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Up & Away This past year’s winter field studies were scattered across the world—from the city streets of London to the Costa Rican rainforest—but all linked by a common objective: embracing and learning from difference to become a global leader in our ever-evolving world.

By Audrey St. Clair ’03

As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of people and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Each of the following four winter field studies embodies this spirit, encouraging students to embrace feeling uncomfortable and the potential that it holds.

French Business Practices, History & Culture

On a trip to the Aquitaine region in the southwest of France amid golden beaches and rolling countryside, a group of 14 business management students set out to learn the ins and outs of conducting business in Europe. At the end of the 10-day adventure, they went home with much more.

“This part of France is a microcosm of the country,” says associate professor of business Tim Pett. “People tend to think France is Paris, but that’s like outsiders thinking New York City is reflective of the entire United States.”

Photo by Edwin Kwak ’19

Pett continues by explaining how the Aquitaine region is home to several different sectors of business from agriculture and forestry to high tech. “We want our students to become global leaders, and understanding cultural difference is the foundation for that.”

First up was Bordeaux. “To really understand the business aspect of the city,” says Tori Jenkins ’19, “we needed to understand the culture first.” And the culture here is all about wine. “It’s part of the everyday life and seen not only as a prosperous business but an art form.”

Interactive displays at La Cité du Vin, a museum dedicated entirely to wine. Photos by Edwin Kwak ’19.

Bordeaux’s entrenched wine culture is celebrated at La Cité du Vin, a museum dedicated to an immersive, sensory approach to learning about wines from this region and throughout the world.

“The highlight of the museum were the jars of scents,” says Edwin Kwak ’19. “Smelling the different elements that go into wine was such an interesting experience and gave me a whole new perspective on the winemaking business beyond consumption.”

As the students swirled and sampled, local business professor Sié Laurent explained that in French culture people look for a surprise whereas Americans look for what they expect. In wine, he says, so much of the experience is in the surprise.

Photo by Edwin Kwak ’19

That sense of discovery and surprise continued as the group headed south to Pau, a city along the edge of the Pyrenees mountains. Exploring the castle of Henry IV, who is credited with unifying France, gave the students an up-close look at the role of king and church and how this foundation is still very much alive in France’s culture.

“Innovation is not a universal value,” says Amanda Piter ’19. “In this part of France, instead of priding themselves on constantly evolving and building the next great thing, the emphasis is placed on tradition and creating something that lasts a lifetime. In business this translates to employees who spend an entire career with one company and entrepreneurs who have a sense of shame for selling their startup.”

Photos by Edwin Kwak ’19

Another tradition central to Pau’s economy is horse racing. It’s like wine in Bordeaux: its lifeblood. The major winter stables for Europe, the Hippodrome de Pau is a classic example of culture informing business.

“For every four horses there is one person employed,” says Amanda Piter ’19.

Here the students spoke with horse trainers and other business leaders, discovering that issues of employees, labor laws, and taxes are just as prevalent in France as in the United States, pointing to one of Pett’s most important takeaways: “While there are important cultural differences to learn and stereotypes to break through, there is much that we have in common.”

“Things seem slower and more deliberate in Aquitiane,” says Pett. “Art and culture play a larger role and are more intertwined in society than in the States. There’s not a Publix on every corner. But the people here are driven just as we are: for friends, for family success, for societal prosperity.”

“It is one thing to learn how to become a global citizen in a classroom; it is another to experience another culture firsthand,” says Piter. “I will carry the lessons I learned and the relationships I made in France with me for the rest of my life.”

Photos by Edwin Kwak ’19

The Everglades: Nature and History of Florida’s Greatest Wilderness

The historic sheet flow of water across southern Florida created the Everglades, an ecosystem found nowhere else in the world. This field study was part of a class that focused on the entirety of this unique region, from just south of Orlando all the way to the southernmost tip of the state. Despite many of the students being from the Sunshine State, several had never traveled to the Everglades.

Leslie Poole, assistant professor of environmental studies and Florida environmental historian, explains how human manipulation in the 20th century reconfigured this massive system, creating serious problems that Americans have now pledged more than $8 billion to “fix.” One of those problems is the human-made flood-control structures that have damaged the natural systems of water flow.

Photos by Callie Bedford ’19

“This trip gave students the ability to analyze complex natural resource issues and made them more critical, competent advocates for change and restoration,” says Poole. “They got wet and dirty and loved it!”

While boating on Lake Okeechobee and spotting endangered manatees, visiting a Seminole Indian reservation, and trudging through the swampland, students learned about the biology, geology, and hydrology of this region as well as the human history that has evolved from calls for drainage to restoration.

