St. Olaf College | News

Studying abroad during Interim isn’t just for students

St. Olaf Professor Emeritus of Biology Ted Johnson and Michelle Johnson, retired medical technologist, led participants on the 2019 “Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness” Alumni & Family Travel program.

In addition to offering more than 120 international or domestic off-campus study programs for current students, St. Olaf College also offers about 12 programs per year to alumni, families, and friends. These Alumni & Family Travel programs — led by current and retired faculty and hosted by campus leaders — enable Oles to explore and learn in new corners of the world.

This January Professor of Art and Art History and Asian Studies Karil Kucera is leading 19 travelers to one of the most remarkable architectural monuments known to humankind — the 9th century Buddhist site of Borobudur — on the island of Java, before hopping over to Bali to dive into the local culture. Kucera is excited to not only show this site to her adult students, but to experience the site herself, enhancing her firsthand knowledge of Buddhist art and architecture in one giant swoop.

While one group of Oles is exploring history, religion, and culture in Indonesia, another group will be doing the same in Morocco. Associate Professor of Practice in Education Bob McClure is leading 24 travelers on an extensive journey through the country, taking in Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fes, the dunes of the Sahara, and more. They’ll study the diversity of both the physical and human geography in the country.

“We strongly prefer that as many of our tours as possible be faculty-led and custom-designed,” says Director of Alumni & Family Travel Heidi Quiram P ’21. “That’s what set us apart early on and what we still consider a St. Olaf hallmark. Both the Java/Bali and Morocco programs follow this model.”

Director of Alumni & Family Travel Heidi Quiram P ’21We strongly prefer that as many of our tours as possible be faculty-led and custom-designed. That’s what set us apart early on and what we still consider a St. Olaf hallmark.

The main goal of Alumni & Family Travel is to deliver a highly educational itinerary shaped by the expertise of faculty leaders. Another feature of the programs is that travelers regularly rate Alumni & Family Travel programs a good value on post-program surveys.

“We’re well aware that our programs are not the least expensive offerings out there — but we do think they’re one of the best values,” says Quiram. “The reason clichés stick around is because there’s truth in them. And the one that fits here is, ‘you get what you pay for.’ In this case, you’re paying for the education delivered by faculty, the hotels and restaurants curated by trusted tour operators, and logistical support as well as ongoing insights from national guides who travel with the group throughout the program. Yes, you can travel for less on your own, because you won’t be paying for these items. But there’s a reason you want to pay for this kind of quality, educational travel program. They create a more fulfilling experience.”

Participants on the 2018 Alumni & Family Travel program to Greece are led by St. Olaf Professor Emeritus of Classics Jim May and Kent State Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies Rick Newton.

Alumni & Family Travel offers about 12 to 14 trips per year, including a Wilderness Adventure in the Boundary Waters, Theater in London, The Treasures of Georgia, and Holiday Markets Along the Mississippi (a cruise with the American Queen Steamboat Company), and many more.