The second annual semester in the southwest came to a close last week for 14 students and two professors involved in the four-month intensive program.
For the second year in a row, the program gave students a chance to live in the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico and earn college credit through first-hand experience in the southwest.
“We learned so much more than you would at a traditional college or university,” said Castleton junior Julie Carryen, who said that the experience gave her a new confidence and a new outlook on her college life. “It was life changing. I was able to overcome worries and fears that I previously had.”
The group stayed at the Santa Fe International Hostel and traveled over 6,000 miles to numerous landmarks and cultural sites in the southwest.
“You had so many people coming through the hostel,” said education major Samantha Barrale. “There were so many cultures and people that we learned from.”
Many of the places visited were also visited by last year’s southwest group including Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and San Ildefonso Pueblo. But this year, new activities made their way into the curriculum including a more extensive visit to the Grand Canyon and a rafting trip down the San Juan River.
Castleton junior Emily Louise Mason and senior Jessa Mondlak returned west as teacher’s assistants after participating last year.
“There’s always more to learn,” says Mason. “We took different classes and it was an awesome experience just like the first time.”
Professors said they learned a lot from last year’s semester.
“Last year’s group really broke ground for us, they made this semester easier and better for us to do,” said art professor Liza Meyers.
The class also continued work with Adobe In Action, a volunteer group based in Santa Fe that helps to provide homes to families in need through the use of adobe brick making, a sustainable alternative to normal building materials. In addition to continued work on a home two to three times a week, the class also built a horno, or brick oven for the family.
The group hosted a presentation in Herrick Auditorium Dec. 1 highlighting their trip and their experiences. Many talked about how hands-on learning is far better than a normal classroom.
“The great strength of the trip is that we (the professors) are always there,” said anthropology professor Paul Derby. “The experience has been tremendous. You see students in class as people, but living and learning with them you begin to see them as human beings.”
Plans are already in the works for two more trips to the southwest. The first will occur in May with students returning to help construct the adobe home, and another semester-long trip is being planned for next fall.