Study Away Trip Takes Midland University Students on National Parks Visit
Nine Midland University students were given the opportunity to see places in the United States they may have never seen before and may never see again during a recent Study Away trip through seven U.S. National Parks.
Led by Dr. Chintamani Manish, Professor of Biology, those nine students spent two weeks and traveled more than 4,000 miles discovering the beauty of seven National Parks in Colorado and Utah. Parks visited were Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Arches in Utah, along with Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Rocky Mountain.
“Several students had been to Rocky Mountain National Park, but for most of them, these were places they had never been to before and probably won’t ever see again,” Manish said. “That’s one of the great things about the study away program. It gets students off the beaten path and takes them to places that are unique and new to them.”
Seeing new places is one of many benefits of the study away program, but it goes well beyond your typical sightseeing adventure. The trip is a 3-hour credit course for students who come away from these visits with a far greater knowledge of a world that exists beyond a classroom. “Students don’t simply show up, buy a T-shirt, and say they’ve been somewhere,” Manish said. “We educate students about these resources in the parks, how they came to be, how they were formed, how they impact the environment, and the economic impact they have on our country. Yes, sightseeing is an important element, but it’s so much more than that.”
Manish said each student was given a specific park to research, and on the day that park was visited, those students gave presentations to the group, telling them what they should expect. “Each night at dinner, we would reflect on what we learned that day, then the students would talk about what we were going to see the next day,” Manish said. “They were also asked to keep a daily journal, take a quiz on each National park, and we had a final exam on the parks. This year, I also asked each of them to do a 5 to 10-minute video detailing what they saw and learned.”
Addison Johnson, a senior biology/agribusiness major, was grateful for the opportunity to visit spots that were new to her and got her further in touch with nature. “It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the National Parks,” she said. “I love nature and enjoy being around others who like to explore. I loved the view of Mesa Verde and the hike up into the mountains.”
It’s easy to access images of the many beautiful places across the U.S., but Manish says a photo doesn’t do justice when it comes to appreciating the awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains. “You can look at all the photos you want, but being there in person is completely different,” he said. “When you stand there in front of the Rocky Mountains, your jaw drops.”
Beyond what they got to experience with their own eyes every day, Manish said getting to know each other was an equally important component of the trip. “When you spend 14 days in close proximity to each other, you start to learn a lot about each other,” he said. Everyone got along very well and I think strong bonds and friendships were formed. Every person was given different tasks on the trip, so we all had to learn to work together.”
Professor Manish has made numerous study away trips over the years, taking groups to places like Australia, Puerto Rico, and Tanzania. His trip to the National Parks was originally planned for the summer of 2020 before COVID put a halt to those plans. This study away trip was the first at Midland since 2019 and Manish was glad the opportunity to travel is once again presented to students. Midland is actively working to create new Study Away opportunities for students in the upcoming year.
“I missed being able to take these trips,” he said. “I really believe we should expose students to more study away opportunities and allow it to fit in their curriculum. I believe every person should travel because it’s the best way to learn about yourself and the world you live in.”