In the Spring semester, the University will offer a handful of courses that include travel outside of North Carolina. Professors weighed in on the benefits of these classes, dubbed travel-embedded courses.

Spanning across departments, the courses either include travel during a break in the academic calendar or at the end of the semester. A volcanology course will travel to Hawaii during spring break. The marine lab will offer two courses next semester that include travel. One is about sea turtles that travels to Puerto Rico and the other is a marine conservation course that travels to the Gulf of California. The Jewish Studies department is also continuing course offerings that include travel to Europe and the Middle East. 

Christy Lohr Sapp, associate dean for religious life, explained that these courses make way for meaningful relationships among students. 

“You don’t get to know people that well just in a classroom,” Sapp said. "When you travel with students, you really get to build a deeper relationship with them."

Next semester, Sapp will teach "Culture Wars: Israel and Palestine Resistance Through Arts and Culture," a travel-embedded course which focuses on competing religious claims. Students in the course travel to the Middle East in May right after final exams. Sapp said she has been able to work with Duke’s Jewish Studies department to lead trips in the past. She noted that in previous years the department has not faced major travel issues. The course requires students to send a copy of their passport as a part of the application process. 

“We do abide by the Duke Global Ed and international travel regulations. All students register to travel. And we go through the travel safety protocols that Duke has in place," Sapp said. 

In addition to the paperwork requirements, students meet more frequently prior to departure in order to bond with the group. Instead of meeting once a week, the class meets twice a week in order to develop relationships between students and faculty.

“I would like to get to know them and have them know me before we head out,” said Saskia Ziolkowski, visiting assistant professor of romance studies and instructor for the upcoming Jewish Italy course, another class that includes travel. 

In comparison to a typical course, the Jewish Italy course covers more historical material, Ziolkowski said. After the students return, they pick which topics they want to study in class based on their travel experiences. The students are able to reflect on their experiences and create an interactive classroom experience, she added. 

This is not the first year that travel-embedded courses are being offered. The Jewish Italy course is the second class funded in part from the Lauder Family foundation grant. In previous years, the Lauder Family foundation grant has allowed various Duke courses to take trips to Washington D.C., Kentucky, Poland, Lithuania, Bethlehem—the Palestinian town in the West Bank—and Jerusalem at no additional cost to students.

However, the future of the Unviersity's travel-embedded course offerings is unclear because funding remains an issue. 

“[The Lauder foundation grant] was a five year grant and this is the last year of it,” Sapp explained. “I don’t know if I will be able to offer it with the travel component.” 

Amidst uncertainty about the future of travel-embedded courses, Sapp expressed gratitude for the relationships the courses can offer.

“Students who spend more intense time with each other build different relationships with each other and their faculty member,” Sapp said. “As strange as this sounds, I hope to come out of this with some people who want me to write letters of recommendation.”