Marine Science assistant professor Jeremy Stalker and English professor Julie Brannon shouldn’t have too much trouble convincing students to join them on their Experiential Learning trip to Iceland next summer. All they need to do is show them Nursing senior Danielle Keeler’s jaw-dropping video of last summer’s trip there.
A dozen incoming JU freshmen, five junior and senior mentors and Stalker and Brannon explored Iceland in August as part of a unique program to help new students acclimate to college life and bond with fellow classmates. They receive class credit through the JU 103 Dolphin Experience course.
While taking in the sights, Keeler decided to chronicle the trip, taking 350 videos and condensing them into a four minute-plus video that is an awe-inspiring look at the landscape, cities, food and people of Iceland, set to the song “Wilderlove” by John Mark McMillan. (See a gallery of screen captures from the video below.)
“I learned more in the six-day study abroad trip than I would in an entire semester,” Keeler said. “The question I receive that I hate the most is ‘What was your favorite part?’ I honestly can’t answer that. The food was incredible, the landscape was indescribable, and everything we did in Iceland was perfect. I will say our trip was perfected when we woke up in the middle of the night to see the Northern Lights dancing in the sky above.”
Experiential Learning at JU is a three-credit hour graduation requirement that provides students with a chance to “learn through experience” to broaden their education. All traditional students must complete one Experiential Learning option to graduate. There are four choices: Internship, Service-Learning, Study Abroad and Undergraduate Research.
The Iceland trip features activities designed to experience and learn about the country’s culture, science, language and traveling, Stalker said. Other study abroad trips last summer were to Italy, the Bahamas and Scotland.
“The students get to know each other and the professors, and run around Iceland while doing it,” he said. “It’s going to push your comfort boundaries, it may seem scary, but in the end it gives you a unique perspective, and you’ll leave realizing you don’t have limits, and the world is available to you in our career choice and where you want to live.”
Ultimately, organizers say, students’ goals often expand, and the trips impart a sense of self-confidence and even a bit of swagger, as they accomplish things they hadn’t before, function successfully in an uncomfortable situation and navigate cities using a different language.
For Keeler, vice president of the JU Student Alliance, the trip also allowed her to brush up on her people skills.
“What made the trip even more special was the mentoring aspect. I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring three students throughout the trip and this fall semester,” she said. “I’ve loved seeing their energy and excitement about college, but also helping them when life gets tough. Even if they don’t always take my advice, I’m happy to be there to hear both their struggles and successes.”
Stalker says trips to Iceland and Ireland are already in the works for incoming freshmen this coming summer.