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Doane Choir students in South Africa

Summer trips provide unique opportunities for Doane students

International travel has long been an emphasized and encouraged portion of the Doane undergraduate experience for students at the College of Arts and Sciences in Crete. For the past three years, roughly 6 percent of students have studied abroad at least once during their time at Doane and all students receive a $1,000 travel grant to support their study abroad trips as an undergraduate student.

This summer, nearly 100 Doane students took part in an international trip, as there were five university-led trips to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Norway/Iceland/Sweden, Cambodia/Vietnam, and South Africa. Each trip provided a unique opportunity to allow students to step out of their comfort zone, learn about new cultures, and give back to the community.



When: May 15-24
Where: Valladolid, Merida, Tulum, Isla Mujeres

Doane faculty members Jared List, Kristen Hetrick, and Melissa Clouse led a group of 15 students to Mexico this summer. Students on the trip were enrolled in the travel course “Mexican Culture in the Yucatan Peninsula,” providing the opportunity to learn and experience this firsthand on the trip.

The mission of the trip was to learn about Mexican culture in the Yucatan and look at the historical aspects of the Mayas -- present day and how the culture is being preserved. In addition, there was also a service learning component to the trip, as Doane partnered with a school in Merida to engage with their students (mostly 4th-6th graders). There was a singing contest and an English spelling bee for the Merida students. Doane students acted as judges and brought along English books to give to the kids as prizes they had chosen.

For many of the students on the trip, it was their first time out of the country. For one student, it was her first time on an airplane. List says it was a cultural immersion experience, not just linguistic. About half of the students on the trip had some knowledge of Spanish.

Uxmal, MexicoFaculty and students visited Uxmal, Mexico, one of the most important Maya cities (and most popular tourist destinations) that was largely constructed around 850-925.

A lot of fun outdoor adventures occurred on the trip, as students were able to go to a natural water park, zipline over the ocean, snorkel, and swim in cenotes - natural swimming holes formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock. Students also visited a lot of Mayan ruins.

Liz Kurtz ’18, Rachel Schartz ’18, and Cheyanne Jessen ’18 were all on the trip, students Hetrick had worked with closely. Schartz was accepted into the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) program, Kurtz was awarded a Fulbright grant, and Jessen was accepted into the HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) Scholars program.

“It was a great capstone to their Doane experience,” Hetrick said. “It was fun to be away with these students for 10 days in a different setting knowing they were going to be sent off on different adventures.”

Izamal, MexicoTaken in Izamal, Mexico, also known as the "yellow city." The yellow structure seen in the background is part of the monastery built by the Spanish colonists in the 16th century.

To view photos from the trip, click here.


When: May 15-30
Where: Ho Chi Minh City, Angkor Wat, Mekong Delta, Hoi An, Hanoi, Halong Bay

Eight students traveled to Cambodia and Vietnam this summer with Doane representatives Lyn Forester, Kim Jarvis, John Burney, Sue Dempsey, Megan Gaul, and Jim Johnson. The purpose of the trip was to expose students to new cultures and to give them the opportunity to visit Southeast Asia. Students on the trip came from a number of different departments on campus, including Education, Biology, Religious Studies, English, Psychology, and Graphic Design.

The trip began with visiting the ancient capital of Angkor Thom, a historical landmark in Siem Reap, Cambodia, that was established in the 12th century. Students were able to see Angkor Wat, the most famous temple on the plain of Angkor.

In Ho Chi Minh City, students visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground network of tunnels formed during the Vietnam War. Communist guerrilla troops (Viet Cong) used the tunnels to house troops, lay booby traps, and stage surprise attacks.

Vietnam wide.jpgDoane students (left to right) Caleb Rezac, Jasmin Sandoval, Matthew Villareal, Jared Foote, Taylor Wehrs, Nina Theiler, Vaughn Suits enjoying the view from the top of Hai Van Pass ("Pass of the Ocean Clouds") in the Tuong Son mountain range in Central Vietnam.

The next day, students visited Mekong Delta, which is an area of rivers, swamps, and islands home to floating markets, Khmer pagodas, and villages. Boat is the primary means of transportation.

