Previous W'International Destinations

Spring Semester 2009

Greece: Athens and Crete
Greek Heroes and Heroines from Achilles to Zorba
Dr. Joshua Fisher
Greece: the cradle of western civilization and the homeland of some of the greatest and most memorable heroes and heroines that have ever lived. In this course, we will explore Greek history, culture, and art through the eyes and voices of some of these heroes and heroines. We will read a variety of poetry and novels exploring notions of heroism both in terms of individual heroes and heroines and in terms of Greece itself as a kind of hero. Students will learn about Greek customs and traditions, language, food, music, and pastimes. The trip to Greece will be the exciting culmination of the course. Continuing our focus on Greek heroes past and present, we will have an opportunity to explore a number of ancient archeological sites and we will experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of a thoroughly modern culture.

Italy: Florence, Ravenna, & Venice    
Literary Landscapes of Northern Italy
Dr. Taura Napier        
This seminar will introduce students to literature focusing on the cities of Florence, Bologna, Ravenna, and Venice from the classical period to the present.  Various genres of writing, including novels, poetry, and letters, will be discussed in order to illustrate how Italian writers from Dante to the contemporary novelist Dacia Maraini imagine their cities, as well as how eminent English-speaking writers have reflected in their works the Italian cities they knew and loved.  Students will learn diverse aspects of Italian culture in addition to the literature studied, including language, history, art, and cuisine.

United Kingdom: London
Mecca of Theatre and Art: Becoming a Visual Critic
Mr. Larry Coleman
London has been called a hub of business and government affairs in Britain as well as a port of importance for the global economy.  London is also one of the preeminent visual arts leaders in the world. The seminar will emphasize the importance and impact of theatre and art and help students develop the ability to make better judgments as theatre and art critics by looking at a work and assessing its merits and values. Attention will be given to a) the theatre process, theatre makers and theatre criticism particular to London, and b) to the analysis of selected art venues that make London tick.  While on the trip, the days will be filled with visits to outstanding museums and evening will be spent attending theatre productions!


Buddhist Iconography at Angkor Wat: Artistic & Historical Perspectives on the Khmer Culture
Dr. Edwin Bagley
Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world and the central icon of Cambodian self-understanding. The religious history of Cambodia, known largely through archeological analysis, has been a complex blend of Hinduism and Buddhism. The evolution of Khmer architectural styles produced mountain-temple forms distinctive from their Hindu counterparts, and the styles of carving moved toward greater realism, apparently reflecting social identities and social structures in the classical age of the Khmer civilization. UNESCO has designated the 150-square-mile Angkor Archeological Park as a World Heritage Site, largely because of the beauty and historic significance of the scores of structures originating between the 9th and the 15th century.  Currently, 95% of the population of Cambodia identifies with Theravada Buddhism, reflecting the outcome of a long period of transformation. While farther west, Vaishnavite Hinduism in India absorbed Buddhist influences, the objections among Khmers to caste, sacrifices, and rituals typical of Hinduism led to Cambodians’ becoming almost exclusively Buddhist.

Tracing the Irish Traditions that Influenced the People and Culture of Appalachia
Dr. Alison Brown
The Appalachian region of the southern United States has a rich culture that predominantly originates from Irish immigrants who settled in NC, VA, TN, and KY during the late 18th-19th century.  Many from Appalachia are descendants of the Ulster-Scots or Scots-Irish, a group of lowland Scots, who settled in Northern Ireland in the 17th century in the province of Ulster.  Many other Scots-Irish in Appalachia are descendants of Ireland that emigrated to the US during the Irish Famine years of the mid-1800’s . Appalachian culture has strong roots in agriculture, music, food, storytelling, and religion, all which can be traced to similar traditions of Irish origin.  Many who emigrated from Ireland settled among the mountainous regions of the Southern United States brought a vast amount of Irish culture that has developed into the modern traditions unique to rural Appalachia. 

