PLATTEVILLE — A dozen UW–Platteville students took in a slice of science and technology history in Europe this summer during an academic field experience that included stops at museums, observatories and historical landmarks in the Netherlands and Germany.
Trip organizers Adam Stanley, associate professor of history in the UW–Platteville Department of Social Sciences, and Elizabeth Holden, lecturer in the UW–Platteville Department of Engineering Physics, said it went so well that they are going again next summer.
“It was life-changing,” said Anna Walther, a senior UW–Platteville elementary education major from Cameron, of this year’s trip. “This was the first time I went out of the United States, so it was an absolute eye-opener. It was a great experience to see how other people live their lives and how cultures are different from my own.”
The course, The History of Science and Technology in Europe, 1500 to Present, is open to all majors and satisfies both the international education and historical perspective general education requirements. Students earn three credits during the experience by completing site research, daily group reflections, reflections on European culture, textual analyses, writing a final paper and giving a public presentation.
Ethan E. Becker, a senior engineering physics major from Oak Park, Ill., who also participated in this year’s trip, referred to the experience as “amazing” and said he would highly recommend it to everyone at UW-Platteville.
“I got more out of this trip than almost any other class I have taken, and was able to make strong and lasting friendships with both professors and students on a level that I would never be able to had I been in a normal class with them,” said Becker.
Becker said the exclusive access to sites and glimpses behind the scenes, which Stanley and Holden were able to arrange at several locations, made the experience that much better.
Of the more than 15 sites that the group visited, trip highlights included Museum Boerhaave, the Dutch National Museum of Science and Medicine, which holds more than five centuries of inventions and discoveries; the University of Leiden’s Special Collections Tour that includes books dating back to the 16th century; Sonnenborgh Observatory, where the group looked through exact replicas of telescopes Galileo used; and the Eise Eisinga Planetarium, built by Eisinga in his living room in the late 1700s and now the oldest working planetarium in the world.
“The people we communicated with to arrange the site visits really went out of their way to give us a great experience,” said Holden.
“Even during their free time there was a real willingness to go out and experience things,” said Stanley. “This was a really good group.”
When asked which areas were their favorites, Becker and Walther both chose cities in the Netherlands.
Becker said of Leiden, “It was the first city we visited and probably the most unspoiled relic of a city that still reflects a time when the entire country relied on canals as their main form of transportation. There were few ‘roads’ and even fewer cars, and almost no distinction between sidewalk, bike lanes and roads. Canals crisscrossed the entire city, and more people seemed to be traveling by boat than any other form of transportation. It was nearly untouched by tourists and unaltered by modern technology. It was easily the most peaceful city I have ever been to.”
Walther, who also has a minor in interdisciplinary studies, found an equally peaceful, and welcoming, quality about Amsterdam.
“As a person who didn’t speak any Dutch, it was a very easy city to get around in and communicate with people,” she said. “I loved the laid back atmosphere as well. Even though it is a rather large city, no one seemed to be in a huge rush to get anywhere. It really made me think about how I live my life so fast paced, and I have really tried to slow things down and enjoy life more.”
Next year’s pre-session summer trip will include visits to Leiden and Amsterdam in the Netherlands and also to Paris, France. The application deadline is Feb. 1. Students who are accepted are also encouraged to apply for a UW–Platteville International Study Grant.
For more information, contact Stanley, 342-6012, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Holden, 342-1397, email@example.com.