Studying abroad—whether for a full year, a semester, or as part of short-term program during the summer—can be a central component of any History major’s or minor’s program at Muhlenberg. Most, if not all, study abroad programs include courses that, with prior approval, can count towards the requirements of the History major or minor program. Indeed, in past years, History students have completed programs in many countries in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa; others have participated in the Lutheran College Washington semester program in Washington DC.
More important, as those who have completed such programs can testify, studying off-campus gives one a hands-on familiarity with other places, peoples, and cultures that is invaluable to understanding the past and present of the interconnected world we live in today. Studying abroad offers a chance to see and live history around the globe.
In the links that follow, several of our majors reflect upon their study abroad experiences and how they connected to their History major.
"Reflections on a Semester in Washington DC” [Fall 2009]
Mollie Lieblich, History and Political Science Double Major, class of 2011
Spending a semester in Washington, D.C. is the greatest opportunity and one that all history majors should take advantage of during their time at Muhlenberg. The Lutheran College Washington Semester program requires that each student enroll within an internship program and to attend weekly field trips with the group. So far I have been to the Supreme Court, the National Archives, the Holocaust Museum, the Library of Congress, the Newsuem, and have seen several hearings on Capitol Hill. Being in Washington, D.C. during a time of a new presidential administration-- where new changes in health care and foreign policy are vehemently debated daily by congress—is truly awe-inspiring. A group of students from the program attend the Tea Party demonstration on September 12, where a majority of Republicans strongly opposed Obama’s health care plan. The metro and streets were crowded with passionate citizens ready to march towards Capitol Hill. Another exciting demonstration occurred on October 11, National “Coming out Day,” where thousands of gay rights activists marched toward the White House in a gathering to demand equal rights.
My favorite places to visit here so far were the historical sites in Alexandria, Virginia. There I toured “Old-Town Alexandria,” which is an old colonial town where the founding fathers would come to trade, conduct business, and socialize in the local taverns. There are many other historic sites, such as an old slave auction house where slaves were bought and sold. On Columbus Day, I visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation, where I went on a tour of the first president’s mansion that overlooks the Potomac River.
Being a history major is easy to implement while living in DC. There are numerous museums and tour sites where one can intern at in order to further enrich historical study. Some of the history students on the program are interning at the postal museum, the navy yard, or working on Capitol Hill for a local congressman. Internship experiences in DC not only allows students to learn and read about history, but live it as well by helping and supporting to preserve various sites, and creating history by witnessing the debates being held on the Hill, in the courts, and out on the streets on a daily basis.
“Reflections on a Semester at the University of London”
Patrick Scheid, History and Theatre Double Major, class of 2011
I have returned from a semester in London, England: a place that I have been desperate to go for most of my life.
Although I was unable to take a class in the University of London’s history department, it didn’t matter because the British are so passionate about their history that it permeates their culture. In my literature classes, for example, we did not simply dissect the text; we discussed the historical context that produced the author and the writing. The same goes for my theatre classes.
I have been, and think I always will be, an advocate for the study abroad experience. “Hands-on History” is something that I have constantly pursued and it is everywhere in Britain. The ability to walk around in an old building, to feel its walls, or to handle an old book, weapon, or tool suddenly makes things real. It’s a reminder that those things we read in text books aren’t just stories.
The funny thing is that not having history classes made me realize the tools that I have learned at Muhlenberg. They allowed me to continue my research and absorption of history independently in the world.
Something that I loved about London, besides its museums and historical literature, was the opportunity to walk down the street and happen upon something centuries old with deep significance, just tucked away. One of my greatest memories is walking away from the Tower of London and stumbling upon a tiny, unimposing tablet that marked the location of the gallows and provided a list of the famous men and women who were executed there. The thought of accidentally walking over the very spot where some of England’s most famous players, such as Sir Thomas More, the Earl of Essex, and the Duke of Monmouth, lost their lives was for lack of a better word—awesome.
My experiences abroad resulted in a lot of traveling around the British Isles and to some major cities in Europe. I always kept an eye out for whatever history I could soak up and in Europe this was easy to do and extremely worthwhile.
"Reflections on her Summer 2009 Course in Spain"
Amanda Palmer, History and Religion Studies Double Major, class of 2011
Travelling to Spain for five weeks for two Muhlenberg course credits during the summer of 2009 was one of the best experiences of my life.
As a small group of ten, we were able to form a bond by discussing sources, travelling, and adjusting to life in a foreign country. The two courses taught by Muhlenberg faculty, “Spain’s Golden Age” and “Spain, Islam and the Mediterranean World,” fulfilled the Muhlenberg general academic requirements for literature or religion and history; both of these courses also contributed to my double major in history and religion studies.
This short-term study abroad opportunity afforded me the comfort of having two faculty members just a few miles away in the city of Avila, where we lived and took class. At the same time, it offered me independence by leaving time for travel and exploration with other Muhlenberg and local university students.
I often call this trip a living-learning experience. Experiencing the remnants of Spain’s past—from the 7th century to the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella—connected what I was learning in the classroom to the history still visible in Spanish culture today. Although travelling has always been a love of mine because it presents an opportunity to understand a different region, learning the history and the development of a culture directly is immeasurable. As a major component of our courses, we travelled to cities outside of Avila, which provided visible evidence of the variety and richness that existed in the time period we studied. These locations included: El Escorial, Toledo, Cordoba, Morocco, and la Mancha.
The memories of new friends and what I learned inside and outside the classroom was an all-encompassing experience that enhanced my four years at Muhlenberg.