SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — A group of students in Penn State Schuylkill’s Honors Program spent their spring break in the Big Apple learning about the cultural diversity and landmarks of the most populated city in the U.S. The students traversed New York City on the subway, stayed in Chinatown and enjoyed a multitude of learning opportunities.
Co-coordinators of the Honors Program, Valerie Schrader, associate professor of communications, and Michael Gallis, associate professor of physics, accompanied the students on the trip. Together they planned activities that aimed to broaden students’ horizons, spark intellectual curiosity and foster an understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures.
Students represented a range of majors including psychology, forensic science, business, arts administration and corporate communications. Junior Tara Reis said that she gained a broader understanding of the world by exploring multiple and different cultures during the trip’s many activities. “The spring trip to New York City gave me an experience of a lifetime,” she said.
"Off-campus experiences allow me to visit locations I would not have otherwise been able to go to," said sophomore Jennifer Archilla. "With these experiences I learn more about the history of this country and the people who live here, details about events I have lived through, the rhetorical meaning of musicals and the opportunity to sample the local cuisine.”
In their travels, the students came full circle from the exciting yet somber stop at Ground Zero. “The students’ Ground Zero visit dovetailed with our final activity of seeing the Broadway musical 'Come From Away,'" Schrader said. “The musical is about a small town in Newfoundland that practically doubled its population in one day when they received rerouted 9/11 passengers.”
“Come From Away” was only one of several musicals they attended. “Wicked,” “Miss Saigon” and “Phantom of the Opera” were other musicals that the students both enjoyed and analyzed in group discussion.
Among the destination stops were the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum; an Ellis Island guided tour; the financial district; and a boat cruise down the Hudson River. A few students took advantage of an optional research opportunity to investigate the name of the ships their ancestors were aboard when they arrived on Ellis Island.
During cold spells, students took an elevator to a room at the Top of the Rock — Rockefeller Center — to see one of the best views of Central Park to Midtown Manhattan. There, they enjoyed a variety of sounds and bright lights that they triggered by waving their arms and moving around.
The enthusiasm for the Top of the Rock and the entire New York trip is summed up by junior Brenna Baker, “The opportunity to explore one of the most well-known cities with like-minded students is something I’ll always treasure!” Calling the trip unforgettable for each student, she enjoyed the range of activities from Broadway plays to submarines.
To learn more about the Honors Program, go to sl.psu.edu/honors.