“The biggest learning experience for me on the trip was learning about the agriculture and specifically how the Mekong Delta provides means of transportation and water resources,” said Jared Foote ’18, a student on the trip.

The final week of the trip was spent in Hoi An, Hanoi, and Halong Bay. One night students and faculty were able to take in a water puppet show, a special tradition unique to Vietnam. A water puppet show is a series of ancient short stories presented through the use of music, song, and characters. The stage is a large pool of water where carved wooden puppets act out the story.

Foote says his favorite part of the trip was kayaking through Halong Bay. “We were on a one night cruise for our final night on the trip and they took us to caves and pearl farms that we could explore by foot and kayak,” Foote said.

Although there was a lot of travel with 11 flights in 16 days, the trip was a great success for everyone involved.

“I’ve never heard anyone who has traveled abroad through Doane that has said they wouldn’t want to travel again. It really does change your perspective on things.”
Kim Jarvis

To view more photos from the trip, click here.


When: May 13 - June 1
Where: Reykjavik (Iceland), Bergen (Norway), Norwegian Fjords, Kongsberg (Norway), Oslo (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden)

Nathan Erickson, associate professor of sociology and JL Vertin, assistant professor of practice in mathematics, led a group of 10 students on a Scandinavian adventure this summer, traveling to Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

The trip began with a one day stop in Iceland, where students took part in the Golden Circle Tour, allowing everyone to see some of Iceland’s most stunning sights. The next three days were spent in Bergen, Norway, where students were able to take in Syttendemai, a Norwegian holiday meaning the 17th of May. Women wear commemorative dresses on this day while men wear suits. It is a full day of parades, music, art, street food, and fireworks.

In Bergen, students also were able to tour a prison, learning about the Norwegian correctional policy. As Erickson explains, a correctional officer position is highly sought after in Norway. The application process typically consists of hiring 100-200 officers at a time and over 1,000 people will apply for the job. For those that are hired, they will attend school for a few months for their training. The selection process is heavily based on how well the applicants can communicate.

NorwayA scenic view in Bergen, Norway.

“The approach correctional officers have to their job is to have meaningful, positive relationships with their inmates,” Erickson said. “It’s to the point that inmates like correctional officers the most, they’re almost trained to be social workers with a security focus.” This is a far different approach than what we see in the United States and many of the students found this learning experience to be very fascinating.

“They only have pepper spray, they don’t carry guns,” said Christine Rost ’21, a student on the trip. “They’re not intimidating. When you see a correctional officer in America, you’re intimidated, but you don’t feel that way at a prison in Norway.”

Another highlight of the trip was the opportunity to kayak through the fjords, a long, narrow inlet of the sea between high cliffs. Erickson and Vertin both believe this was one of their favorite parts of the trip, one that was very physically demanding, which included a lot of hiking and a night of camping as well.

“There were many times we were able to push them out of their comfort zone,” Vertin said.

“You can see the students grow while they’re over there. For me, it was rewarding to know you can teach some things about perseverance and understand more about yourself and other people.”
JL Vertin

Rost and Emily Maruska ’21 agreed that this trip pushed them out of their comfort zone and allowed them to grow as individuals.

“I did a lot of things I normally wouldn’t do,” Maruska said. “It was a great experience.”

To view additional photos from the trip, click here.

South Africa

When: May 15-28
Where: Cape Town, Knysna, Johannesburg

Every three or four years, Doane choir historically has taken an international trip. This past summer, the choir chose South Africa as their destination. 50 people in total (40 students) went on the trip, embarking on a memorable journey that included a number of performances.

The trip began in Cape Town, where students visited the V&A Waterfront and Greenmarket Square, Cape Point, and Boulder’s Beach.

Students were able to visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, travel to Knysna Elephant Park, the first facility in South Africa to care for orphaned African elephants, and experience a wildlife safari.

South Africa wide.jpgDoane students atop Table Mountain in Capetown, South Africa. Students and faculty rode a 19th Century funicular to the top and sang atop the mountain as well.

“Every day truly was a highlight on this trip,” said Kurt Runestad, professor and director of choral and vocal activities at Doane. “Everything was a home run. Every international tour I’ve been on had a special set of experiences that everyone will treasure together, forever. This one was certainly like that.”

