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Extreme Field Trips: Penn State Edition

For as long as I can remember, my favorite days of school were the days I wasn’t in a classroom at all. Like most children, I loved going on field trips, not only for the break from brown-bagged lunches and long hours sitting at a desk, but also for the adventure and fresh outlook they provided on the material the class was learning about.

Although they may seem like an adolescent idea, field trips still happen at the college level. A few undergraduate classes at Penn State have taken field tripping to the extreme, doing everything from traveling across the world to preparing them for backpacking adventures. Here are a few classes offered at University Park in the upcoming spring semester that include a cool travel component:

Designing and Managing Experiences: Walt Disney World Embedded Study Course

The goal of this three-credit horticulture class is to “examine the business, communications, leadership, landscape, and sustainability philosophies and practice at one of the largest built environments where guests are immersed in stories and experiences.” As a part of the class, students can go to “The Most Magical Place on Earth” over spring break. The Penn State Department of Plant Science’s Facebook page explains that students will take part in a variety of workshops on teamwork, leadership, and creativity, and closely examine Disney’s customer service department. The most exciting parts of the trip will be the backstage tours of the Animal Kingdom’s Safari, the Magic Kingdom, and Epcot’s gardens and Living with the Land Pavilion.

World Media Systems

Could there be an Onward State equivalent in South Africa? Find out as you delve through South African media sources. With an integrated spring break trip to South Africa, students will “have the opportunity to discover the variety of media systems in the world today…and how they got that way.” The class compares and contrasts United States and South African media sources to prepare students for the trip. The prerequisites for the class are six credits in arts and humanities, and three credits in a select list of communications courses — but all students are able to discuss their interests with the professor to possibly gain entry to the course.

Brazil Education Study Tour

Those looking to pursue a career in education can earn credits while evaluating the climate of classrooms all over the world. The Brazil Education Study Tour is broken into two parts. The one-credit spring semester class allows students to “research an aspect of Brazilian life that impacts education” and present it on a blog. The Maymester piece, a two-credit option, includes nine days in Brasilia and five days in Rio de Janeiro to “examine educational practices at Brazilian public and private schools.” This class is open to all students.

Sustainable Agriculture and Development in Brazil

Students will look into how different regions in Brazil handle critical issues in sustainable agriculture and development. The trip for this three-credit class is a weeklong spring break getaway to Brazil. Last year, the class took its spring break trip to Costa Rica.

Game Developers Conference Trip

Computer Science and gaming enthusiasts should definitely consider this one-credit opportunity to travel to San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference. The event is held in early March and gives students the opportunity to interact with programmers, game designers, artists, producers, and others involved in the development of games. Although the event is normally open to “professionals-only,” Penn State students are invited to attend the lectures, panels, tutorials, and round-tables led by industry experts.

Backpacking Leadership

For the adventurous and outdoorsy student, you can learn about leadership through backpacking in this two-credit course. Instructors will cover the pre-trip planning and execution of the endeavor, and help students develop a personal connection with the environment. All of the skills taught will be put to practice through a two-day backpacking trip.

Exploring Greek Food Systems & Marketing in Thessaloniki, Greece

This trip is a food lover’s dream. Students interested in agriculture or marketing can easily fill the prerequisites required. The class will cover environmental systems management, food science and technology, international business and marketing, and entrepreneurship in both American and Greek systems. A three-credit class in the spring semester is required to attend the half-credit 10-day study abroad experience in May. If you enjoy a good lamb gyro, this is the class for you.

Sustainable Tourism and the Environment

The final addition to our list is a staff pick by Onward State staff writer Noel Purcell. His description of his experience, made possible by the three-credit spring prerequisite, does more than encourage students — it insists. Here are Noel’s thoughts on the course:

“RPTM 297D takes place over the course of a week and a half in Fiji, but feels like a lifetime in the best way possible. Led by Brian Soulé, professionally known as Badass Brian, the class takes you on a journey from Los Angeles Internation Airport to Nadi, Fiji. Your adventures will take you all over Fiji, one of the most beautiful and interesting places on the planet. You spend your time learning about ecotourism, sustainability in tourism, and the Fijian culture. A home stay in Votua Village is a life-changing experience, as you drink Kava and learn about the Fijian way of life and how it has changed over time. The people are the friendliest you will ever meet (and all speak English), and you’ll indulge in an incredible feast cooked in the Lovo and a Kava ceremony, initiating you as members of the Village.

You’ll spend days on Barefoot Island, a sustainable resort in the Yasawas, with marine biologist Helen Sykes. Your days working on a research project will be well spent, and your free time can be spent lounging on some of the most beautiful beaches on Earth. At the end you’ll part, with a portion of the group heading home, and the other heading to Australia, to be joined by another group. The Australia group is led by Angela Rothrock, an expert on all things Australia. If there was one class I would tell someone to take at Penn State, it would be RPTM 297D. RPTM 297D is one of the greatest learning experiences of all time. Don’t miss out on this opportunity.”

Whether you want to relive your childhood and take a trip to Disney World or post up in Fiji with the locals, there are endless opportunities for any student looking for a small taste of the study abroad lifestyle through Penn State.

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About the Author

Alex Calderaro

Alex Calderaro is a junior majoring in Supply Chain Management from Central Jersey. As a first generation Penn Stater, she has found a home here in several places, including her sorority, and, of course, Onward State. You can contact her at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @alexcalderaro.

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