UNO professor offers students unique opportunity

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By Jacksoon Booth, Contributor

Sophomore Lindsay Lee always wanted to go on a study abroad but the time and financial commitments seemed insurmountable.
Last summer, history professor Dan Weis offered a different opportunity for students like Lee-a 19-day trip to Rome and Paris.
“The thing that was always holding me back [from completing a study abroad] was the length of trips but this trip was just three weeks and it was perfect,” Lee said.
Weis came up with the idea several years ago when one of his colleagues took a trip to Turkey. Intrigued by the idea of leading a study abroad, Weis met with the previous study abroad adviser at UNO but plans fell through. When Emily Hassenstab took over the study abroad program Weis was finally able to coordinate the trip.
Weis has traveled to 14 different countries in Europe and North Africa. He decided on Rome and Paris for the trip because of the popularity of historic sites there. Finances were also a reason for choosing those locations.
“From a business side I picked places I knew people would sign up for,” Weis said.
Seven students went on the trip. The average cost was $5,000. Several departments at UNO sponsored the trip to alleviate additional costs for students, Weis said.
“We ended up borrowing money from the Martin Fund, the History department and some money from the Chair of the International Studies Department,” Weis said. “The Dean of Arts and Sciences promised the money, so they were really supportive of making sure this got off the ground.”
Students got class credit for the trip. They participated in a two-week course where they gathered current articles on Rome and Paris and presented them to the class.
Students liked that there were no tests or quizzes.
“The expectations were low since it was the first year to get it off and running,” Weis said. “I initially had a lot more assigned and then kind of cut it back once I found out what I thought students were learning.”
The relaxed nature of the class created an environment where students felt comfortable asking questions. Students weren’t concerned about being tested.  
“There was really no reason to ask those questions outside of them being really interested in it,” Weis said.
Although academic expectations may have been low for this trip, future trips will place more emphasis on academics, Weis said.
The group was also able to visit many tourist sites, like the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Center Pompidou, the Coliseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and more.
“We were there for 19 days, eight days in each city plus a travel day. We probably saw more in 19 days than most people see in 30,” Weis said. “We were out typically 12 to 14 hour days for like the first five days.”
Weis, having been to Rome on different occasions, said that his favorite site was the Pantheon. Lee’s favorite was the Capitoline Museum in Rome, which houses many important documents.
One of the main principles Weis tried to instill in the students was valuing independence.
Lee told of an experience when she was trying to purchase bus tickets in Rome but couldn’t figure it out. A gentleman approached her trying to assist, but Weis told the man no.
“At first I was kind of annoyed but I was able to buy my bus tickets and it was a good experience because I was on the other end of the counter and realized that it’s not all about me,” Lee said.
There were numerous occasions where students were expected to find their way using public transportation. At times, they took the wrong bus and had to find their way back.
“It was a baptism of fire. They got in and had to figure it out,” Weis said. “There were a few times that they got lost and there were a few times that I had to say, ‘Hey, I’m not going to do anything. You figure it out, how do we get back home?'”
Europeans are more culturally aware, Lee said. For instance, most locals know several languages. Lee also said Europeans value time much differently than Americans do.
“Here you wake up in the morning and get your coffee, go to work, complete an assignment or whatever your life is like,” Lee said. “In Italy, for example, they live in the moment. They don’t rush to the next event.”
Lee’s experiences in Europe made her much more aware of how globalized society has become.
“It seems they [people in other countries] know more about my own country than I do,” Lee said. “It’s important to know what’s going on in the world you live in and not just what goes on in the country you reside in.”
Both Lee and Weis were very pleased with how the trip went. Weis expects to take a trip next summer. Future locations depend on who plans the trip. The trip will most likely be to Europe again but countries may vary.
To learn more about going on a study abroad with professor Weis please contact him at dweis@mail.unomaha.edu.

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