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Interterm Courses Bring Perspective, Growth for Students, Faculty


Interterm courses are shorter, intensive experiences offered between each quarter. Registration for Spring interterm is now open. You can find more information, see a list of courses or register here.

Every Friday, Dehrian Ramirez would walk out the door with his mother’s homemade tamales. Week after week he sold them — a half dozen for $12, a dozen for $20.

The senior real estate major knew he had to do whatever it took to bankroll what he hoped would be a life-changing experience.

Sure enough, this past winter, he found himself exploring the streets of Italy with the camera he borrowed from his brother. The Photography and Culture in Rome course he took may be the best money he’s spent.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Ramirez says. “There's just so much to see, so much history there, so many museums and art.”

The week in Rome was just one of 10 international interterm opportunities offered this past winter by the Office of Special Programs. As in past years, the length and curricula varied, but each course featured a small number of students and focused on experiential learning, with a distinct multicultural identity and purpose.

Assistant professor Thomas Lavanchy, who teaches courses on geography and the environment, typically includes lessons on racism and government corruption when he takes students to South Africa for two weeks.

“They get off the plane wide-eyed, but by the end of the trip, they are comfortable with being in a foreign place,” he says. “You see their growth as global citizens and as travelers.”

In Lavanchy’s class, students study plate tectonics and climate while hiking. They visit wine country to talk history and the economy. In diamond mines, they take notes on business. Along the way, they meet people from all corners of South African society.

“It’s these relationships and stories that get told that you can’t replicate in the classroom,” Lavanchy says. “We want them to get something out of it, not just travel as a tourist but travel as an informed person. Enjoy that experience and do fun things but also have a bit of reflection that goes beyond these two weeks.”

Interterm, Lavanchy says, is ideal for students who can’t commit to a full quarter of international study, perhaps because of a heavy course load or extra-curricular obligations.

But it’s also ideal, says associate professor Bob Uttaro, for anyone looking for a more focused, introspective experience.

“At the end of the day, this is what education is supposed to be,” says Uttaro, who took 17 students to Kenya this winter. “I think it gives us an opportunity to think about how we can get our students out there to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it.”

There are no prerequisites for Uttaro’s Conservation, Communities and Culture class — or for any interterm course for that matter.

“It doesn't matter what you’re majoring in. These are issues that touch everybody,” Uttaro says. “The one thing we heard constantly from students is at the end of the trip they said it was transformational.”

That’s certainly the way Dehrian Ramirez feels. Professionally, a foreign city gave him a new perspective on property development and public transit. Personally, he’s grown more mature and independent. Interterm, and the work it took to get there, was beyond worthwhile.

“If you weren't able to study abroad, do it for sure. If you went abroad, do it as well,” he says. “I more than recommend it.”