Doane Choir had seven tour performances on the schedule, although the students sang informally throughout the trip. Some of those performances were in elementary schools, which was a memorable and influential part of the trip for the students. One elementary school had around 800 students and they were so excited and fascinated by Doane’s students, Runestad said. “There were 20 or 30 African children surrounding each of our students. They loved being around us.”

South Africa small.jpgBret Andrew ’18 sings with Doane's Doublewide Choir to students of Stekfontein school. Doane sang for 800 African children in the rural school roughly two hours away from Johannesburg.

One of the highlights of the trip was the choir’s ability to spend 2.5 hours with the world-renowned group Soweto Gospel Choir, based in Johannesburg. They are currently on a world tour and will perform in America from October-December.

Soweto Gospel Choir was formed in 2002. That year, their first album “Voices of Heaven” reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s World Music Chart within three weeks of its release in the U.S. Doane students were able to visit the Soweto Gospel Choir in their rehearsal space in Johannesburg, hear them sing, sing for them, and sing together as a group.

“I’ve rarely had a travel experience that has echoed so strongly or so long,” Runestad said. “I’m still thinking about this trip.”

To view a photo album from the trip, click here.

Puerto Rico

When: July 27 - August 3
Where: San Juan, San German, Luquillo Beach, Yunque Rainforest

The Doane volleyball team had the unique opportunity of traveling to Puerto Rico this summer, playing a few matches while also spending valuable time giving back to the community, which is still in heavy rebuilding mode after Hurricane Maria hit last September.

Hurricane Maria was a Category 5 storm that hit the island directly. Winds reached 175 mph and it is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Puerto Rico. Over 100 fatalities were confirmed from the storm, but it is believed the actual loss of life was over 1,000 people. Government officials estimate the cost of damage in total reaches upwards of $90 billion. Doane’s visit to Puerto Rico was a great opportunity to provide support, aid, and hope to those they encountered, while also contributing to the tourism economy.

The Doane volleyball team donated a number of items to those in Puerto Rico, including diapers, soap, toys, daily essentials, volleyballs, knee pads, t-shirts, uniforms, and more. The Tigers held a volleyball clinic for kids and visited an orphanage in San German.

Puerto Rico wide.jpgDoane Volleyball in San German, Puerto Rico, holding a volleyball clinic for a local club that included boys and girls. The Tigers were able to coach volleyball skills and play games with the children.

“When things happen in other countries, we don’t realize the magnitude unless you actually go there and experience the aftermath,” said Gwen Egbert, head volleyball coach. “All of their volleyball players want to come here because the opportunities are so great in America. It’s one thing to hear about the poverty and it’s another thing to see it firsthand.”

“It was definitely an eye-opening experience to see the island after the hurricane,” said Allison Kuenle ’20. “Many areas were still in devastation from the wreckage and others are in the midst of trying to rebuild.

It truly was a humbling situation.
Allison Kuenle

Doane did play a handful of matches against teams in Puerto Rico, despite most of the gyms still in poor condition after the hurricane. Doane and Bradley University are the only two volleyball programs to visit Puerto Rico since the hurricane, according to Egbert.

Each player needed to fundraise $2,000 for the trip, which provided a great learning and bonding experience for the team.

“I think through this trip we learned as a team to be thankful for the chance we get to play for Doane as well as to be thankful for simple things such as electricity, food, shelter, etc.,” Kuenle said. “After a trip like this it helps everyone take a step back from themselves to focus on something as valuable as a team.”

Puerto Rico small.jpgAllison Kuenle ’20, Joslyn Crow ’20, Kennedy Scheele ’22, and Alexis Dale ’20 pictured with students after a volleyball clinic in San Juan for kids ages 13-16.

To view more photos from the trip, click here.


In additional to travel courses, several Doane students participated in research or conferences abroad with Doane faculty members including opportunities in Germany, Ireland, and Zambia.

Nine Doane students were abroad this summer on a variety of independent study abroad experiences in countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, Costa Rica, Italy, Spain, England and the Czech Republic. Many of these students earned credit and met requirements for the Honors Program or their language major.