Global and Experiential Learning

My Study Abroad Experience in Jordan

Posted May 15, 2017 by Dinah Holmquist '18

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This past semester I participated in a study abroad program in Jordan with BestSemester’s Middle East Studies Program. My time in Jordan was unbelievably amazing and I learned a lot about culture, the Middle East, myself, and relationships with those different than me. The Middle East Studies Program focused on studying Middle Eastern culture, the religion of Islam, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Arabic language! I enjoyed living in the Jordanian culture for three months, practicing my Arabic, and getting to know Jordanians—they are some of the most hospitable and welcoming people I know! We also spent time visiting Israel/Palestine, Cairo (saw the Pyramids!!), and Morocco, gaining a broader perspective of Middle Eastern culture.

One of my favorite memories of the semester was our visit to a local Jordanian’s family home in the countryside. Here I saw true Jordanian hospitality at its finest. When we arrived, they had made our group a dinner of the national Jordanian dish mansaf—a platter of rice and lamb, covered with a creamy yogurt sauce. The father of the house kindly made a speech saying how he sees us all as his own sons and daughters for this night. After dinner, we sat out in their backyard, while they served us tea (go to any house in Jordan and this serving of tea is a staple). The rest of the night was filled with singing and dancing from the four grown sons of the house and their family! Every part of this night demonstrated the amazing hospitality and kindness of Jordanian people and is an amazing memory that won’t be easily forgotten.

One of the most significant things I learned over the semester that I want to share with others is this: To approach those different from you with a spirit of openness, listening, and humility, instead of a spirit of hostility, defensiveness, or judging. I think this was an interesting time to be in the Middle East; it provided me with context and personal experience for understanding topics such as Islam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For example, by forming personal relationships with and interacting with Jordanian Muslims like in my story above in the Jordanian countryside, I am better able to understand their world and their point of view. From the student sitting next to us in a class to a culture halfway around the world; if we begin with this spirit of humility and listening, instead of one of hostility, we will go much farther in our relationships with those different than us.

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Dinah Holmquist '18 is an anthropology major who studied abroad with BestSemester's Middle East Studies Program during the spring 2017 semester. To learn more about study abroad options available at Wheaton, visit the Global and Experiential Learning website. Photo captions (top to bottom): A group visit to Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World; Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Uncovering History in the Middle East

Posted April 7, 2017 by Abby VanderHart '17

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Whenever people ask me what I like best about Wheaton, I usually say it is all the opportunities made available, including the opportunity to study abroad. This summer I’ll be returning to Israel for the third time with a team from Wheaton, including Dr. Daniel Master and Dr. Adam Miglio, to participate in Wheaton’s archaeological excavation at Tel Shimron

A typical day includes getting up before the sun to beat the heat and get a few hours of work in before breakfast break around eight. The #1 tool on a dig is the trowel, used to find ancient floors, “cut the sections” of a trench (making sure the trench walls are tidy, so we can see the stratigraphic sequence), and to free artifacts from the surrounding soil. About midday we stop digging and return to the compound to wash the hundreds of pot sherds collected throughout the day. At Wheaton’s excavations, the professors give lectures in the evening about the site, relevant history, and geology. 

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In spite of these commonalities, I think it’s safe to say no two seasons of excavation are quite the same. In 2014, I was digging a Crusader period tower in Ashkelon, only several miles from Gaza. Due to the high tension that year, we moved north to work in the Jezreel Valley at Tel Megiddo. There I was working in Area K, a Bronze Age residential area where we excavated houses, whole vessels, several burials, and multiple silos. As strange as it may sound, probably my favorite discovery personally was a dirt floor in Area K, which was associated with the transition from the Middle to Early Bronze Period. As you can imagine, digging through dirt to find a dirt floor can sometimes be tricky, but it is really satisfying once you discover it, and can “trace” it to reveal a beaten earth surface created by the feet of people living thousands of years ago! My work at Tel Shimron two years later was even more of a different experience, as I was part of a survey team, doing geophysical work more than excavating. 

While these aspects of location, time period, and type of work can add endless diversity to an excavation season, the biggest contributor to this diversity is the team you are working with. One of my favorite aspects of excavating is the variety of people who participate. Volunteers usually represent an array of nationalities, a wide age range, and multiple religions. Moreover, the early mornings, Mediterranean heat, and long hours of physical labor allows for opportunities to see people at their best and sometimes their worst. While I love the work, the history, and the overseas experience, I equally anticipate meeting the staff members and volunteers on-site, learning to work with them and hearing about their lives and perspectives. I am particularly excited to be on staff at Tel Shimron this summer, and hope to help my team work well together. 

