Foreign and Unfamiliar: ‘Maymesters’ Send Students Across the Globe

Six hours ahead of American time, textbook theories and knowledge acquired in the classroom are coming to life for sophomore Elizabeth Gambel through encounters with giraffes, hyenas and African elephants.

Gambel is one of 161 High Point University students in 10 classes traveling the globe through “Maymesters” – short-term study abroad programs that put students in the middle of the topic at hand. Classes range from the animal behaviors psychology course in which Gamble is enrolled, to the “An American Celebration of Music” tour in Italy that brought together 55 music majors to serenade a foreign land.

Through blogs and photos, students have documented how these journeys have been more than enlightening – they’ve been life changing. Below are five ways that this year’s Maymesters embody HPU’s experiential learning model.


HPU High Point University South Africa Elephants Study AbroadFinding the Big Five (South Africa and Swaziland)

Gambel plans to become a veterinarian someday who will treat, understand and nurture most any animal, domestic or foreign. Now she can say she’s observed and interacted with more animals than most people, including the “Big Five” – a lion, African Elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. The group of animals is incredibly rare to spot in the wild, especially in just one visit. But HPU students have seen them all.

“Going to South Africa has always been a dream of mine,” Gambel wrote in a blog during the trip. “I love animals and aspire to be a vet, so this opportunity is the chance of a lifetime for me to study the behavior of the exotic animals that are only found in this region.”


HPU High Point UniversityRe-creating masterpieces (Italy)

Eighteen students in “The Grand Tour: Drawing on the Masters” Maymester in Italy have been exposed to every type of art. They began with jaw-dropping Renaissance masterpieces like Michelangelo’s David and the Sistine Chapel and were challenged to try and draw the masterpieces themselves. Students have been sketching Italian sculptures and cathedrals from day one of their three-week journey, gaining unprecedented access two local plein-air artists for a look into their private studio, and even a personal critique of the students’ work.

“The David was huge, detailed, so realistic and so incredible,” says sophomore Katie Bonura. “I tried to imagine Michelangelo sculpting him and couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Our assignment for the day was to sketch part of the David, and it was difficult to even draw his hands.”

“The students’ drawing skills have improved dramatically since the beginning of the program,” says Dr. Anna Piperato, art historian who is accompanying students on the trip along with Scott Raynor, assistant professor of art.


Ireland NonprofitVolunteerism: A global language (Ireland and U.K.)

Nonprofit leadership and management majors headed to Ireland and the United Kingdom to study nonprofit organizations on a global scale. After attending a lecture at the Center for Nonprofit Management at Trinity College in Dublin on peace building organizations, they donated a day of service to The Brothers Charity in the village of Castlerea, outside of Galway.  The NPO serves the developmentally disabled, and HPU students participated in recreational activities with the residents throughout the day. Later in the trip, they performed construction work at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Belfast – the only H4H ReStore in Europe.

“In Castlerea, we learned it is rare for an American group to visit the village, and we were quite the celebrities,” says Dr. Christine Cugliari, assistant professor of nonprofit management who accompanied students on the trip. “The newspaper attended and took more photos than a photographer at a wedding.”


HPU High Point University

Singing in St. Peter’s (Italy)

The largest Maymester program took 55 music majors on a 10-day tour across Italy to sing in renowned venues such as St. Mark’s and St. Peter’s. On the fourth day, students had the rare opportunity to sing four pieces at the noon mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. They toured Vatican City, then held a 9 p.m. concert at the Chiesa di S. Eustachio in Campo Marzio and were met with a vast audience.

“After singing an amazing concert, we were given two encores,” says freshman Callie Klinkmueller. “During the concert, people continued to come in off the streets, and there was standing room only in the back of the church. It was a long day, but we got to experience so many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

They also sang at the Basilica di Santa Croce, the basilica where Michelangelo, Galileo and other important figures are buried, along with numerous other performances.


FlamencoCelebrating the art of Flamenco (Spain)

Flamenco is a genre of Spanish music, song and dance, and a true Spanish art form for those who know it well. For the 14 students currently in Spain, they are celebrating Spanish culture and the performing arts by mastering Flamenco in 21 days. The students, along with Cara Hagan, instructor of dance at HPU, and Adam Winkel, assistant professor of Spanish, are taking Flamenco lessons from local instructors at the Flamenco Dance Museum in Seville. They’re experiencing Flamenco performances and other related activities in Granada, Madrid and Cordóba, all the while strengthening their Spanish language capabilities with local residents and gaining an appreciation for the Spanish culture.

“After the last day of our Flamenco classes, we all looked like Flamenco experts in comparison to our first day,” says Jessica Pena. “Our instructor Victor made classes fun and exciting, and we were all very fortunate to have this experience. The Flamenco lessons we took were a crucial part of the cultural experience, and more fulfilling than being exposed to Flamenco only by watching performances.”

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