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Passports to Learning: Exploring the World with May Term Study Abroad

As the academic year winds down, students gearing up for this spring’s May Term study abroad programs start to buzz with excitement. 

Under the guidance of John Cardamone, the director of off-campus programs, Simpson is offering unique international courses that span across continents and cultures. Including destinations such as India, Belize, Italy, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

“The cultural experiences are absolutely life-changing by being able to push oneself outside of that comfort zone to experience something,” Cardamone said. 

His approach to organizing these trips is meticulous, focusing on their academic feasibility, overall cost and logistical details to ensure a smooth and enriching experience for students.

For many, the preparation for these trips is just as important as the journey itself. 

Each student participates in a comprehensive preparatory course in the spring semester that covers everything from cultural norms and social etiquette to logistical arrangements like rooming and transportation. 

“The way Simpson has the programs prepares students really well for traveling. The professors taking the students on trips are super knowledgeable and super helpful,” said Taylor Kouski, a sophomore who will travel to Italy and Portugal for May Term.

During the spring preparation course, students learn about the topic of the May Term and the culture of their destination. They learn how to represent the college and America, assimilating comfortably into new environments while respecting local customs. 

The May Term study abroad programs last about two weeks and are the only faculty-led international trips currently running at the college.

“May Terms offer an opportunity for the faculty to be able to create their own program based on their area of expertise and expand that out to a group of students where they can engage them in study abroad,” Cardamone said. 

 Each destination offers a distinct learning experience tailored to enrich the student’s academic and personal growth. For instance, students traveling to India will stay at a monastery and immerse themselves in Tibetan culture. 

 The preparation for this trip includes getting acquainted with appropriate dress codes that are both climatically and culturally appropriate, securing necessary permits and visas, and exploring the locations they’ll be visiting.

“We’re looking at the climate, the geography, and then going over some cultural etiquette things that we probably wouldn’t have thought about without going through the prep course,” said Student Body President Sarah Roberts, who is attending the India trip.

Meanwhile, students heading to Belize prepare to become scuba certified and explore the rich biodiversity of the region, having already identified over 130 species of fish they might encounter. 

“They’re going to have an Open Water Diver Card and go anywhere for the rest of their life and say, ‘I want to go scuba diving,’ and they’re allowed to do so,” said Ryan Rehmeier, one of the professors leading the trip.

The Italy and Portugal trip, which is focused on photography, offers students the opportunity to apply photographic skills in some of the world’s most picturesque settings.

“I already had a camera, luckily, but I do know there are some of my friends and some people in the class who are renting cameras or had to buy a camera,” Kouski said. 

Another May Term is traveling to the Veneto region of Italy where students will immerse themselves in Italian culture and lifestyle exploring their ways of food, fitness, fashion, and automotives. 

A May Term heading to Europe will allow students to delve into the history of World War II in France, Germany and London, offering a poignant exploration of one of the most pivotal periods in modern history. 

Meanwhile, a separate May Term will see students exploring the rich cultural tapestry of London, immersing themselves in its metropolis, vibrant arts scene and historical landmarks. 

Another group will venture to the landscapes of Ireland, where they will uncover the country’s rich heritage and explore its breathtaking natural beauty. 

“I think it’s really cool that Simpson offers this,” said Max Robinson, a student attending the India May Term. “All of these people are getting the opportunity to travel abroad, and I would encourage anyone else who has the chance to do so.” 

 These May Term abroad programs are not just trips but are pivotal experiences that contribute significantly to the student’s personal and professional development. The skills learned and the memories forged during these short spans are often carried throughout the students’ lives.