Study Abroad at Valpo celebrates 45 years
Celebrating 45 years of tradition, the Cambridge and Reutlingen study abroad programs have reached an important milestone. Established in 1968, these connections with England and Germany instituted a standard of internationalization that would encourage global interaction and expansion within the Valparaiso University community.
Rooted in Valpo’s Lutheran and German heritage, both programs tapped these foundational resources as means to launching abroad opportunities for students.
“The historical ties in Cambridge revolve around the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England,” said Julie Maddox, director of Study Abroad Programs. “There was an opportunity to send students over to their facilities through connections with the Lutheran world, and so that allowed for, logistically, opening up these programs.
“In terms of the Reutligen, the program evolved from our German Lutheran Heritage and the pending opportunity to send students and faculty overseas to take some courses.”
Initiated by former Valparaiso University President O.P. Kretzmann in the spring of 1967, Professor of English Walter G. Friedrich was awarded the responsibility of arranging these two study centers on behalf of the president.
Friedrich attempted to make contacts with a variety of fellow professors and friends abroad, one being Norman Nagel, then Preceptor of Westfield House, Cambridge, England.
According to an article published in the January 1973 Issue of Valpo’s campus publication The Cresset, “Cambridge was a natural first choice for a study center in England, both because of the city and the university, and because of the contact with Dr. Nagel.”
Students were able to reside in a facility owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, close to the Westfield House where classes were to be held.
Another contact, Professor Clever, then director of the Indiana University Study Center in Hamburg, Germany, aided in the process of connecting Friedrich and Frau Professor Dr. Annemarie Christiansen. At the time, Christiansen was the chairman of the Department of German of the Paedagogische Hoschschule in Reutlingen, Germany, and after much investigation, Friedrich favored the location for the second Valpo European study center.
Since the programs’ inception, students and faculty have been offered the Cambridge and Reutlingen opportunities for close to 90 semesters, building an established repertoire and a tight-knit community based on shared experiences.
“The unique qualities of these programs are that they are focused on community, learning, and experiential learning,” Maddox said. “We emphasize the cohort aspect of it because students really build off of each other’s learning opportunity.
“They are in classes together and they are travelling together — they form a bond and a sense of community while learning about another country that stays with them for the rest of their lives.”
According to Maddox, the Cambridge/Reutlingen alumni base speaks to the overall success of the programs with these efforts headed by none other than Valpo’s faculty.
“Alumni of the Cambridge program have actually contacted me to tell me how significant it was to make those friendships and how when they are back on campus they have a cohort of students that they went through that experience with,” Maddox said. “The fact that they are learning with a Valpo professor makes for a deeper learning opportunity because the faculty member not only teaches two courses but assists the students through the cultural adjustment.
“They help the students recognize aspects of the culture that they may be experiencing but can’t quite pinpoint. You can study coursework in other study abroad programs but to have that kind of opportunity with a Valpo professor is really beneficial.”
According to Reutlingen alumna Julie Steinbach ’68, the University had been building to an experience such as the Cambridge and Reutlingen programs during 1965, headed by a then visiting professor.
“My freshman year at Valpo there was a visiting professor of music Willem Mudde from Holland, and he took a choir that summer of 1965 to Europe on a Valpo choir tour,” Steinbach said. “It was a choir that was made just for the purpose of going on that tour.”
For Steinbach, the experience was unmatched, marking the trip as her first time abroad.
“It was my first time going to Europe in ’65 and of course this was an era when people didn’t go overseas as much as they do now,” Steinbach said. “And Valpo had already provided that which was fabulous.”
The English major had decided in her final semester at the University to be a part of the first Reutlingen trip.
“When I was in Reutlingen, classes were arranged and we had four days of classes on campus and then three day weekends when we could travel,” Steinbach said.
And travel she did. Steinbach was committed to the art of travel throughout her time in Germany, however, the relationships that she made while abroad were a priority above all else. She had planned a trip to Prague, but decided to forego the trip because her friends had arranged a going away party for her the week she was supposed to leave.
“We didn’t end up going to Prague because we said that Prague will always be there but these people and these relationships won’t be,” Steinbach said.
The combined nature of traveling and forming relationships with those in Germany as well as Steinbach’s immediate student group proved to be a life-changing opportunity.
“I think that the spirit of adventure of going into another culture and immersing oneself and getting to know the people and also being able to travel and drawing on your resources — you learn to pull yourself out of certain situations and relish from that,” she said.
“Those are those kinds of intense experiences that really make you feel alive. For me that is travel —travel is what makes me feel most alive,” Steinbach said. “For me the Reutlingen Experience, being in a foreign culture for four whole months, that was completely new and expanding in terms of so much to take in and appreciate.”
These benefits are cultivated in the classroom, but more importantly formed during on site study and travel.
“On both Reutligen and Cambridge programs we build in trips and excursions that are aligned with the curriculum of the program so when students are learning their course content, they are able to go directly on site and study the history of these locations,” Maddox said.
Building off of this prospect of such first-hand experiences, Valpo’s study abroad program came into fruition. The founding of this department led to the development of study centers in China and Mexico, and exchange programs in other parts of England and Germany, as well as locations in France, India, Japan, Thailand, parts of Spain, Chile, Greece, and Namibia.
With a wide variety of locations to choose from, these opportunities allow for students of various educational focuses to directly benefit from a study abroad experience.
“The Cambridge and Reutlingen programs have set a precedence on our campus of global learning,” Maddox said. “For example, in Reuitligen in recent years we’ve been offering a course on Luther and Bach, and that’s been a wonderful opportunity for students to investigate the Lutheran heritage where the Protestant movement started.
“It allows students to have a personal spiritual experience if they wished to do that. A lot of our students still have some German heritage, so study abroad can be a great way to seek that German heritage connection.”
In turn, Maddox said that many students who decide to study in Cambridge are drawn to the program due to the opportunity for studying English literature in a more in-depth nature.
In addition, Valpo’s other study abroad locations cater to a diverse range of academic concentrations. The study center in Hangzhou, China, attracts many business and Chinese majors. Currently Professor of Economics Jaishankar Raman is the Resident Director for the China Study Center and will be offering a course on Asian economies, where students will be able to visit companies and study the economy first-hand.
Those students wishing to delve deeper into the Hispanic culture can benefit from multiple Spanish courses through the Puebla, Mexico, study center or participate in more concentrated short-term programs in Chile, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
Appealing to nursing, education, and engineering majors, these programs provide a hands on interaction that bolsters students’ skill set in these particular fields.
“In recent years our faculty have been very innovative in creating spring break and summer trips where students can take advantage of ultimately providing students with more options and more choices,” Maddox said. “A lot of times these short-term partners can go focus on a particular topic and more in depth on a major, so that is why the College of Nursing has been really successful in health-related programs over spring break.
“We also have great organizations like Engineers Without Borders that have done work in the African continent.”
The Cambridge and Reutlingen study centers set the bar for future opportunities such as these, leading to a more globalized Valpo community and a brighter future for the University student body.
“Over the years we’ve built up a deeper understanding of internationalization,” Maddox said. “I think that it comes down to the fact that we have been able to provide this opportunity for so many alumni as a student at Valparaiso University.
“What it means now is to continue to provide that opportunity for these students. It really comes down to: What is the best way that we can educate our students? And this is just one of those ways that Valpo is giving a solid liberal arts education.”
To learn more about study abroad programs at Valparaiso University, visit valpo.edu/studyabroad.