There was a time when William Woods could accurately say, “Come to The Woods, and The World will be yours.”
Meaning, of course, that those students who chose to be Owls had the chance to take life-changing trips to locations literally anywhere in the world during their time as students at WWU, through the University’s innovative Woods Around The World (WATW) program or other semester abroad opportunities.
But who could’ve imagined that when a group of William Woods travelers journeyed to Japan in March 2019, it would be the last WATW excursion until now, thanks to a nasty global pandemic that grounded the high-flying traveling dreams of WWU students for more than three years? Probably no one, which made the first Woods Around The World trip since then, to five European nations from May 2-14, 2022, something the participants would not have missed for, well, the world.
“Since the start of Woods Around the World, hundreds of our students have traveled around the globe and learned more about the world’s various cultures. After being grounded for the past few years, it was an immense joy to see our students find their way to some amazing adventures again,” said Travis Tamerius, Director of the Center for Ethics and Global Studies at WWU and coordinator of WATW. “On this program we did it all but there were a number of moments that really stood out. We had a guided tour of (Nazi concentration camp) Dachau where we learned the tragic history of the Holocaust through a memorial that is aimed at uniting the living in the defense of peace. We hiked in the Swiss Alps, visited some of the world’s finest museums and cathedrals and gardens and learned a lot about European art and architecture through the eyes of some expert guides.”
In addition to the emotional experience of Dachau and the majesty of the Swiss Alps, the 11 WWU travelers on the trip got the opportunity to see some of the continent’s wonders, such as Munich, Germany; Innsbruck, Austria; Venice, Milan and Lake Como, Italy; Lucerne and Zurich, Switzerland; and Strasbourg, Versailles and Paris, France. The two-week trip of a lifetime began in the Bavaria region of Germany, and culminated with an idyllic nighttime cruise on the famed Seine River in Paris.
“The most memorable part of the trip for me was visiting Montmartre in Paris at sunset,” said Kayton Coffee ’20. “I’d expected this city itself to be overrated after being the focus of so many movies and books, but in that setting I was able to see just why that city was so famously romanticized.”
“Students should definitely take advantage of Woods Around The World, because these experiences allow students to learn about themselves in a way they cannot by staying in their comfort zone,” Coffee added. “Pushing yourself further from where you’ve grown up can not only expand your knowledge of the world, but also lead to a better realization of what you value most in life.”
“The most memorable part of the trip was getting to mesh in different cultures,” said Meagan Engelbrecht ’22. “The people I got to meet, the food I got to taste, and the sites I got to see were all just an amazing experience that I won’t forget. Another memorable part was getting to travel with people that I didn’t really know much about. Spending so much time with them you get to know them on a personal level and learn so much more about them and I will cherish that.”
“It’s so hard to pick one thing but the most memorable parts of the trip were the simple moments spent listening to the pianist at the Shakespeare & Co. book store, exchanging stories at Mr. Pickwick’s Irish pub, standing on top of a cathedral just taking in the panoramic views of the cities, and so many more moments like this,” said Hannah Weidler ’24. “Woods Around The World is a unique program. I see it as an opportunity for students to travel, see the world, and broaden their horizons. Seeing different parts of the world is educating yourself on other cultures and ways of life. It gives you a larger perspective on life and what’s out there.”
WATW is but one of the global travel opportunities available to students who attend The Woods. There are also journeys with a more targeted academic pursuit, for example, like the Spring Break trip in March 2022 in which Associate Professor of Biology Robin Hirsch-Jacobson and 12 WWU students went to Central America to study the rainforests of Costa Rica.
Like the WATW trip, Costa Rica 2022 provided some unforgettable experiences that WWU students on the adventure will always treasure, which included seeing monkeys, toucans, and crocodiles; learning about traveling and tropical research, and even the joys of cold showers and sharing cabins with bats, spiders, and scorpions!
“My favorite moment in Costa Rica was when we went to the Arenal (volcano) and had our first group dinner together,” said Haylee Sheldon ’22. “It was such a great moment as we all reflected back on the hard days of work we had just experienced as we were able to relax and bond as a class.”
Such global journeys provide the essential lesson that while what you study in class about other cultures, peoples, habitats or regions of the world is, of course, necessary, actually experiencing them in person, like countless William Woods students are once again doing, is a whole new level of rewarding.
“I can now appreciate how reading and researching can only go so far when trying to explain, for example, the behaviors of animals, but the real experiences and living in the moment in person are breathtaking,” said Adam Orr ’24.
The next big thing for William Woods travelers will be the next Woods Around The World trip beginning May 31, which will take WWU students and other friends of the University to Italy, Greece and Turkey. As a hopeful globe continues to emerge from the pandemic, it is once again clear that those that would be Owls can once again attain a new title during their time at The Woods.
Students of the World.
“Without question, study abroad is a high-impact educational practice and one of the most transformative experiences a person can have,” added Tamerius. “We can all think back to a trip that made a profound difference on our lives and helped us grow as a person. As a university, we are committed to preparing students for lifelong learning in the world community and these trips support that endeavor.”