Arab Culture
Dr. Heather Voegtle
Tunisia, a small country in North Africa, was once considered to be part of the “breadbasket of the Roman Empire.”  Along with the Phoenicians who founded Carthage, many other groups of people have left their marks on the small country.  Along with the Phoenicians and Romans, the Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans and French have left remnants of their culture behind in the form of ruins, music, and language.  Many ancient ruins can be seen from the time of the Romans even in the desert.  The country of Tunisia today is a growing country with a stable economy.  The majority of modern Tunisians are Arab, and the religion there is predominately Islam.  Tunisia, though, varies from other Arab countries.  While holding to Arab traditions, Tunisia has embraced other cultures, in particular those cultures of European Mediterranean countries.  The country has made great advances in social changes and tolerance of religions other than Islam.  This course will focus on the Arab culture and society as it is in Tunisia.  This is a society rich in tradition and tied to religion, but also influenced greatly by the outside world and in particular Europe in areas such as language and politics.  The seminar will culminate in a trip to Tunisia where we will visit many of the places we have studied that have contributed to Tunisia’s past such as Carthage, and we will also have a chance to view the impact of European culture on Arab society in the city, the countryside, the coast and the Sahara desert.

Cross-Cultural Psychology
Dr. Maria Carla Chiarella
A country of sharp contrasts, Chile, reveals itself through deserts, glaciers, dictators, and poets. These extremes have challenged the Chilean people to express a unique personal and cultural identity. In comparison, most Americans lack the tools to articulate their identity in cultural terms.  Our on-campus course will provide those tools. We will survey the socio, cultural, and political forces that shape identity by relying on personal insights, cross-cultural readings, and research in personality, developmental, and social psychology. In Chile, we will test our understanding in a markedly different culture.  Students will examine the Chilean government in the stunning capital city of Santiago, analyze Nobel-Prize winning Pablo Neruda’s poetry at his homes in Valparaíso and Isla Negra, and explore the natural beauty of Puerto Varas in northern Patagonia.

Germany and the Netherlands
The Rhine River
Culture and Commerce
Dr. Peter Frank
The Rhine River, stretching through Western Germany into the Netherlands and emptying in the North Sea, is one of the most important waterways in all of Europe.  Its importance spans several hundred years as part of the northern frontier of the Roman Empire to a major waterway for commerce and trade today.  This seminar will be highlighted by the contrasts of how the Rhine played an essential role in medieval Europe through industrialization to today where it represents the leading trade route into the continent.  Our travels will begin in Koblenz, and continue through the great cities of Western Germany, and then into the Netherlands and Rotterdam, one of the world’s busiest ports.  We will examine this part of Germany that is rich with remarkable Roman architecture, Gothic cathedrals, and modern economic vitality.  Prior to traveling, we will study the prominent economic and social theorists who grew up in this region to learn of the economic and social context that has shaped German culture.

Tradition, Modernity, and Identity on “The Beautiful Isle”
Dr. James Hastings
Taiwan, an island off the southeast coast of China with an area one-quarter that of North Carolina and three times the population, has many identities and yet no clear identity. Known as the “Orphan of Asia” due to its history of colonialism and its contested political identity, it is arguably either a nation-state or a province. Its culture and heritage derive from China: after the mainland Communist victory of 1949, it became the repository of traditional Chinese culture when the Nationalists fled there. It is here that many of the artifacts of 5000 years of Chinese civilization may be seen and it is here that Chinese religions flourished while they were being suppressed on the mainland. Yet Taiwan is ethnically diverse as the mainlanders who immigrated to the island after 1949 came from all regions of China, joining earlier immigrants from the southern Chinese regions of Fukien and Guangdong who identify themselves ethnically as Minnan and Hakka. Too, there is an aboriginal population of tribal peoples, many of whom have in recent years revived their traditional languages and cultures. Overlaid with these cultures are vestiges of an American military presence during the Vietnam War and of Dutch and Japanese colonialism. Thus one finds in Taiwan a dazzling diversity of languages, dialects, cuisines, and traditions which play a role in the often contested politics of ethnic, religious and political identity. Yet, Taiwan is eminently modern, one of the “Asian Dragons” at the forefront of the Asian economic miracle of the 1980’s.

