Bethany College encourages students to participate in high-impact practices like collaborative assignments and projects and global learning. One way this is put into practice is through the English Department’s Travel Writing class. Dr. Kristin Van Tassel, Associate Professor of English, teaches the class during January Interterm. “I’ve taken students to New Orleans, Central Mexico, and San Diego/Baja,” says Dr. Van Tassel. “This is my fourth Bethany trip to New Orleans, which is a great location for the course because the city is not only rich and vibrant (in music, art, and food) but also very different from Central Kansas (in climate, history, culture).”
Before and during the trip, students read literature in the genre of travel writing, as well as literature about the location they are visiting. In this case, the students read Tom Piazza’s City of Refuge, as well as essays by several other New Orleans writers. Students’ task is to explore the city and find their own story to tell—one that captures the place and its people.
“You see things differently when you’re traveling with different people,” says Linzi Garcia, senior and President of the Student Government Association. “It was nice to travel with such observant other people. Conversations about what we learned each day were vibrant and detailed. It’s fascinating to see how different the impact of the trip has been on each individual.”
Besides touring the city together, the students also had the chance to meet with three authors, all who taught different things about New Orleans. Richard Campanella spoke about “reading the landscape” and significant historical information. The raw charm of mixed residential and tourist life was the topic of Josh Clark’s lecture. Lastly, John Biguenet talked on the best way to tell a story about tragedy and how New Orleans has changed throughout the years.
This year’s Travel Writing students include Kathleen Chartrand, Vance Lipsey, Linzi Garcia, Hailey Branek, and Caleigh Knight. The students spent nine days on the trip.
Students used the last week of the course writing their stories, and they will share these with the public at Scriptoria’s monthly Poetry Jam at The White Peacock Tea and Coffee Company, 124 S. Main St. on Sunday, January 28, 6-9 p.m.