Students hiked through cloud forests, encountered wildlife, and hit the urban streets with their cameras during J-term 2015.
Emma Carpenter ’17 captured this scene at a floating village near Siem Reap, Cambodia. She was with the January Term 2015 class War, Peace, and Reconciliation in Cambodia, led by Scott Hurley, assistant professor of religion, and Ann Highum, dean of student life emerita. The class focused on the topics of human rights, the environment, children and women's issues, and the role the United States has played in Cambodia’s history and current climate. Carpenter says the class passed such floating villages while on a boat ride to the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary.
Miranda Gumpert ’17 snapped these female sea lions and lava lizard on Sombrero Chino Island in the Galapagos Islands while on the J-term 2015 course Ecology of Ecuador, led by biology professors Kirk Larsen and Molly McNicoll. Gumpert says the seals were very friendly and interested in humans.
Sydney Larsen ’17 caught this photo of a gondolier in Venice, Italy, while on the J-term 2015 course In Frankenstein’s Footsteps: The Keats-Shelley Circle in London, Geneva, and Italy. Amy Weldon, associate professor of English, and Amanda Peck, global learning intern, led the program. Larsen says: “We were in Venice for a couple of days visiting landmarks and museums pertaining to Lord Byron. I took this photo when we passed by while riding a vaparetto (water taxi) down the Grand Canal. We didn't get to ride in a gondola ourselves, but it was always a treat to pass by them and hear the gondoliers singing to their passengers.”
During the J-term 2015 course Ecology of Ecuador, led by biology professors Kirk Larsen and Molly McNicoll, students hiked through the Santa Lucia Cloud Forest Preserve. One of their guides took this photo, left, at the first cascade along the cascades trail. Pictured left to right, back, are Brennen Reysack ’16, Katelyn Evenson ’16, and John Hadish ’16. Sitting are Samantha Barron ’15 and Miranda Gumpert ’17.
“The day that we visited the waterfall we hiked to a sugarcane processing plant and then hiked to the waterfall, where we stopped to take a break,” Gumpert says. “We observed and learned about the plant life within the forest as well as near the waterfall.”
Abby Carpenter ’16 got this shot with the J-term 2015 class Forging Paths to Peace: Personal, Political, and Social Reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The fishing boats were along the river in Galway, Ireland. “I loved all the colors on the boat that complemented the unique coloring of the houses and buildings,” Carpenter says. During the course, students met with representatives of the main political parties of Northern Ireland, former members of paramilitary organizations, academic experts, police officers, members of intercommunity organizations, and victims of violence. Paul Gardner, professor of political science, and Britt Rhodes, associate professor of social work, led the program.
Emily Stoneking ’15 took this photo of a wild African elephant at Pilanesberg National Park, in Bojanala, North West, South Africa, with the Stories in South Africa J-term 2015 class. “Soon after this photo was taken, the teenaged elephant approached the game drive vehicle to eat from a nearby tree,” Stoneking says. “The elephant was close enough to reach out and touch!” In this J-term course, students seek to understand South Africa by seeing, hearing, and collecting stories from a rich diversity of storytellers and sources including writers and musicians; museums and sites of history, science, and art; and ordinary individuals young and old from various ethnic and racial backgrounds. The course was led by English professors Nancy Barry and Martin Klammer.
New Hong Kong J-term focuses on street photography
This January Term, Luther unveiled a new course that took student photographers to the streets of Hong Kong and Shanghai. The course, Art in Cultural Perspective: Picturing Change in Hong Kong, challenged students to move beyond snapping photos like a tourist to engaging with the cultural history of major Chinese cities and capturing the complexity of a modern, changing China.
Mornings were spent on technical lessons, art history, and the ethics of good street photography. Afternoons, the students were given free reign to tackle the day’s theme—for example, portraiture or images of objects. Senior Connor Mattison appreciated that the independent nature of the course allowed the group to have a lot of reach: “We split up into small groups to capture as much of the designated area of the city as we could. This allowed each group to have a varying perspective on that certain part of Hong Kong for that day.”
Senior Jenny Bonnell experienced a poignant moment when Hong Kongers flipped the script. “On one of the first days,” she says, “we were site-seeing near Victoria Harbor in Kowloon, and all these locals kept walking up to us and taking pictures. They would either ask us to take a picture, or they would stand near us and pretend to be taking a picture of the harbor, but really it would be a selfie with us in the background.”
Director of visual media Aaron Lurth ’08, co-leader of the trip along with Kate Elliott, assistant professor of art history, was initially nervous about the quality of photographs the group would produce, with most of the students having little camera experience. But, he says, “A successful street photograph transcends culture and humanizes whomever we’re looking at in a way that allows us to connect, that rises above our background or birthplace. Our students did that very well.”
Planning ahead helps make J-term trips accessible
Alahna Keil ’17 uses a wheelchair and says that when she came to Luther, she had written off the idea of studying abroad. She wasn’t sure the opportunities would mesh with her academic interests or accommodate her mobility issues. Keil can walk but generally uses a wheelchair for longer distances and when she needs to keep up with groups.
She did discover a January Term 2015 program that interested her, though—Experiencing Mahayana Buddhism, taught by religion professor Gereon Kopf. The class would take her to China, Japan, and Hong Kong. Working with Kopf, Luther’s Center for Global Learning, and the Disability Services office, Keil thought ahead about any special needs she might have and how to handle them. The plan, Keil says, “needed to be something I was comfortable with but at the same time was helpful for the group.”
Ultimately, another student, junior Alexandra Klug, paired up with Keil on a daily basis. Others pitched in as well, sometimes pushing the lightweight wheelchair that Keil used on the trip and sometimes even lifting her, chair and all, on and off public transportation.
Kopf and Keil had talked about one class excursion in particular that she might not be able to participate in: a visit to a monastery in China that was at the top of a mountain, accessed by a long flight of stairs. “I would never ask the students to carry me up so many stairs,” Keil says. However, when the class arrived at the foot of the steps, there sat a palanquin and two men to carry it. It turned out that the monastery provided the palanquin—a chair attached to long poles—specifically for visitors who could not make the climb.
“They just carried me right up the mountain,” Keil says. Her ride did earn her a nickname with her classmates: Princess Alahna. “Which is so not my personality,” she insists. With the success of her J-term study abroad, Keil is considering another opportunity next year.
Greg Trahan ’17 also uses a wheelchair much of the time, and he also took a J-term 2015 course—Environmental Implications of Eco-Adventure Growth in Central America. The course took students to Belize, led by Jeff Boeke, an instructor in health and physical education, and Mark Eichinger, associate professor of biology.
Trahan says he did not need to do much planning about accommodations for the trip, but he did speak with his instructors to learn what to expect. Once there, he says, “If there was something I would have trouble doing or would take me a longer time, I talked to the professors about it and we figured something out.”
His advice to others with disabilities considering study away: “Get details of what you’re doing and how it will go. If there are things you don’t think you can do, discuss alternatives with the professor.”
Read more about Keil's study away trip at Mobility International USA.