Where in the World Were Drewids Over Winter Break?

January 25, 2019

What did you do over winter break? We’ve all answered this question countless times since coming back to campus. Drewids who went on the January ShortTRECs undoubtedly had the best answers. While some of us were catching up on Netflix, working at internships or (trying) to write honors theses, there were groups of Drewids spread across the globe studying and immersing themselves in new cultures.


Most ShortTRECs are offered during the summer, but a select few are offered during the January term. This winter, Drewids traveled to Ireland, South Africa, Puerto Rico and Martinique to study and be immersed in new cultures. The Ireland TREC, called “Narratives of Ireland: Poets and Poetry,” took students to Dublin and Country Donegal where they studied the complex history of the nation through a historical and poetic lense. In South Africa, students studied Healthcare and Human Development in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town, under the guidance of Brianne Barker, an Assistant Professor of Biology at Drew. Students studied “Tourism and Cultural Identity in the Caribbean” by traveling to Fort-de-France, Martinique and San Juan, Puerto Rico with Professors Marie-Pascale Pieretti, of the French department, and Raúl Rosales, of the Spanish department.


While ShortTRECs obviously interest students due to the opportunity to explore places otherwise unknown, they also give students the ability to earn credits and do research during the winter or summer term. Generally culminating in some sort of project or display of their learning while abroad, these trips can be a great spark if you’re looking for inspiration for a capstone project or honors thesis.


So, of course, the big question is: what did students do on these trips? We asked Drewids from each of the three January ShortTRECs to share with us the events of a typical day on the trip. From surfing in Ireland, mountaineering in South Africa, and dancing plena in Puerto Rico, these Drewids definitely had fun and learned a lot while abroad. Read their stories and let them inspire you to take a ShortTREC this summer or next January!






Tourism and Cultural Identity in the Caribbean


Awoken by the sounds of frogs, I turn off my phone alarm before it even gets the chance to ring.  I stretch in bed and feel the soreness of my legs, courtesy of yesterday’s walking tour of Fort de France. After picking out some shorts and a t-shirt that will protect my already sunburned shoulders, I head down to the dining room for breakfast– a chocolate croissant, some passion fruit, and a cup of coffee. The group meets downstairs at 8:30 a.m. and we’re off for our next day of exploring Martinique.  


Every day in Martinique is different, but we usually start early and end late. We pile onto our bus where Prof. Pieretti and our wonderful Martinican tour guide Prof. Marie-France DeGras tell us about where we’re going for the day. Whether we’re hiking the volcano, Mount Pelee, or trekking up the hill back to the university, we’re having a good time. Days fly by in a blur of lectures, meetings with the mayor and visits to a rum distillery and museums. We relax for a minute on Three Kings Day, taking a beach day and cutting the cake to see who our kings and queens for the day are.


Before we know it, we are packing up our things, lugging our bags on to the bus (at 4:15 a.m.!) and heading to San Juan. After three flights, we finally arrive in San Juan, we are greeted with familiar advertisements for Burger King and Coca Cola, except they’re all in Spanish. After dropping off our things at our dorms at the Universidad de Sagrado Corazon we go straight into a walking tour of Old San Juan.


That night I try to fall asleep to the sounds of the coquí and wonder if I’m still in Martinique. Changing accomodations every three days keeps us on our toes, but a jam-packed schedule makes it easy to fall asleep the moment our heads hit the pillow. Fueled by cafecito, guava juice and tostones we go to lectures, visit government buildings, swim in the waterfalls of El Yunque rainforest, kayak to a bioluminescent bay and dance to live plena music at Esquina Watusi. Our tour guide, Paola, answers all of our questions and the professors point out things to look for while we explore. Naturally we start comparing Martinique and Puerto Rico, noticing the different relationships they have with their metropoles and brainstorming for our final projects.


By Jan. 13 it’s time to go home. We all pray for a snowstorm to delay our flight and keep us in the Caribbean a little bit longer. We arrive home to New Jersey with tans and severely underdressed for the frigid temperatures, minds racing about the differences between Martinique and Puerto Rico. After spending two weeks studying these islands and the ways tourism affects their identities and culture, we’ve realized that the idealized picture of the Caribbean as an archipelago of homogeneous island paradises is far from the complex, nuanced reality of these nations.






Healthcare and Human Development in South Africa

by Labria Wilson, Contributing Writer


This past winter break, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa for
three weeks with seven of my peers and our professor Brianne Barker. Throughout the trip, we visited hospitals, clinics and traditional healing facilities in Johannesburg, Capetown and
Durban. While exploring, we experienced the various forms of healthcare and human
development in this developing country.


Prior to departure, we were given a brief history of the South African apartheid system that lasted 50 years and left thousands of non-white citizens in a detrimental state regarding their healthcare, socioeconomic statuses, educational systems and more. Though apartheid ended in  1994, its effects continue in the segregation of South African citizens into public, private, or primary health care systems by healthcare insurance policies that oppress non-white citizens.


As we visited several townships in the three different cities, the effects of this segregation were continually apparent. The housing was based on income, which is diverged into an upper and lower class system, with little to no middle class. However, income is dependent on the accessibility of various levels of education. The conquering of destitution and struggle within South Africa is a long journey for many of its citizens, but hope resides in the communities and their culture.


The various cultures and religions give light to the diverse communities in South Africa.

We had the privilege of participating in the religious and cultural practices of several

groups in our short time there. Along with this, we spent time visiting world renowned tourist

attractions and historical sites that gave context to how the ‘New South Africa’ had been



This trip was an experience of a lifetime, to say the least, and has allowed me to gain perspective on the broad world across seas. If interested in participating in this experience, please contact Brianne Barker: bbarker@drew.edu







Narratives of Ireland: Poets and Poetry

by Mary Ferguson, Contributing Writer


As a senior, I decided to finally take advantage of the study abroad programs that Drew offers. I decided to apply for Ireland because the description of the program material intrigued me the most. The experience was everything I could have hoped for and more. I was never one for history, but it’s hard not to be awestruck while standing in 400-year-old stone castle or looking out over ancient burial grounds in Loughcrew. I found the trip to be very well organized and led by some amazing educators who enhanced the experience with their knowledge and kindness. As a group we visited Dublin, Sligo, Bundoran, Ballyshannon, and Derry. We saw amazing sites like the Sliabh Liag cliffs, the grave of W. B. Yeats, and the Bogside murals in Derry. The trip offered true once in a lifetime experiences such as meeting the Bogside artists, presenting at the Transatlantic Conference, and learning to surf on the shores of Bundoran! As a group we ended every night in the hotel pub listening to live music and making new friends. I cannot recommend this particular shortTREC enough. I am so grateful to Drew for offering these types of programs and working to make them as accessible as possible. If you have not yet been on a shortTREC or longTREC, I implore you to apply.


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