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Ireland trip offers fresh opportunities for students

Cassie Forsyth | Arts & Life Co-Editor

In May 2013, the first group of Buena Vista University (BVU) students went on a trip to Ireland during a new May term opportunity. Associate Professor of Digital Media Andrea Frantz and Associate Professor of Experimental Psychology Wind Goodfriend took seven BVU students to the foreign country to experience the life and culture of Ireland through a journalist’s eyes. The goals of the trip were to get a taste of the foreign culture and to create works that would later be published for the students’ portfolios.

The students were to complete two assignments after the trip. Because the trip was classified as a Digital Media course, the assignments focused on journalism and photography. Each student took a series of photos that followed their own creative theme that would be put together with the rest of the students in a photo book, and they all wrote a story for the Sneem Parish News.

The group spent the first week of their trip in the small village of Sneem where they gathered their stories and met community members to create a relationship with the village and become part of the community. Their stay in Sneem focused on their journalism efforts, while the next week was spent traveling the country and going on tours in locations such as Kilmainham Jail, Bunratty Castle, the Guinness Factory, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College, and other locations. Cities they stayed in included Tralee, Galway, and Dublin.

Frantz believes the trip offers many opportunities that students at BVU should take.

“I think any international trip is really all about introducing BVU students to a new culture, a place and people they don’t know,” Frantz said. “This trip is also about providing our students with the opportunity to publish their own original work through the trip. Whether it’s photography, audio stories, video stories, or written material, my goal is to enhance the professional portfolio of my students, and that’s why there is a focus on producing.”

Although the trip is focused on the Digital Media department, the opportunities available help both Digital Media majors and other majors. Frantz believes all students at BVU could benefit by being exposed to the Irish culture.

The first half of the trip was spent in a rural village where the students were able to see the countryside of Ireland and become acquainted with community members.

“There isn’t always an opportunity to really meet the people who live in the community and really interact with them, so the first half of this trip is really all about that,” Frantz said. “It’s all about experiencing culture first hand by actually getting to know the people of the village. There isn’t any major on campus that wouldn’t benefit from that.”

Students who weren’t Digital Media majors also benefited from the trip by being able to learn from the experience of media production. Junior Digital Media major Scott Locati benefited from both the Digital Media opportunities and other experiences as well.

“As a digital media student, you need to be somewhat efficient in photography, video, audio, and writing journalism, and that’s what that trip was about. Our ultimate goal was to take pictures for a book and to capture a story of a human being, and we did that,” Locati said.

Outside of taking photos and writing their stories for the magazine, students got the chance to experience the Irish culture by learning some of the Gaelic language and also learning Gaelic dance moves. BVU students performed a Gaelic song and dance for the community at a pub night on their last night in Sneem.

Locati recommends any foreign trip to the students at BVU because the urge to step outside of one’s comfort zone is so positive. Students experienced this by taking up experiences they had never done before, such as trying new kinds of foods, riding a horse, hiking, dancing on a stage in front of a room full of strangers, or climbing a hill to get the perfect photo. Locati was also able to learn more about the world outside of America.

“Not only does it push you outside your comfort zone but getting into a different culture and learning about that culture from a firsthand perspective was a far better education than sitting in a classroom. I learned numerous things about my field but also other things related to Ireland and history, and as a student, that’s the most rewarding,” Locati said.

Frantz noticed a growing confidence in the students as they continued to push their own boundaries with experiences they were initially skeptical about. These experiences allowed the students to open up and enjoy their trip even more.

“I do think there was an increase in confidence. I saw growth in skills and risk taking. Students were willing to try things even if they were convinced it wasn’t going to be awesome. They still did it. Everybody just sort of took a chance, and maybe it was out of their comfort zone, but here we are trying something new because we can, and that’s sort of the point,” Frantz said.

Locati’s initial goal for the trip was to never say no to any new experience thrown at him.

“Having that mentality allowed me to kind of take the risks and not have any boundaries for the time being because I was only there once, for now, and I might not get a chance to go back. Wasting an opportunity would be the worst thing in the world, and that helped me step out of my comfort zone,” Locati said.

Locati keeps a piece of Ireland with him back at home now as he continues to stay in touch with the friends he made while he traveled abroad. With the intimate interactions the students were able to gain, it was easy to get to know the community members.

“We still share stories. It’s amazing to have such a connection and still be able to communicate. I went over there thinking I’ll be there for two weeks and do what I need to do, but no, I can still live over there through my friends,” Locati said.

Frantz will be taking the next group of BVU students on the trip next May, accompanied by Associate Professor of Theatre Bethany Larsen. She suggests this trip because it differs from other trips offered by BVU in a variety of ways.

“I think this trip challenges you to produce in ways that you may not have to for other trips. It’s an up close and personal experience with true Irish culture, not just tourism Irish culture. Our experience was more intimate,” Frantz said.

The next trip to Ireland will be held from May 27 to June 12, 2014. Informational meetings for students who are interested in attending are Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 7:00 p.m. and Monday, Sept 9 at 4:00 p.m. in Forum 4.

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