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Honors Learning Experience Spotlight: Honors Travel

Panama City skyline

Panama City skyline

A student’s college journey is filled with many new experiences, some of which they could not have imagined doing before. Travel is often one of those new endeavors, and whether the trip is 10 hours or a whole continent away, students are changed and fulfilled in many different ways.

The Honors Program is fortunate enough to have two different travel opportunities for students, through either domestic or international trips. Both versions of this Honors Learning Experience expose students to new ideas and give them a chance to learn about new perspectives in the world. Whether that is through a social issue they are personally passionate about, or a brand new country to explore, these experiential-learning based activities are a great opportunity for students to make meaningful connections to the world around them.

The domestic Honors Travel experience is through our Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program. The Honors Program has partnered with the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning for the last several years to give students the opportunity to spend their spring break making an impact. Students engage in a series of pre-trip meetings, where they cover topics such as the specific social issue surrounding their trip, civic engagement, and active citizenship, and confront their own ideas about service learning. The trips are led by a team of student leaders, who guide the process, facilitate the pre-trip meetings, and take responsibility for planning the entire experience for the participants.

This past spring, the Honors ASB trip took students to New Orleans, where they worked with Junior Achievement, an organization dedicated to teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills to children. In addition to teaching the lessons in classrooms, students also made time for reflection and discussion about their experiences throughout the week.

“ASB has given me the experience that I never knew I needed,” said Mitch Stengel, Honors ASB bus leader from the spring 2018 trip. “Being able to travel and immerse myself in many different cultures with so many different people was an experience that is unparalleled. ASB has helped mold me not only into the person I am today, but has helped to shape who I want to be in the future.”

Honors students on Alternative Spring Break, 2018.

Honors international travel is very popular among students. Similar to a traditional study abroad trip, Honors study abroad allows students to travel to a different country and experience the culture, history, and community of a new place far from home. Held once a year, this short-term study abroad experience is typically 10 days long.

The Honors Program uses the “City as Text” model for study abroad, in which students use the destination country as their textbook while on the trip. Students immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, tastes, and life of the city in many different ways while on the trip, supplementing knowledge they may have gotten beforehand from reading a book or studying literature about their destination country. This approach to study abroad promotes personal development on many different levels throughout the students’ journey.

Honors students traveled to Panama for the 2018 Honors study abroad trip. Before departing, they attended several pre-trip meetings, where they learned about Panamanian culture, met with students who were visiting from Panama, and read a novel about the country. Once they arrived in Panama, students traveled to local islands, which were a popular ecotourism spot; visited native villages; danced with indigenous tribes; and hiked through the rain forest. Students appreciate the experiential learning opportunities they have while traveling, whether that is discovering things on their own, or learning from local guides and community members.

“It’s one thing to read about Panama, but being able to dance and fully immerse ourselves in the culture gifted me with an open mind, and a better appreciation for how beautiful it is that our world is made up of so many different cultures,” sophomore Honors student Sydney Young said.

Whether students leave their home state for the very first time or are savvy world travelers, each opportunity offers something unique and extraordinary for our students. By offering several different ways to learn about the world around them, as well as their place in it, the Honors Program continues to foster a love of learning and new adventures in all of our students.


Honors study abroad participants pose in front of the Panama City skyline, 2018.