In 2018, the Piedmont College Maymester program will offer travel-study opportunities in Rome, Ireland, France and Switzerland, Peru, Germany and the Czech Republic, as well as a cycling trek from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. By attending these trips, students will acquire credit for two classes. Dr. Steve Jacobs, coordinator of the Maymester program, encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity.
“Maymesters are a great opportunity, and we really want to illustrate how powerful it can be,” he said. “If you have ever wanted to travel, a Maymester trip is an economical way to make it happen.”
Maymester trips can be a fun and enlightening alternative to taking standard summer classes on campus or online. Through the program, students are given the opportunity to learn in a unique experiential format.
“You take two courses in a very hands-on way instead of in a classroom,” Jacobs said. “You experience it instead of just reading it. Hands-on experiences are often more powerful and impactful.”
Each of the trips are led by Piedmont professors, who spend months planning and preparing for their trips. Any worries students may have about travelling abroad can be put at ease knowing that the professors are experienced and prepared.
“As a student, you just show up and learn what you can without worrying about logistics,” Jacobs said. “Some students have never traveled out of the southeast, so this trip can also be a new valuable life experience they may not otherwise get.”
Classes offered this year include a range of subjects including art, business, history, music, religion, biology, education, English and anthropology.
“We try to provide a range of trips, different locations and different departments,” Jacobs said. “It all depends on what the faculty proposes.”
In response to student feedback, the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Steering Committee is offering a limited number of highly competitive grants to cover the cost of this year’s Maymester trips. This is the first year that any financial aid will be available for the program. Students who wish to apply for these grants must apply online and submit a 500-word essay by Nov. 30.
“To be eligible for the grant, a student must be in good academic standing, have completed the 2017-2018 FAFSA and be Pell Grant eligible,” said Julia Schmitz, chair of the QEP committee. “Any questions should be directed to financial aid.”
The price of Maymester covers the entire cost of the trip, which is approximately the same amount as six credit hours of on-campus classes.
This price includes food, hotels, sightseeing, museum entrance fees, airfare and any other travel costs associated with the trip. Senior psychology major Charity Mauldin attended last year’s trip to Japan, and was very satisfied with the experience.
“I decided to go last year, and it was definitely worth what I paid,” she said. “I got to learn about other cultures and what it’s like to be a minority when you’re in a different country and you’re the odd person. It was a really great experience to feel something that I’ve never felt before.”
McKayla Kennedy, a sophomore political science major, attended a similar trip to South Africa over the summer with Reverend Tim Garvin-Leighton. On the trip, she attended the International Congregationalist Fellowship Conference.
“The conference took up the first six days of the trip, and that was really cool… to be a part of an organized denomination,” she said. “A lot of cool people from around the world were there.”
Kennedy also made friends with a group of Welsh students, with whom she still keeps in touch. Together, the students learned about apartheid and how South Africans have tried to overcome that. The rest of the trip, she said, was a constantly changing adventure.
“We never stayed in the same hotel for more than one night, and we went on a lot of safaris,” Kennedy said. “The first safari was at night, so the animals were really active and that was cool.”
If a trip that fits well with a student’s major, or a destination that intrigues them, is not being offered this year, there is a chance that it will be offered again in the future. Some trips, such as the trip to Peru, are cyclical and are offered regularly.
“Most of the trips meet a general education requirement, so it helps you make progress towards your degree,” Jacobs said.
“The classes vary depending on the trip, but they are designed so that students will want to go. We want them to take part in this wonderful opportunity.”