Study Abroad

Burkart Back from Study Abroad in Italy

Jonathan Burkart

Last semester three history majors spent time abroad. One went to Germany and another explored Britain. History major Jonathan Burkart ’18 (Brooklyn, CT) went to Orvieto, Italy. One Thing after Another was curious about how his background in history influenced his encounter with the ancient Etruscans, the Romans, the medieval city-state, and modern Italy. We asked Jonathan about his experiences abroad as well as his thoughts about internships and careers.

Q: How did you come to be a history major? What inspired or influenced that choice?

A: History has always been my favorite subject. Since elementary school, I would soak up every piece of history in literature, my classes, and when visiting museums or parks with my family. I am lucky enough to have had a long list of exceptional teachers who helped increase my interest through fascinating classes and a genuine commitment to their students. My passion for history never abated, so it was a natural choice to major in it.

Q: You spent all of last spring semester in Orvieto, Italy as part of a Saint Anselm College study abroad program. What were your classes and experiences like?

A: It’s hard to summarize three extraordinary months in a few sentences. . . . I loved every minute of my study abroad experience. Perhaps the most incredible feature was our Chiavi class. In Chiavi (which translates to “keys”), we read about different parts of Italy’s history, such as Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, and then we would take a trip to Florence to see and “unlock” the history and culture. Orvieto and Italy are so rich in history, from ancient times to recent events, that practically every street showcases beautiful, culturally important elements that, when pieced together over a semester, create a breathtaking tapestry that speaks of history more eloquently than any single class could ever hope to. Our education came from talking with locals and from experiencing history first-hand.

Q: Did you find your background in European history affected how you experienced the semester abroad?

A: Before I studied in Orvieto, I took a Modern European course and a War and Revolution class, and both prepared me for Italian history very well. I have studied European history throughout my college and high school careers, but it was incredible to see my textbook pages come to life when walking through the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. My history classes affected my study abroad experience in that they enhanced my appreciation of every trip we made. Simply being in Italy is phenomenal, but comprehending the depth of walking on 2000-year-old cobblestones made the trip indescribably amazing.

Q: What are you looking forward to during this school year?

A: Catching up with friends that I haven’t seen since fall semester of last year and resuming classes probably top the chart of things I’m looking forward to this year, but Davison food is in a close third place.

Q: You often attend Admissions Open Houses as a history major, which we really appreciate. What do you say to high school students who are thinking about a history major but aren’t sure yet?

A: When I attend the Admissions Open Houses, the first question I get from prospective students is always, “But what if I don’t want to teach?” I think one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding history majors is that you can only become a teacher after college. While that is definitely an excellent option, there are more applications for a history major than you might think. While looking for an internship next semester, I discovered that the FBI is looking for history majors. The critical skills of researching and being able to present your information in a cogent, comprehensive manner is important for a large number of jobs, which is why I recommend taking history classes to anyone unsure of what he or she may want to do for a living. You never know, you just might discover a hidden passion while you’re at it.

Studying History While Studying Abroad, or: How to Visit Cuba Without Breaking the Law

Several of the students we’ve featured on One Thing after Another studied abroad while they were enrolled at Saint Anselm College. And many faculty in the history department have spent considerable time abroad either as undergraduates, in graduate school, or since arriving at Saint Anselm College. Although going abroad is not a requirement for learning about the past, it can influence our historical thinking in important ways. For one thing, spending time abroad can help us to understand the social and cultural conditions that shaped—and were shaped by—a country’s history. Moreover, students who venture outside of the United States have access to resources that we simply don’t have at home: numerous faculty experts who specialize in local history or archives with rare and hard-to-find sources. And there is something about being in a place that changes one’s perspective. It is one thing to read about Versailles, the Berlin Wall, or Tiananmen Square. It is something else entirely to roam the halls where French monarchs lived, see the concrete remnants of the old barrier between East and West Berlin, or gaze upon a public space where a million students protested against oppression and hundreds or thousands died in a military crackdown.

Understanding the value of studying abroad, the history department has organized several study abroad programs in recent years. In 2011 and again in 2013, Professor Masur brought a group of students to Vietnam during winter break. As the students themselves explained, even a rather brief visit to Vietnam profoundly affected their understanding of contemporary Vietnam, the Vietnam War, and Vietnam’s history outside of its conflict with the United States. Professor Perrone had a similar experience when he brought students to China. His program included visits to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Bund in Shanghai.

Vietnam Study Abroad

Saint Anselm students at the Cu Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The tunnels were used as a base for the National Liberation Front (NLF) during the Vietnam War.

During the spring semester 2015, the history department is planning another exciting short-term study abroad program. As part of Professor Pajakowski and Professor Masur’s team-taught course on the Cold War, students will have the opportunity to participate in a week-long study trip to Cuba during spring break (March 1-March 8). The program in Cuba will supplement in-class material by exploring Cuba’s important role in the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. Students will learn about Castro’s rise to power, Cuba’s alliance with the Soviets, and the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The program will include an overnight trip to the Bay of Pigs, site of the CIA-orchestrated attempt to unseat Castro in 1961. Students will also gain a greater understanding of current Cuban politics and social and economic conditions in the country.

Cuba Trip 2

 Street Scene, Havana, Cuba

Professors Pajakowski and Masur will have more information about the trip in the next couple of weeks. Students who are interested in the program should plan to enroll in Hi 399: The Cold War in the spring semester. (Note: students will have the option of taking Hi 399 without participating in the Cuba trip.) We are estimating that the program will cost $2,660, not including airfare to Miami, the cost of some meals in Cuba, and spending money. (We will have a more detailed cost breakdown by the end of August).