The Fries Center for Global Studies introduced the Course-Embedded Study Away (CESA) program on Monday, Oct. 10 as part of a movement toward expanding study abroad opportunities for Wesleyan students. Each CESA course incorporates a semester-long on-campus class with faculty-led, course-related travel during spring break.
Two courses are offered for the Spring 2023 semester: “REES321: Moscow/Berlin: Dreamworld and Catastrophe” taught by Assistant Professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Roman Utkin which offers travel to Berlin, Germany, and “MUSC438: Collegium Musicum” taught by Professor of Music Jane Alden which offers travel to Dublin, Ireland.
Prior to the CESA program, students covered all costs in course-embedded study abroad programs out of pocket, and, if unable, were tasked with their own fundraising. The current CESA program is of no cost to students on financial aid and capped at $1,500 for others. This enables students who otherwise would have not been able to study abroad to afford the opportunity.
Another advantage is the timeliness of the traveling portion of the course. Because travel takes place over spring break, those who can’t be abroad for long periods of time or do not wish to miss classes on campus are able to participate.
“Having a travel component of a course is not a rare thing in universities,” Director of Fries Center for Global Studies and Professor of East Asian Studies Stephen Angle said. “Having it in such a way that we are trying to make access equitable is a really important feature of this program.”
Similar course-embedded travel programs that have run previously at the University were confined to senior capstones and Earth and Environmental Science courses. The CESA program allows for a wider variety of courses that incorporate studying abroad as part of the curriculum.
“What is distinctive about CESA is that faculty from any department who are planning to teach a spring semester course can apply to have this travel component,” Angle said. “The costs and logistical support is built in.”
The planning process for professors to apply for the CESA program was held in Spring 2022. In order for a certain course to be considered for the program, it needed to be already planned and to be a course for which a study abroad component would be a natural addition. Though many professors reached out with inquiries, only two full proposals were accepted: those of Utkin and Alden.
Utkin’s course, “Moscow/Berlin: Dreamworld and Catastrophe,” details intellectual and artistic trajectories in both Moscow, where a communist revolution succeeded, and Berlin, where it failed. Both Moscow and Berlin proved to be large centers of artistic and intellectual achievement during the 1920s, with new leftist ideologies emerging in both cities.
“Imagine that you had the opportunity to build the world from scratch,” Utkin said. “How might you go about it?… This is the thought experiment students will practice.”
As someone who has lived and done research in the German capital, Utkin was enthusiastic about sharing the “open-air museum” that is Berlin with students. In addition to introducing his class to some of his favorite historical sights, the course will take on current events as well. Students in the class will have the opportunity to meet with refugees from Ukraine and exiles from Russia fleeing the ongoing war between the two nations.
“Part of the class is on exilic communities,” Utkin explained. “I wanted students to meet with some of the representatives and learn firsthand about their experiences, not in an abstract.”
Utkin is no stranger to the exilic communities of Berlin. His new book, “Charlottengrad: Russian Culture in Weimar Berlin,” which comes out in summer 2023, details the intellectual and artistic output of the Russian émigré community in Berlin during the 1920s.
In addition to meeting with refugees, other destinations within the study abroad portion of the course include the Bauhaus compound in the city of Dessau, and Potsdam, an aristocratic suburb of Berlin where former German and Prussian kings once resided.
“Take the class not for the trip alone,” Utkin advised. “[The study abroad portion] will enhance the experience in a myriad of ways, and it offers unique opportunities beyond a midterm and a final. We are really learning about how art and ideology remind us all of the complexities of that region.”
The second CESA course offered for Spring 2023 is “Collegium Musicum,” taught by Alden. After previously hosting the course online because of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Alden is looking forward to many things, including a return to in-person instruction and the joy of singing off Zoom.
“Students have been singing in their bedrooms at home during the pandemic, and music has been able to bring everyone together remotely,” Alden said. “But there is something to be said about being with one another in person and having a physical connection.”
“Collegium Musicum” will meet in the Memorial Chapel, a space that provides excellent acoustics and a comfortable setting for students to rehearse and perform. One benefit of the study abroad program is that students can perform in a new setting, where the impact of the acoustic space and historical significance will provide a new way of learning.
“I want students to experience different approaches to choral music, and have exposure to different expertise from different practitioners,” Alden added.
Alden selected Dublin, Ireland for the course’s study destination because of its rich cultural history, specifically in medieval music and cosmology. Ireland’s neolithic tombs—sites Alden has always wanted to visit—contain carvings that demonstrate the fascination with astronomy that the cave’s inhabitants had, providing insights into their Pagan religion. This aligns with the course’s theme of light and darkness, and the influence of space on religious practice and on music.
“The tombs are really incredible to see,” Alden said. “They were constructed with an incredible understanding of geometry. The influence of space, both outer space and physical space, on music is something I’m interested in.”
Both courses require a Permission of Instructor override, and “Collegium Musicum” has an audition process. Though groups may be small this year, the Fries Center for Global Studies plans to gradually expand the CESA program in the years to come.
Carolyn Neugarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.