Living in Italy and France for a long period of time is an entirely different experience than visiting these countries as a tourist. This trip allowed for us to be immersed in the local culture and explore what the city had to offer.
What was the highlight of your trip?
Teaching in Europe was an unparalleled experience and learning opportunity, for both professors and students. A single highlight is impossible to pinpoint! Teaching a smaller class was very rewarding. Our time together extended far beyond the classroom; group dinners, train/bus trips, visits to museums and even attending a play. I enjoyed planning and travelling to different cities with our students. It was nice to get to know each and every student on a personal basis.
What do you think the students got out of this program?
I think that one of the best aspects of the program is that all students enjoyed a balance between studying and enjoying their surroundings. Students appreciated the benefit of pacing themselves when learning material: the advantage of being tested on almost a weekly basis forced them not to fall behind. The marks reflect the required efforts. They learned to balance study with travel and visiting new places. In addition, the close contact with their instructors outside of the classroom facilitated their learning, as we were readily available to answer questions. Even the shy students would not hesitate to ask questions or to make comments. This experience will certainly change their working habits in the future.
How was the experience of teaching in a new environment?
The working conditions in Rome and in Montpellier were definitely not the same as in Waterloo! A simply thing, such as making a photocopy, required substantial time and effort as we did not have easy access to these facilities.
In addition, unusually hot temperatures hit Montpellier for almost the whole time of our stay. The heat in the classrooms was very challenging to overcome for both instructors and students since there was no air conditioning or fans. Under these circumstances, being able to see our students on a daily basis was very beneficial, as we were able to compensate by giving the students extra time to ask us questions and provide assistance.
What would your advice to future participants be?
PACK LIGHT!. I would stress the importance of travelling light, as the temptation to bring back gifts/souvenirs is great! In addition, next year we will provide a “sample packing list” which will included a list of essentials and a list of recommended items. This will avoid awkward situations, like the student who packed several winter coats but did not pack sunscreen or a hairdryer.
Please share a special story that you experienced on the trip.
There are many moments I cherish! We went to several places with our students (Rome, Montpellier of course, but also Venice, Florence, Pisa, Nice, Barcelona, Figueres and Paris!). Perhaps the one event that stands out in my mind is when we all went together to a restaurant in Florence. This restaurant is constructed on top of an ancient Roman road, where a window on its basement wall let us see a piece of this ancient road. In a corner, there was a medieval well (still in working condition). We sat on the main floor in front of an open kitchen. The students appreciated being in such a small place witnessing 2000 years of history!
However, the most moving moment of the trip was when we were saying goodbye at the airport and the students showed their gratitude with gifts and thank-you cards. I am very happy to have spent 3 months with them and having shared such a wonderful experience. The puzzles I brought back from Barcelona/Figueres are set up in my office and I cannot wait to reminiscent with the students about our trips together.