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Major Governments of Western Europe
Major Governments of Western Europe
In front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate
For 12 Randolph-Macon College students,
(J-term) was a whirlwind of travel and foreign politics.
Students enrolled in Major Governments of Western Europe spent 17 days in, London, Paris, Berlin and Brussels. The course, taught by
Professor Tom Badey, is a comparative survey of the structure and operation of the political systems of Great Britain, France, Germany and the European Union.
In London, travelers met with the Dean of Wroxton College, Nicolas Baldwin, and they toured the House of Lords with Baroness Scott of Needham Market. Despite a jam-packed itinerary, travelers also enjoyed some impromptu events.
“We toured Westminster Palace,” says Badey. “That was on our schedule. But then we got to sit in the galleries, watch the induction ceremony of two new Lords and observe Question Time in the House of Lords. That was amazing; not many people are able to do that.”
The itinerary also included tours of Westminster Abbey and the new British Supreme Court. Travelers explored the British Museum and took in an outdoor market under London Bridge that offered everything from cheese to bread to pheasant.
After taking the Eurostar train to Paris, it was off to the Musée d’Orsay museum, which exhibits works by Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh. Dinner at the Eiffel Tower, a Seine River cruise, and tours of Napoleon’s tomb and Versailles were other highlights from the Paris excursion.
Travelers then hopped a flight to Germany, where they visited the Brandenburg Gate, the only remaining gate of a series through which Berlin was once entered. They also met with Peter Beyer, a member of the German Parliament who sits on the foreign relations committee, and they toured the dome of the Reichstag building, which houses the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany. A short stop in Brussels, which included a tour of the European Parliament, rounded out the trip.
Throughout the trip, students kept journals and gave evening presentations on required readings.
“It’s always interesting to see how different the students’ experiences are,” says Badey of the journaling assignment. “They were required to interview people about their political views—people they met in restaurants or on the train, for example—and record and transcribe the interviews. It’s easy to travel by yourself, to just focus on yourself, but this way you really learn about other people.”
“My most memorable experience was mass on Sunday morning at Notre Dame Cathedral,” wrote
Andrew Davis ’13
in his journal. “The sound was absolutely amazing.”
Catherine Dean ’15
had visited Notre Dame before, but this was the first time she had seen it during mass. “Hearing the organs play while I was looking at the details of the building is an experience I will never forget,” wrote Dean.
“For me, it was incredible to see what was left of the Berlin wall,” wrote
Hayley Williamson ’13
in her journal. “It really brought into focus all of the hardship that it had caused.”
“One of the most interesting things we did was visit the British Parliament and get a tour from Baroness Scott,” wrote
Colin O’Connor ’13
. “She was able to get us into the public gallery in the House of Lords, where we watched as two new members were inducted.”
John Lynn II ’12
also enjoyed visiting the British Parliament. “As Americans, we usually only get one perspective of the local areas and people that led to our independence from Britain, but this allowed us to get a British perspective,” says Lynn. “We saw how Edmund Burke’s arguments within the Parliament aided us in gaining our independence and we realized just how new the United States is after we looked at all the different countries’ histories.”
Badey, who has taught five J-term travel courses, says the trip was thrilling, exhausting…and well worth the effort.
“Planning transportation in four countries—we took buses, trains, planes, a boat, and the subway—is a lot of work,” he explains. “Part of the course focuses on getting students acclimated to different transportation systems. It’s important that they get used to traveling and being in different environments so that if they ever go back, they can figure it all out.”
For Badey, the differences between conventional classes and travel courses are remarkable.
“In class, you might have two hours’ contact with students, but when you travel, you have 14-16 hours together—you can walk down the street in Germany, turn around and say to your students, ‘Okay, this is what we were just reading about.’ You can explain the relevance of things in a very hands-on kind of way, and the teaching—and learning—doesn’t stop after a couple of hours. It’s not just politics, it is history, culture, and the context in which politics takes place. You can talk about the British Parliament all you want, but that’s not the same as sitting in the House of Lords and seeing someone made a Lord. For students with a liberal arts education and an interest in Europe, these [points of interest] are the things they should see. A travel course really enhances the liberal arts picture.”
Badey, the director of the
International Studies program
, joined the R-MC faculty in 1998. He earned his B.S. from the University of Maryland, University College, his M.A. from the University of South Florida and his Ph.D. from the Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg.
J-term is a four-week session between the fall and spring semesters provides students with an opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture, gain real-life experience through an
or explore other areas of study.
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