Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fleeing the country (with students)

So, I have not been blogging about this because I didn't want to jinx it, and it has been touch and go whether we could get and keep enough students for the trip to make, but I think it is time to make it official: In less than two months, a colleague and I will be leading our first study abroad trip. We'll be flying out of Nearest Large City to our destination -- let's call it Green Country* -- spending a few days in the capital city hitting the tourist sites pretty heavily, going to Quieter City and staying there for three weeks, and then heading back to the capital for another week before going home. Somewhere in there, we both teach accelerated summer-term classes. Mine, I must confess, is cobbled together from a single graduate course on Greenish literature that I took fifteen years ago and a few texts that I've taught in survey classes, and I am feeling massively underqualified to teach it -- but there has to be a first time for everything, and at least I do know a lot about figuring out the logistics of travel-on-the-cheap, which is certainly a relevant skill if not an academic one. Somehow I ended up in charge of all the budgeting and finances. (Yes, that is the sort of thing one might normally expect the study abroad office to handle. No, they don't. Long story.)

We originally planned this as an Honors trip, which would have come with a built-in audience with travel scholarships, but for various reasons that ended up not happening. So after recruiting like crazy, we're taking five non-Honors students from Misnomer U., and one retiree from the community who's coming along as an auditor, and one student from a neighboring university. That was exactly the number we needed for the trip to make, so we've been keeping our fingers crossed nobody would drop out. There isn't much of a culture of study abroad here outside of the Honors program, and most of the students don't have the money (nor are there scholarships available for non-Honors folk). But we made it. That feels like a triumph. And in the end, I'm glad that we're doing this outside of Honors. Because I love the Honors students, but they have so many opportunities handed to them that really should be available to all of our students, and this group has worked so hard to come up with the money themselves and find ways to make it all happen.

We just held an orientation session, in which we threw way too much information at our students and fielded questions ranging from the predictable ("Will I be old enough to drink in Green Country?"**) to the moderately wacky ("Can I bring an acoustic guitar in a gig bag?"***), and it's finally starting to feel real.

It's going to be interesting. Ever since grad school, I have been used to using travel as a way to get away from my everyday academic life, or even, secretly in my heart of hearts, regarding my academic life as a way to finance travel. And it has become a way to turn into a different person for a while, one who doesn't give a damn about student evaluations or readers reports, one who feels younger and less tied-down, takes bigger risks, strikes up quick friendships with strangers and then says goodbye as quickly. One thing I haven't ever tried to do is combine these two lives. (I'm wondering, now, what sort of teacher I will become in Green Country, where our classes will be taught here-there-and-everywhere -- in our lodgings, maybe outdoors sometimes, maybe in the pub -- and whether I will bring that teaching persona back with me.)

* No, not Greenland. We're nowhere near that exotic.
** Yes, you will. Hopefully you won't do anything stupid.
*** Well, you COULD, but we really aren't sure you want to.


Bardiac said...

That sounds so exciting! Green country is beautiful, and summer there should be amazing!

Here's wishing you all good things for the trip!

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Hope you have a great time! Congrats on the trip!