Oh, The Places You’ll Go: PC Students Take Learning Outside the Classroom During Maymesters

by The Cowl Editor on August 29, 2019


Students and professors outside the Brandenburg Gate in Germany.

by Kelly Martella ’21

News Staff

Many students spend time traveling during the summer vacation; others continue their studies and take courses during the break. Maymesters provide students the opportunity to do both of these things — all within the first few weeks of summer. 

This year, Providence College offered two programs — one in Europe, and one in Africa.

A Maymester is generally a six-week course: five full days of class on campus, 10-14 days travelling abroad, and a few weeks upon return to work on an independent research project. 

The programs can be a bit of a whirlwind due to the condensed time frame, but it is a fair trade considering the material is equivalent to that covered in a 14-week semester. Maymesters can also be great options for students who do not want to spend a full semester studying abroad or are unable to do so, with past participants calling them “incredible,” “fascinating,” and “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Since the program’s introduction in, courses have covered a variety of topics and reached many destinations, ranging from the Road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Portugal to the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. Each course is taught by a group of professors across different disciplines, allowing students to explore a topic from many angles and develop a more complete perspective. 

For example, Margaret Manchester, professor of history, Eric Bennett, professor of English, and Eric Sung, professor of art and art history, led this year’s trip entitled U.S. and the Cold War in Eastern Europe.

The group traveled to Germany, Poland, and Hungary, visiting sites like the Berlin Wall, the Gdansk Solidarity Shipyards, the Warsaw Palace of Culture and Science, and the thermal baths in Budapest. 

While the main focus of the course was history, students could also fulfill the fine arts requirement. Students learned about photography both on campus and abroad, and most completed a digital storytelling project upon returning from the trip.

Another Maymester group traveled to Ghana as part of the course Sustainability and Social Values: Systems Approach to Complex Problem Solving. The program started when the late Dr. Stephen J. Mecc, Ph.D. ’64 & ’66G took research students to Ghana in 2010. 

The trip became a yearly event under Dr. Mecca, as students problem-solved and applied their solutions to real world issues. One year, for instance, they developed a flushing-valve toilet that required less than a cup of water. Students across majors were involved in the project. Some engineered the toilet, others translated the instruction manual, and others worked in educating the community. 

Since Dr. Mecca’s passing in 2018, his legacy has continued to live on in the Ghanaian community. A book drive was held on campus during the spring, and donations were brought to schoolchildren in Ghana.

This year, professor Comfort M. Ateh accompanied the program and documented the group’s experience in real-time on Twitter. 

Six of the students were recipients of the Gallo Global Health Fellowship, a fund established by Robert C. Gallo, M.D. ’59 & ’74Hon. and his wife, Mary Jane Gallo, for annual service-oriented summer internships for students from multiple academic disciplines in clinical settings in the United States and abroad. Dr. Gallo is globally renowned for his breakthrough discoveries in HIV research, something the Fellows saw firsthand when they participated in HIV testing and counseling program.

The Maymester course offerings for 2020 will see programs in Cuba, England, Italy, and South Korea.