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Abby VanderHart '17 is a biblical archaeology major and serves as the co-captain of the Taekwondo club at Wheaton. Photo captions (top to bottom): Area K team at Megiddo (2014); Abby teaching local school children about the Ground Penetrating Radar work at Tel Shimron (2016); students working at Ashkelon uncovering a crusader “Snake Tower” (2014).

To read more about Wheaton’s biblical archaeology program, read Sarah Ostertag’s Wheaton magazine article and an interview with Dr. Daniel Master. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Spring Break at HoneyRock: African Music Immersion Week

Posted March 16, 2017 by Kathryn Jancaus '18

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aiw-honeyrockMy spring break at HoneyRock for African Music Immersion Week was a time of both refreshment and challenge. Physical and relational refreshment came from camp activities like tubing, canoeing, ice skating and taking walks with new friends. It was also refreshing to learn through doing as we constructed Xhosa musical bows and sang South African church songs in workshops led by ethnomusicologist Dr. Dave Dargie. We learned that body movement is viewed as a way of expressing sincerity in African music, and we practiced worshiping with our bodies in dance as we sang church songs. All together, a highlight of the week for me was physical refreshment and reconnecting with my body’s God-given capabilities for play, creativity, and worship. 

I decided to participate in African Music Immersion Week because I’m interested in world music, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Looking back, I was surprised by both the joys and challenges of the experience. Our workshops challenged me to venture outside my comfort zone and to abandon self-consciousness about dancing, leading songs, and practicing clicks in the Xhosa language. Entering into study of South African history was also very challenging: as we watched films and heard stories from our professors about the oppression of Black South Africans during apartheid, my classmates and I felt the heavy weight of injustice. Dr. Johann Buis, the leader of our trip, opened discussion on the question: Why study past injustice when it is so depressing? Along with this, we discussed a more general question: Why study the history and culture of others? 

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Our response to the first question was: we study human wrongdoing on the societal level not only to lament for past events, but so that we become more sensitive and so we will care about promoting justice. Learning about South Africa’s past helps us to care about justice in this country and the world. And, to the second question we said: cross-cultural learning can be a way of showing Christ-like love. In his love for us, Jesus took on our humanity with all its struggles, joys, and suffering. We can imitate Christ’s incarnational love by showing that we value what is deeply important to other people, like the way Dr. Dargie has shown respect for the Xhosa people by learning and preserving their traditions. 

For me, African Music Immersion Week helped to affirm the value of studying arts, culture, and history as Christians. As I remember this week of learning, I hope that it will continue to help me explore how my studies at Wheaton can reflect God’s love for the world. 

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Kathryn Jancaus ’18 is majoring in Music History and Literature and minoring in Mandarin Chinese. Photo captions (top to bottom): The view from Kathryn's canoe during African Music Immersion Week at HoneyRock; Dr. Dave Dargie and Dr. Johann Buis talk with drummers Henry Williams, Joel Campau, and Hope Ross between songs; Kathryn enjoying the sunny weather with her custom-made bow during spring break at HoneyRock. Photos credit Savannah Norton ’19. 

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now. To learn more about HoneyRock and their gap year program, Vanguard, visit their website

My HoneyRock Passage Experience

Posted September 1, 2016 by Rachel Kane '20

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honeyrock-cabin-wheatonI had no clue what to expect when I officially signed up for Wheaton’s Passage program at HoneyRock, the Outdoor Center for Leadership Development of Wheaton College. I initially wasn’t going to do Passage because I grew up near HoneyRock. I’ve spent countless hours at HoneyRock attending church, going canoeing on a summer day, and even attended HoneyRock’s residential camp program in elementary school. I thought I was familiar with everything that went on there, and wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to go for a whole week before starting college at Wheaton. After encouragement from some friends, I decided to attend. Passage turned out to be a whole different experience than what I had originally thought it was going to be. 

Words cannot describe the beauty of the place. Our first night was spent by a fire under the northern Wisconsin stars, singing hymns. The excitement I felt is still indescribable. As I glanced around the fire at my classmates, I knew I made the right choice. The same faces I saw around the fire were the ones I got to develop friendships with and do fun activities with throughout the whole week. Six of those faces were in my cabin. The deep relationships we formed through teambuilding activities and around campfires will last throughout college. 

