Historians Teaching Abroad
October 7, 2013
By Margaret Cipriano ‘15
Students who choose to study abroad this summer may have to board a plane to get to their classroom, but they certainly aren’t far from countless opportunities. This year, history classes will travel to Sydney, Berlin, and the United Arab Emirates and Jordan as part of Bradley University’s commitment to learning on location.
Emeritus professor of history, Dr. Greg Guzman expressed the value of studying history abroad. In taking his History 336 Non-Western Civilization class to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, Dr. Guzman hopes that his students will start to question their own identities and culture.
“Once you see other people doing things certain ways, you start thinking about your culture and why we do things our way as opposed to other ways. In the Middle East, for example, they have the traditional Asian cultural values in which the group is more important than the individual,” he said. “When you see other people doing things differently, I think it makes you think about who you are and what you stand for.”
Assistant Professor of history, Dr. Bradford Brown also noted the importance of study abroad stating, “Historians at Bradley have always supported study abroad programs because when you’re in a place, especially a foreign city, it’s impossible not to notice the ways in which everything around you represents not just the current moment, but also the past.”
Dr. Brown, who will take his History 337, Modern Non-Western History, class to Sydney, Australia described the impact location has on history and vice-versa. “You can’t understand cultures without understanding their history, the richness of a culture, the tastes of a culture, the way that being in Sydney feels, is in part due to the fact that it is historically different from other places with its own rich history and deep past.”
History’s influence on the understanding of culture is equally as important in Department Chair and Associate Professor Dr. John Williams’s class, History 375, The Holocaust in Berlin, Germany.
“When you take people to a different country, they’re learning about that country’s contemporary reality. Berlin is a very different place than it was in the 1940s. They now memorialize a very evil thing instead of trying to hide or silence it. They are very intent on facing facts of history,” he said.
All three professors acknowledged the importance of study abroad in general terms. Dr. Guzman stated, “The fact that students are exposed to another culture will give them a leg up on job applications. They know what it’s like to be a minority if everyone around them looks different and speaks another language. Students have a tendency to be more helpful to foreigners in our country because they know what it’s like to be lost and confused in a foreign culture.”
Whether at Hyde Park in Sydney, the Ancient Temple of Petra in Jordan, or a Holocaust memorial in Berlin, students are guaranteed to recognize, as Dr. Williams noted, “The past is not dead, but instead, the basis of the present.”