Introduction to Travel Writing
Dr. Kara Presnell
Denmark is home to Vikings, royalty, great design, fairytales - and the world's happiest people! This study-abroad class, Introduction to Travel Writing, will be concerned with travel writing that shares three qualities: emphasis on cultural awareness, ambition to provide depth or insight beyond travel guidebook entries, and complexity of theme, material and structure. This course will explore a range of techniques that travel writers use to discover and verify information – the “journalism as science” approach. This course also will explore a range of techniques that travel writers use to tell stories and engage the reader – the “journalism as art” approach.
From Pyramids to Modern Nation-A Perspective Course on Egypt
Dr. Dennis Harlow
This course includes a one hour (1) credit classroom course and a one (1) hour credit travel course and examines modern Egypt’s politics, literature, art and the civilization created by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The course studies how the various historical influences have contributed to make today’s Egypt the epicenter of Arab culture. The in-class part of this course examines how the modern Arab country of Egypt has evolved from the ancient era through today. The travel portion of this course includes visits to Alexandria and Cairo. Both cities are\bustling centers of culture with world class destinations ranging from the majestic pyramids at Giza, the new campus of the American University in Cairo, the spectacular library at Alexandria and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in downtown Cairo.  Coptic (Christian) and Islamic influences are discussed in the classroom and related historic sites are visited in Cairo.

Communication and Culture in the Caribbean
Dr. John Blizzard
This course focuses on the diverse cultures of the Caribbean – all islands are different with their own national identities and cultural traditions.  We will explore how Caribbean peoples use music, literature and performance as communication media to carve out their internal and external identities on the world stage. We will listen and study major works of musical artists in calypso, soca, reggae and steel band genres. We will encounter key writers such as Maryse Conde from Guadeloupe, Edward Kamau Brathwaite from Barbados and Jamaica Kincaid from Antigua. We will view and discuss cultural celebrations such as Carnival in Antigua and in Trinidad and Tobago, along with Cropover in Barbados.  Many musical CDs, oral history interviews, video performances and historical accounts of traditional music will be used throughout. And at the end of the course we will travel to both Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados to experience firsthand many of the things studied in the course. And there will likely be lots of Caribbean sunshine…

Mathematics and Art
Dr. Wayne Tarrant
This course studies the connections between mathematics and the arts. Students will see that mathematics is not just formulae and logic but is about pattern, symmetry, structure, and beauty. Topics of study will include tilings (mosaics), polyhedral (special solid shapes), and perspective. The goal of this course is that the student will look at the world with new eyes and notice mathematical structures all around them. Study abroad destinations are Paris and the Beaujolais region of France.

Friluftsliv: A Nature-Sports Lifestyle and Identity
Dr. Abbey Dondanville
Norway’s stunning landscape is punctuated by mountains rising majestically from crystal clear fjords, blue ice glaciers, and midnight sun in the summer.  Its abundant natural resources, albeit constrained by rugged and often difficult terrain, nurtured early development of human-powered mountain, snow, and water transportation.  This partnership with the outdoors continues to the present, as modern Norwegians live holistically with nature in their everyday routines to maintain balance, to replenish, and to relax.  Friluftsliv experiences (skiing, kayaking, glacier hiking, etc.) are designed to meet nature face-to-face, unfettered by an aggressive human agenda of conquest, study, or construction. This course will explore Norwegian history and the evolution of active environmentalism through outdoor activity as a catalyst for conservationism and national identity.  The travel portion of the course will also allow students to experience friluftsliv activities firsthand.

The Protestant Reformation and the Spirit of Neutrality
Dr. Heather McDivitt
An important part of Swiss history can be traced back to the Protestant Reformation. The Swiss Protestant Reformation led by John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli significantly influenced the religious, governmental and political life of the country. This course will analyze the impact of the writings and the ministerial careers of Calvin (in Geneva) and Zwingli (in Zurich) and will explore how the religious sentiments of the Reformation paved the way for Switzerland’s present role as an independent and neutral leader of Europe. Switzerland’s insistence of neutrality and her leadership is evident in the international organizations found in Switzerland that include: the World Economic Forum, the International Red Cross, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Olympic Committee, and the second largest United Nations office. This W’International course will explore Switzerland’s past by visiting Calvin’s Geneva and Zwingli’s Zurich and explore Switzerland’s present as an international leader by touring select international offices listed above.