There were moments where having so many people around all the time was very overwhelming. There was constantly something going on and people to hang out with. If you walked from your cabin to the Chrouser Dining Hall you saw so many activities. From gaga ball, volleyball, frisbee, basketball, and even ceramics, people were everywhere. At times it was challenging for me to interact all the time. But, the great thing about HoneyRock is the ability to just break away and find a quiet place to put up your hammock and spend time with the Lord, free of any noise. HoneyRock provides perfect opportunities to just recharge. 

My favorite part of Passage was being immersed in God’s beautiful creation. We were able to worship our God while hearing the wind blow through the nearby trees and the birds singing in the distance. We had deep, meaningful discussions in canoes in the middle of the lake with our professor. I ran around the thick pine trees while playing outdoor games with my classmates. Having the great outdoors as my “classroom” was amazing. I was able to truly see God’s beautiful canvas and the nature He made. 

Passage has definitely made my transition into my first year at Wheaton easier. While walking around campus during my first day of class, I recognized multiple people I met at Passage. I still hang out with my friends from Cabin 2 and others I met along the way. The community we have developed since Passage is encouraging and fun. 

I am so glad I got to participate in this awesome experience, and I highly encourage everyone to do it! HoneyRock will always have a special place in my heart.

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Rachel Kane ’20 is an environmental science major who participated in the Wheaton Passage program last month. To learn more about Passage and other HoneyRock programs, visit HoneyRock’s website. Photo captions (from top): Rachel with her “Cabin 2” group discussing life and transitions on Long Lake’s waterfront at HoneyRock; Cabin 2 members during their service day project with Associate Professor of Theology Dr. Keith Johnson (center). The Cabin 2 group was able to do trail maintenance for the town of Three Lakes and help make the trail easier to ride on for local bikers and runners.

My Internship With Young Life Africa

Posted August 11, 2016 by Madison Touloukian '17

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madison-young-life-ethiopia-studentsThis past summer I’ve had the incredible privilege of interning with Young Life Africa/Middle East. For those that don’t know, Young Life is an international ministry that works to introduce adolescents to Jesus and help them grow in their faith. 

Going into college, I was confident that I wanted to be a part of high school ministry because it was in high school that I came to know Christ. One night as I walked through the Beamer Student Center on Wheaton's campus, I noticed a sign for a Young Life leader info meeting. All I knew about Young Life was that it went into high schools to share the gospel, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Since that initial Young Life leader info meeting during my freshman year at Wheaton College, I’ve been involved with Young Life as a volunteer leader and also as part-time staff in the Naperville/Aurora area. 

My summer internship was in the Communications Department of Young Life Africa, and was made possible by an endowment from a Wheaton alumni family who are supporters of Young Life Africa. In my role, I consider myself a “professional storyteller,” as the main components of my internship involve writing, researching, and publishing all of the incredible stories that the Lord is writing in Africa. 

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This past month I was able to experience firsthand just a taste of all that He is doing abroad as I traveled to Africa and worked with Young Life in Kenya and Ethiopia. In both countries, I served at Young Life camps, participated in small-group Bible studies, and connected with local staff. One of my favorite things about Young Life in Africa is that it is totally led and run by members of the African communities there. It was a remarkable honor to come alongside them and participate in their ministries. While language was a significant barrier, this created new opportunities to connect and grow in ways I wouldn’t normally. 

Because of this internship, I’m so aware that the Kingdom of God is growing globally. I was continuously inspired and encouraged by the faith of my new friends in Kenya and Ethiopia; they trust the Lord deeply, and know Him in real and personal ways. I pray that one day I can live as faithfully as they do. Now that I am home, I have had the chance to share their stories to an American audience, continuing to raise support for Young Life in Africa and the Middle East. 

This internship and especially my time in Africa has forever changed my heart, and I cannot wait to return again to this amazing place.

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Madison Touloukian '17 is a senior studying sociology and biblical and theological studies with a Gender Studies Certificate. Photo captions (from top): Madison with students from an elementary school in Agatulu, Kenya where Young Life is held; Madison washes Young Life leader Sara's feet in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia; Madison with Young Life Ethiopia staff members Teddi, Fereselam, and Hanna.

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