Winter Session trips add up to great experiences for BGSU students

Students on the study abroad trip to China flash BGSU colors at the Great Wall of China. (Provided by Gabriel Matney)


BG Independent Correspondent

Scott Knapke’s 2019 study abroad experience allowed him to spread ideas and visit another culture, without giving up too much time with his family.

The extended Winter Session allowed BGSU student Scott Knapke to spread ideas and visit another culture, without giving up too much time with his family.

There were 116 students enrolled in study abroad experiences over Winter Session, with nine courses offered. The courses took BGSU students across the globe, to places like Australia, New Zealand, China, Curacao, Peru, France and Spain.

Scott Knapke (purple shirt) works with students at the Bilingual Experimental School of Changsha First High School. (Photo by Gabriel Matney/provided)

The group Knapke went with consisted of 10 students who went to China and introduced Math Camp to Chinese educators — a student-led math program here at BGSU.

“It was lots of interaction and knowledge of one another,” said associate professor Gabriel Matney, who led the trip. “Lots of time to ask questions, break the ice, get to know each other, become friends and then to perform this thing together called Math Camp.”

BGSU students co-led two Math Camps with more than 30 students at Hunan Normal University in Changsha, China.

“We go there to share ideas and gain ideas,” said Matney.

The group also hiked the Great Wall of China, which surprisingly had an ice cream stand at the top, Matney shared. Additionally, they visited six other schools across China and three major cities.

“Overall, we spent so much time with the Chinese students and had so many opportunities to ask questions,” Knapke said. “I learned so much more about their culture and their view of education, and you can definitely tell there is much more drive.”

As an AYA Math Education major, Knapke said he learned a lot from his experience in China and would apply those ideas to his teaching career. He plans to finish out his senior year and then study under Matney as a graduate student to get his masters in curriculum and teaching.

Knapke said, “instilling in my future students the idea of being open minded in anything that we do and making sure that they have that growth mindset and they have that drive to succeed in my classroom, would be the biggest benefit that I’ve gained from this experience.”

Another study abroad trip was to New Zealand, led by professors Ian Young, philosophy, and Kim Young, art. The trip allowed 14 students to explore the art and environmental ethics found in the country.

Young said when he first had the idea for the trip five years ago, it would have taken place during the summer, which is winter in New Zealand. The harsher weather would have put some restrictions on the trip.

“When they changed to Winter Session this year, that really opened up a good possibility of going to New Zealand in the middle of summer, which is really nice because we got to have three weeks away from the Ohio winter.” Young said. “The students loved that.”

The trip allowed for students to study the culture of New Zealand through the country’s artwork and environmental practices. They kayaked, visited a glacier and multiple cities, and spent plenty of time on the beach.

Students cool off in the sea after hiking through Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary on the third day of the New Zealand study abroad trip. (Photo by Kim Young/provided)

The group also helped with environmental restoration — thanks to Young’s connections with University of Otago in New Zealand — and slept under ornate cultural paintings in a Māori community center (the indigenous people of New Zealand).

Young said New Zealanders are much more environmentally conscious and work to preserve their country’s native wildlife. The students got the see these efforts first had with the rigorous bio-security in the airport and in the environmental conservation center they visited in Wellington.

Because Young is originally from New Zealand, he was excited to go back to the country with some students after years of not being able to.

“It was kind of a dream come true in a lot of ways, to be able to do that,” Young said.

Young hopes the trip will expand, and more students will join in Winter Session 2020 and the following Winter Sessions. The one downside to the trip was the cost of traveling to New Zealand in its peak season. Young hopes to figure out a way to bring those costs down so more students can attend.