Elmhurst College students met recently with diplomats from nine different European countries to learn about the countries, sample the culture and discuss such European Union issues as monetary policy, security, politics and immigration—without ever leaving the Chicago area.
“We brought Europe to Elmhurst College,” said Constance Mixon, an associate professor of political science who taught the January Term course, The European Union and Cities: Regional Integration and Urbanization in the European Union.
During J-Term, Elmhurst students have the opportunity to take one concentrated course that explores an area of academic interest or fulfills a course requirement. Some travel for their classes or to participate in service projects, but being able to take the interdisciplinary EU course on campus—just a few miles west of one of the world’s most international cities— allowed the students to learn in depth about more cities than they could have visited in Europe over the same time period.
The students discussed universal health care, income taxes, mandatory military service and the development of popular video games like “Angry Birds” with the honorary consul general of Finland. They heard the Turkish consulate general make his country’s case for membership in the European Union, and the next day grilled the deputy consul general of Germany on that country’s objections to it. They sampled croissants when they toured the French consulate in Chicago, and they engaged diplomats in discussions on heightened security measures in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.
“There’s no way our students are not going to connect what they’re discussing with what they’re hearing in the news this year,” said Associate Professor of Political Science Mary Walsh, who co-taught the course with Mixon. “Ultimately, I think that in a deep critical analysis of other countries, we learn about ourselves.”
Katelyn Ditzler ’16, of Durand, Illinois, agreed with that assessment, adding that being able to take such a reading-intensive course at a time when she’s not juggling other classes has been a real gift.
“It really gives you a chance to involve yourself in the material,” said Ditzler, a pre-law student majoring in political science, urban studies and criminal justice. “This was such a cool course.”