College excursions in the 21st century


By Julio Cesar

Field trips are something that, for many people, seem like a high school activity that they will inevitably leave behind during their more serious college experience. But it shouldn’t be that way. For many majors, even with all of the digital resources we have in hand, class excursions are still an important experience that should not be left behind.

Back in the days of the first universities and academies, gaining hands-on experience was a much bigger deal. Students visited sites and galleries to not only see the theory they learned in practice, but also to gather experiences by themselves.

For many civilizations, from the Greeks to the Renaissance Italians, contact with working sites, art and even nature was extremely important. In fine arts and architecture majors especially, the experience outside the classroom or studio was a fundamental part of learning.

Without Internet and book image references, going out was the only way to see works of art and gather influences. This aspect of their education taught those generations of artists and architects their extremely refined spatial and aesthetic notions which are still praised today.

However, with the many possibilities given through technology nowadays, leaving this old-fashioned excursion method behind seems reasonable, especially when you can visit any place you want at the comfort of your desk.

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    But as advanced as technology can be, we’re still far away from a moment in which virtual experience can replace practicality. Just the real contact with educational environments can provide a unique and personal experience that can’t be replicated.

    The Internet can give information, but many times, it fails to provide experience. When studying artifacts or architectural styles on the Internet, everyone sees the same image; on a field trip, everyone has their own impressions.

    At the University, depending on their areas of study, there are opportunities for students for field trips and out-of-classroom excursions. However, we still face problems with this, as many students are seemingly disinterested in participating in these activities, even if they are free.

    This past Saturday, for example, the American Institute of Architects organized a class trip to the Chicago Open House weekend in which students visited important buildings and architecture firms in the city. For such a unique experience, it’s incredible how few people participated.

    Karolina Chojnowska,CC sophomore in architecture who attended the trip said, “Traveling as an architecture student allows you to see with your eyes what you used to see just on screen. The scale feels different and also the context.”

    When asked whether the trip would influence her career as an architecture student, Chojnowska replied, “Yes, we saw a bunch of different styles and had (the) opportunity to explore them…It will inspire me to design my own things.”

    Every student should aim to get involved in out-of-class experiences based on the opportunities offered by each major. Of course, some areas of study have more activities available outside the classroom compared to others (sorry, Computer Science majors), but at least there’s always options for every subject you can imagine.

    Every area of study or class has their own style or policy when it comes to field experiences. Many student associations for example, especially the ones that extend to a national level, have annual meetings off campus and trips related to their focus.

    Some classes also have excursions planned in their schedule, frequently with trips to spots nearby, such as local farms for Agriculture or Animal Sciences majors.

    There are even classes offered in the summer or winter semesters in other countries which are based on field experience alone. Urban Planning and Development also offers a class that takes place partially in Japan.

    Depending of your conditions and priorities, you can talk with an adviser and consider planning in advance to take one of those classes at the most suitable moment during your career at the University.

    More than learning purposes, traveling with your class can be a good way to integrate yourself with your classroom and make new contacts and friends — something that should always be welcomed and can help improve your undergrad life. It was one way that the old scholars were great, and can make us even greater.

    It’s up to the student to evaluate if they want to get involved or not. But if there’s something that should be guaranteed, it’s that college excursions can bring influences and experiences that go much further than simple high school amusement.

    Julio is a freshman in Engineering.?[email protected]