“We got to take an airboat ride through the water conservation areas, where we got to see an endangered snail kite,” says environmental studies major Callie Bedford ’19. “As we were out in this amazing landscape, surrounded by cypress domes and saw grass in shades of yellow and purple I’d never seen, I knew I wanted to work outdoors in wetland systems.”

Photo by Callie Bedford ’19

The Lively Arts in London

Photo by Abby Sekus ’18

Offered during winter and spring break, this arts-focused London trip started 20 years ago at the height of Cool Britannia, where an explosion of art, theater, music, and literature made London the center of the artistic globe. Ever since, students have been crossing the pond to see a “wide variety of voices and venues,” as professor of English Bill Boles says, “in everything from farces featuring live geese to classical Shakespearian tragedies.”

As the students hit the streets of London, they did so with intention. Professor Boles encouraged them to notice the similarities in culture—we speak the same language, it’s a big city like our big cities, it’s a first-world country—but to tune into the differences and to appreciate the long and storied history of the city.

“People in London eat ice cream during intermission at the theater, have more surveillance cameras than almost any other city in the world, talk more openly about politics than we do, appear most passionate about the arts, and are more reserved in public than us,” says Boles.

As the students wrestled with the cultural differences, they learned to appreciate them and respect the British reverence of tradition.

Photo by Leslie Boles

“As I walked through London, I reflected on the fact that I wasn’t just walking through the metropolitan streets of England’s capital, but also the streets that Shakespeare walked many centuries ago,” says English major Caitlin Cherniak ’18.

Cherniak and her compatriots attended eight plays and visited five museums, all the while looking critically at their experiences by answering important questions: What are the components that make up a successful or unsuccessful night at the theater or museum? What do you look for in performances, material, technical aspects, etc.? What do you pay attention to in terms of architecture, the art on display, the interiors, and the people with whom you visit a museum?

“This experience brought to life the years of studying and critical thinking that I have invested in myself here at Rollins,” says Holt humanities major Stephanie Macias ’18. “More importantly, I had the opportunity to uncover more of my values and aspirations, and how I can make an impact in the community and the arts.”

Boles explains that the students got the chance to choose and attend a play on their own, which is tied up in one of the main goals of the course. “We want the students to become active participants in the arts as they go forward from Rollins and for the rest of their lives.”

“I'm so glad I got the chance to experience something outside my typical day at Rollins,” says Abby Sekus ’18, who’s majoring in business management with a minor in social entrepreneurship. “It was such an enriching and unforgettable experience, especially to focus so intensely on the arts in a city as lively as London.”

When choosing the play to see on their own, the students sifted through London’s 60-plus nightly theatrical choices to find the one that spoke most to them. Selections included everything from Aladdin to The Twilight Zone. They then had to purchase the ticket and find the theater, often attending solo or in groups of two to three. “It’s an important step in building independence and confidence,” says Boles.

“Being a student in a small school like Rollins,” says Cherniak, “has given me more opportunities to learn outside my country than I ever thought possible.”

Environment & Development in Central America

Photo by Ari Schubot ’19

Costa Rica is a world leader in sustainable development and national parks, with more than 25 percent of its land designated for preservation. Environmental studies professor Barry Allen has been leading field studies to this fascinating ecosystem for more than 20 years, teaching his students the irreplaceable value of hands-on education.

Photo by Rose Nadler ’19

Allen explains how the country has been successful in achieving economic growth and human development, even as it has been able to preserve and recover much of its environment. By contrast, however, much of Central America has experienced widespread deforestation, rapid population growth, and considerable political instability. In combination with several socioeconomic factors, this has led to depressed living standards throughout the region.

This crash course in sustainability is devoted to understanding these polar outcomes, taking into consideration how physical geography, social fabric, and political economy play a role in issues of sustainability.

From top left: Rose Nadler ’19, Shelby Pickar ’19, Ari Schubot ’19, Andre Nansen ’19. Below: Scott Cook.

Students trekked through coffee and cacao plantations, La Selva Biological Station, Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, and Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge, where double major in environmental studies and studio art Ari Schubot ’19 had her best moment of the trip.

“We were on a horse ride in Maquenque when all of a sudden a mother spider monkey with her little baby on her back appeared,” says Schubot. “And then we saw our first sloth almost immediately after that!”

There’s no substitute for moments like these, outside the classroom, up close with the issues the students are trying to solve. By humanizing abstract concepts, students find purpose and get real answers to the “why” behind so much of what they’re learning.

Learn more about all the exciting field study opportunities available at Rollins.

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