nothing will ever look the same again! Students report almost always that their trips via Ozarks Abroad are the most eye-opening and valuable learning experiences they have in school and often in their whole lives. It’s also invigorating and refreshing for an old bearded professor like me to be able to lead (with the help of Brahmin priests) a 4000-year-old ancient Vedic fire ceremony, as I did in India."
Lauren Ray, a junior in environmental studies from Siloam Springs, agrees the trip she took has changed her life. "I went on the Mundo Maya trip to Mexico last summer. Studying abroad really made me appreciate diversity. The people there live so much differently than we do in the United States, and they take much pride in their heritage. We got to watch Mayan dancers, eat authentic Mayan food, and explore the preserved structures in which the ancient Mayans lived and worked so long ago. Visiting the Mayan ruins helped me to think critically about the evolution of human civilization. I was exposed to a totally new culture and landscape, and I learned more in those few days abroad than I could have possibly learned in an entire semester-long course. In fact, my learning experience during that trip inspired me to study for an entire semester in Costa Rica this fall."
For a full description of the upcoming trip, go to http://www.prof-brown.info/images/Castles_and_Culture.swf.