Study Breaks

April 11, 2019

By Audrey St. Clair ’03

The arts academy building in Cuba.

During spring break, students scattered across the globe from Cuba to Japan on faculty-led field studies that encouraged them to learn from difference and find commonality.

Over this past spring break, several Rollins students ditched the beach to embark on a one-of-a-kind faculty-led field study to Japan, Italy, or Cuba. Each field study was tied to a course designed around experiential learning—from business to arts and literature to politics—and focused on deep cultural immersion.

Here’s a look at how the three spring break 2019 field studies further developed our students as global citizens, giving them different perspectives, newfound clarity, and an undeniable ache to explore every corner of the world.

Rollins students discuss an art mural on a field study to Cuba.
Students visit the Arts Academy San Alejandro in Havana, Cuba.Photo by Patricia Tomé.

LACS 203F: Cuba: Social Awareness and Sustainability


  • Susan Montgomery, associate professor, public services librarian, and director of Latin American & Caribbean Studies program
  • Patricia Tomé, associate professor of Spanish and Hispanic studies director

The Scoop

Students traveled to Cuba—just 90 miles from the southernmost tip of Florida—where they learned about the history and social dynamics of this dilapidated yet dignified island nation from both an academic perspective and through the eyes of locals. Cuban professors from the University of Havana worked with Rollins students and engaged in diplomatic dialogues to discover the many ways in which historical and political facts can be misinterpreted.

“The academic component of this field study is imperative to understand the many voices of Cuba as well as its vicissitudes,” says Spanish professor Patricia Tomé. “It helps form the foundation for interacting with locals and understanding their worldview, which definitely reshapes the way most college students think of Cuba.”

Michael Nichter ’22 works alongside the tobacco growers in Viñales while other students meet local artists in Old Havana and learn about Cuban cigars at a local finca.Photos by Patricia Tomé.

The students also worked in the sustainable community of Las Terrazas and with Proyecto Espiral, a nonprofit grass-roots organization focused on ecological issues and sustainability, which allowed the students to learn about daily struggles in Cuban society. Students joined forces with local students and workers to clean the beach, paint schools, collect donations, and rebuild areas affected by the recent tornado in Havana.

Favorite Moment

“It was so cool to pick up the close-knit culture I feel at Rollins and move it to Havana for a week,” says international relations major Josh Willard ’20. “Almost every night we had dinner prepared at a home two blocks away from our host families, where we’d all sit together at a long table in a beautiful courtyard and eat authentic, home-cooked Cuban food while debriefing, discussing issues, and telling stories.”

Biggest Takeaway

“We attended some really interesting lectures at the University of Havana on history, political science, economics, race, and religion,” says Willard. “As an international relations major, these topics are my lifeblood, so it was incredibly valuable to take the solid foundation that my major classes has given me and translate it to our experience in Cuba. We were able to hear other perspectives on issues affecting our different countries and have civil conversation about real issues between people and different cultures, which is what global citizenship is all about.”

Rollins students along the Italian coastline.
Photo by Mya Hurwitz ’21.

MM 200H: The Italian Imaginary


  • Ben Hudson, assistant professor of English
  • Jana Mathews, associate professor of English

The Scoop

The goal of this field study and linked course is to examine the way literature—in this case, British literature—constructs stories, stereotypes, and perceptions about Italy that may or may not be true and how these narratives impact both the way we view Italy and how Italy views itself. Students traveled to Milan and Venice, where they visited the museums, galleries, churches, and historical sites they’d been reading about in class as well as more contemporary spots like Luciano Pavarotti’s home, Enzo Ferrari’s birthplace, and the fashion headquarters of Ermenegildo Zegna.

“While Milan and Venice served as the framing devices for this particular experience, the same questions can be put to any place outside the U.S.,” says English professor Jana Mathews. “Becoming aware of how other locales serve as proxies for our own personal and national anxieties, aspirations, fears, and fantasies is a key component of global citizenship and a critical first step in embracing a nuanced view of the world.”

Alleyway in Venice, Italy
Photo by Mya Hurwitz ’21.

The students grew more independent and comfortable being in a foreign country as the trip went on, overcoming their initial discomfort and diving into their curiosity about this boot-shaped land of lore. The field study gave students the opportunity not only to experience landmarks like Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and St. Mark’s Basilica but also to contemplate their significance.

“Our students stood among the spires on top of the Milanese Cathedral, ventured through the labyrinthine dungeons of the Ducal Palace in Venice, and explored a 19th-century asylum on San Servolo Island,” says Hudson. “Experiencing these locations firsthand can radically reorient the way we see ourselves and our culture in relation to the past.”

From pigeons on the square to prosciutto paninis to gondola rides, Rollins students soaked up all the local flavors on their field study to Venice.

Favorite Moments

“One of my favorite site visits was at the Duomo in Milan,” says art history and international business double major Brianna Cooney ’19. “The scale of the cathedral is incredible, and it was amazing to learn that the construction of the building took almost six centuries. After the tour, we climbed to the top of the cathedral where we were met with breathtaking views of the piazza below and the mountains in the distance.”

English and anthropology double major Lodovica Dal Monte ’21 is from Milan and loved getting the chance to show her professors and fellow students her neighborhood. “In Europe, people don’t use transportation as often as in the U.S., and walking is a great way to appreciate the art and architecture and culture of the city you’re in. It was amazing to give my field study friends a taste of what the real Italy looks like and not just see the main tourist sites.”

Biggest Takeaways

“This trip made me see my own home country with different eyes,” says Dal Monte. “It exposed me to different points of view and angles, something that is extraordinarily important for an anthropologist and a writer—two careers I’m interested in pursuing.”

“Traveling abroad to Italy enriched the learning process, as my surroundings in Venice and Milan became a living classroom,” says Cooney. “A slideshow of images can never capture the same emotions as viewing a work in person. I learned so much from being able to interact with and appreciate the artwork, to see the textures and layers along with the minuscule details created by the artist.”

A Toyko street scene on a field study to Japan.
Photo by Lou Bester ’20.

BUS 390F: Japanese Culture, Society, and Business


  • Christine Jubelt, business lecturer
  • Richard Lewin, associate professor of business
  • Marc Sardy, associate professor of international business and finance

The Scoop

Amid the cherry blossoms, ancient temples, and Zen gardens, Rollins students learned about the cultural, economic, societal, and religious challenges and opportunities of doing business in Japan. They visited an array of companies, educational institutions, religious sites, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange and attended a variety of cultural events in the cities of Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo. These unique experiences exposed them to the differences in business practices, culture, and customs in Japan versus the U.S. and how to be respectful of those differences.

Photos by Lou Bester ’20.

Favorite Moment

“I loved touring the various Shinto shrines in Kyoto,” says Asian studies major Lou Bester ’20, who hopes to learn Japanese well enough to become a translator in the States or perhaps a translator or teacher in Japan. “Shintoism has always been an interesting religion to me, so it was amazing to see the shrines in person and to experience the atmosphere produced by them.”

Stock ticker at the Tokyo Stock Exchange
Photo by Lou Bester ’20.

Biggest Takeaway

“I learned how important being quiet, kind, and helpful is to the Japanese people,” says Bester. “When working in Japan, it’s expected to work hard until it’s time to leave, and it was so refreshing to see so many people with good manners and a strong work ethic. I really want to become fluent in Japanese, and this trip just reaffirmed that and inspired me to work harder on it.”

A sampling of Rollins many study abroad experiences, from Costa Rica and Tanzania to London and the Dominican Republic.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Study Abroad

Each year, Rollins offers more than 90 international programs ranging from faculty-led field studies to semesters abroad through the Office of International Programs.
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