COM Professor Passionate About Travel
“‘Travel makes you a man.’ That’s what my father told me growing up,” said Dr. Bernie Smiley, Professor of Humanities. Smiley has been leading a Study Abroad expedition for College of the Mainland students the past four years. This summer students and community members traveled to Germany and the Swiss Alps. The Study Abroad program gives students the opportunity to experience different cultures and visit historical destinations around the world.
“You will never understand other cultures or even America until you travel. Both my parents pushed really hard to make me go places,” said Smiley. He started traveling when he was 15 years old, stopping off in places like Paris, Munich, Istanbul, Cambodia and Thailand. After traveling all over the world himself, he wanted to see his students immerse themselves in different cultures, see different landmarks and try new foods. During the past four years, students have traveled to England, Wales, Ireland, Greece, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
Two years ago, as part of their trip to London, students read William Shakespeare then visited The Globe Theatre in London where Shakespeare’s plays have been performed since 1600. After the trip, students came back to the classroom at COM to discuss the historical and cultural significance of the places they visited. “This is a great way for students to learn about historical places and then go see them,” said Smiley.
The Internet has made filling courses and programs much easier at COM. In the past if there wasn’t enough interest in the study abroad program the trip would be canceled. Today the program can be tied to an Internet class like world literature. The world literature course is a five-week online course that incorporates readings and daily discussions, while students learn about the history and culture of the region they will be visiting, and receiving class credit if they meet the criteria and do the class work. Smiley gave lectures on the trip to fulfill some of the requirements of the course. After the trip students put together a presentation about an author or story pertaining to an area they visited during the trip. “Study Abroad combines the best of both book learning and hands on experiences. Until you are immersed in a culture you can’t completely understand it,” said Smiley.
This year, Smiley took students to Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland for an 11-day excursion. There were 12 people on the trip with almost half taking the world literature course. The trip included Mozart’s House in Salzburg, Germany, Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, Neushwanstein Castle in southwest Germany, the Black Forest and Rhine Falls, Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany, and the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany. “Any student who takes a trip like this not only gets culture but the importance of some of the books and stories that they read,” said Smiley. To prepare for the excursion students read excerpts from Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” Joann Wolfgang von Geothe’s “Faust” and other readings. After seeing the enormous and beautiful Cologne Cathedral many of the students understood why Chaucer wrote about it in “Canterbury Tales.” Students were amazed by the cultural, social and economic impact of historical places and events. “It’s about being able to make the connections from first hand experiences of the places that the students were reading about,” explained Smiley.
This is the fourth year that COM has hosted the summer study abroad program. Next summer Smiley plans to take students to Ireland. For more information about the study abroad program contact Bernie Smiley at 409-933-8356.
Photo: Study Abroad students pose after reaching the top of Mount Pilatus in Switzerland. Left to right, back row are: Goldie Anderson; James Tabor; Denese Angelle; Dr. Bernie Smiley; Sara Wilson; Brittany Mills; Lori Boyd; and Melanie Grover. Left to right, front row are: Natasha Nazareen; Tayyaba Ali; Fallon Franklin; and Dharti Patel.