Spring term abroad roster includes four brand-new courses

Featuring classes in Ireland, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan and France

Annalisa Waddick and Maggie Hawley

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Spring term abroad has always been a unique aspect of Washington and Lee’s curriculum. The upcoming 2020 spring term includes a few courses that will be offered for the first time this year. The courses include The Music, Folklore, and Literature of Ireland, Writing Mt. Lebanon: History, Language, and Politics, The History of Kyrgyzstan from the Silk Road to the Present and Black Writers and the Allure of Paris.

The Music, Folklore, and Literature of Ireland

Students in this course will spend four weeks abroad. They’ll study in the small town of Dingle for the first three weeks of the trip and the city of Dublin for the final week.

Professor Chris Dobbins and Provost Marc Conner are leading the trip. Although Conner has previously led a spring term course to Ireland, the 2020 course has been revamped and contains a new curriculum and a new focus. Dobbins was on the past trip for a week, and described the difference as being focused around literature and music as opposed to literature and religion.

“Religion is still going to be a part of it, just not quite as big of a part,” Dobbins said.

Dobbins said he believes the trip is special because it showcases many elements of Irish culture and life including history, religion, politics, ecology and climate, all taught through the focus of literature and music.

“[The trip is] a great mix of all of the different facets of Ireland… it’s a true liberal arts course,’’ Dobbins said.

Writing Mt. Lebanon: History, Language, and Politics

Halfway across the globe, Washington and Lee Professor Antione Edwards will be teaching a new course titled “Writing Mt. Lebanon.” The three-week abroad experience involves an in-depth exploration of Lebanese politics and the Arabic language in the ancient city of Beirut.

Asmaa Shehata, a visiting professor of Arabic, spoke of the “totally immersive” quality of the course. From exploring cemeteries to visiting archeological sites, the course covers the history, political atmosphere and culture of Lebanon.

Although the course carries a prerequisite of Arabic 161, Rafay Hassan, ‘22, said the course covers the “peculiarities” of both “formal and colloquial Arabic,” appealing to both experienced and non-experienced speakers. Hassan studied advanced Arabic in Beirut this summer and spoke of the incredible experience of studying abroad in a city with such a rich and complex history.

The History of Kyrgyzstan from the Silk Road to the Present

This spring, Professor Richard Bidlack is leading the university’s first ever trip to Kyrgyzstan, which is based at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, the capital city.

Students will study in Kyrgyzstan for 23 days.

Bidlack has been to Kyrgyzstan multiple times and describes it as fantastically beautiful. Although the course is mostly based at American University, students will also be taking trips into the country for some camp-ing and sightseeing.

“We’re going to take a trip around around lake Issyk-Kul….really one of the natural gems of the world,” Bidlack said.

He wanted to create the course for a multitude of reasons: Washington and Lee’s lack of presence in the area, the connection between campus and students (as multiple students from Kyrgyzstan have been international students at Washington and Lee) and a personal interest in broadening his own cultural horizons.

“Washington and Lee has no presence in Central Asia. Another set of reasons was personal on my part,” Bidlack said. “I’m broadening my own cultural horizons by moving into this area.”

Although the trip has multiple perks, he’s most excited for students to experience the history and culture of such a unique nation. Bidlack added that the “layers of history go-ing back to the Silk Road and the overlapping cultures today” are fascinating.

Black Writers and the Allure of Paris

If reading literature along the banks of the Seine appeals to you, perhaps you should consider taking Black Writers and the Allure of Paris this spring term. Professor Micheal Hill and Dean of the College Lena Hill will be co-teaching the course, spending two weeks on campus and two weeks in Paris.

The course covers black authors of the Harlem Renaissance and mid-20th century period who are part of what Michael Hill calls the “expatriate generation,” such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and Richard Wright. While in Paris, students will engage with the literature while tackling topics like the constricting “racial realities” in America which caused black writers to pursue the “freer environment” found in Paris.

Michael Hill said he is most excited about “the ability to explore through sight-based learning.” Exploring the streets of Paris where authors like Langston Hughes once walked and talked and wrote allows for immersion in the cultural richness which one cannot experience by just reading about it.

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