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The Carletonian

Carls return from OCS winter break trips Programs

<lone would probably have made the trip worth it,” said Danny Nathan ’12 of his time this December on the Carleton Winter Break Program in Israel.

“But it also was two of the most academically and intellectually intense weeks of my entire time at Carleton.”

This year, 38 students participated in Carleton’s two-week winter break programs to China, Brazil and Israel, which provide Carleton students with hands-on research experience in a foreign country.

“I think that everyone likes the pedagogical model that is involved,” said Helena Kaufman, director of Off-Campus Studies. “The fact that you have a course that precedes the experience to prepare the students, then a very focused experience for two weeks in December, and then a course afterward where they integrate the fall class and the experience abroad to produce a final product, can make learning come alive.”

Professor Al Montero, who co-led the Latin American Studies program in Brazil, explained that the program has allowed students to uniquely interact with the material they learned this past fall.

“Instead of just reading about what has happened to groups of poor, urban workers, they can walk through a favela,” he said. “After this kind of experience, students can prepare their research with a solid experience of observation in the field under their belts.”

Since their inception in 1992, winter break programs have taken Carleton students across the globe for an abroad experience that doesn’t conflict with a Carleton term. Between heavy academic loads, athletics and other commitments, many students are unable to take a whole term off. Others use the opportunity to study abroad again after a positive experience during a term-long program.

“Having been on the Chinese in Tianjin program, I found myself making a lot of connections between my Brazilian and Chinese experiences,” said Kathryn Schmidt ’12, who went on the Brazil trip. “I feel so privileged to have visited these countries when they are both rising in the world economically and also addressing their issues of poverty and inequality.”

The three winter break programs, Latin American Studies Research in Brazil, Faith and Visibility in Israel and Comparative Agroecology in the U.S. and China, were all being offered for the second time.  They were led by the Department of Latin American Studies, Judaic Studies and the Department of Middle Eastern Languages, and the Department of Environmental Studies, respectively.

Professor Stacy Beckwith co-led the Israel winter break program, Carleton’s first OCS program in Israel.
For Beckwith, winter break programs can become integral to the curriculum of a department: “Israel viewed from outside or within is always of great importance in the study of Jewish religion, history, literature and culture. For Middle Eastern Languages this program brings students into contact with some Israeli and Palestinian dynamics.”

The winter break programs are funded by the Peter G. Thurnauer Memorial  Winter Break Programs Fund, so the students are only responsible for airfare and some meals while abroad. However, this funding will run out after December 2012.

“We are still working with the original donor and seeing if that family would be interested in extending the funding,” Kaufman said. “Beyond that, it is hard to say where the funding will or will not come from.”
The application deadlines for the four December 2012 winter break programs are in late March and April. For more information or to pick up an application, visit the OCS office in the basement of Leighton, Leighton 119, or go online to

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