Music and German National Identity
Dr. Dawn Perry
The influence of music in and from Germany can be seen in many ways.  The symphony, both the performing group and the musical form, began in Germany, and many of the musical instruments as we know them today were invented and improved to their modern standards in Germany.  Music can be a powerful tool, whether as a vehicle for propaganda for the Third Reich, or as a symbol of hope to the prisoners of concentration camps.  This course will examine philosophy, literature, politics, and social currents, as well as the creation and performance of folk music, art music, church music, jazz, and pop to explore the ways in which music has continued to play a central role in the German national imagination and in shaping German identity. The study abroad portion of this course will focus on the cities of Leipzig and Munich, with nearby day trips to other German cities.
Ghosts of Fleet Street: The News Media Past and Present in London and the U.K.
Dr. Keith Cannon
The BBC and the legendary British tabloid newspapers are familiar to news media consumers all over the world.  And for more than 200 years, the term “Fleet Street” was synonymous with British journalism, symbolizing both thoughtful and aggressive reporting. Sadly, the newspapers have left Fleet Street, but the news media in London still give the rest of the world a window on English life and culture. This course will give an overview of the past, present and future of Great Britain’s news media and its role in that country’s development into a world power.

The European Union
Past, Present and Future
Dr. Dennis Harlow
The European Union is perhaps the greatest European success story of the last century.  After a half century of war early in the twentieth century, the European Union emerged and has given Germany a unique political, economic and cultural leadership position in the world. This exciting course combines politics and fast cars with European economic and political history. The course includes a survey of European history and culture since 1850 and important milestones in the development of the European Union (the largest economic entity in the world) coupled with exciting travel to Strasbourg- one of the capitals of the European Union-and for automobile enthusiasts to Munich and the BMW, Audi, and Mercedes cities and plants.  Also planned is travel to King Ludwig’s fairyland castle located on mountain overlooking the beautiful Fussen, Bavaria lake country.  Learn a little German and French during our class, visit Germany in the spring and bring your cameras and journals for the trip of a lifetime. Willkommen & Bienvenue!  

How the Singing Revolution Ended the Communist Era
Dr. Joseph Ellis
How can singing end tyranny?  That is what this W’International explores, examining the tiny country of Estonia -- just south of Finland and west of Russia – to explain how song transformed a former communist country into a democratic, capitalist state.  We will travel through Estonia’s major cities (Tallinn and Tartu), its beach resort (Parnu) and the last remaining outpost of Russian loyalists (Narva) to get at this question.  Along the way we will examine the political, cultural and musical heritage of a country the NY Times recently described as one of the “41 Places To See in 2011."

French Caribbean
Postcolonial Writers
Dr. Taura Napier
The small French Caribbean Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe have produced a large number of great writers.  Some of the most famous of these include Aimé Césaire, Joseph Zobel, Maryse Condé, Frantz Fanon, and Gisele Pineau.  All of these writers are of African-French descent; their works are noted for their attention to socio-cultural and racial issues unique to these former colonies, which are still part of the République Française as overseas departments.  We will study these writers as they address various facets of their identities as Caribbean, African, French, and post-colonial, as well as these identities as they relate to gender and cultural backgrounds.

Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb
Exploring the Past and Present Links
Dr. Heather Voegtle
Although separated by water, Southern Spain and Northern Morocco share many links.  Arab-led Berbers, known as Moors, came from present-day Morocco and controlled much of the Iberian Peninsula by 719, and Islamic Iberia became known as al-Andalus or Andalusia during that time period.  Today much of the Islamic architecture as well as converted mosques still exist in Southern Spain.  Along with its strong past historical ties, Spain and Morocco share much in common today also.  This course will explore the intricate historical background that intertwines the two countries as well as immigration and other current issues.