After 15 weeks in class, Ohio Wesleyan students traveled oversees to study the ‘History of European Rivers’ with faculty member Ellen Arnold. Their OWU Connection experience included stops in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. (Photo courtesy of Ellen Arnold)

Full Stream Ahead

Ohio Wesleyan Students Travel Overseas, Immerse Selves in ‘History of European Rivers’

By Cole Hatcher

Amanda Hays ’20

Name: Amanda Hays ’20
Hometown: Winthrop, Maine
Majors: History and Pre-Law
OWU Connection Experience: Travel-Learning Course, “History of European Rivers”

Following their semester-long course, Hays and 10 classmates traveled with Ellen Arnold, associate professor of history, to the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. There, the students explored the history of how people interacted with rivers and water resources.

During their class, they also completed independent research projects about the rivers they later visited and attended the annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History in Columbus.

Hays shares her reflections about this OWU Connection experience:

Why this experience?

“I choose this Travel-Learning Course in particular because I have no experience with the study of environmental history. This is an aspect of history that is extremely important to the conversation of climate today, and so I wanted to better understand how historians go about studying it and relating it to other parts of history and today’s world. This course also had a lot of interdisciplinary discussions, something that I believe is crucially important. …

“Rivers have a special meaning to me because I have always grown up near rivers, ponds, lakes, and the ocean. I wanted to see how Europeans treated and interacted with their rivers (whether it was the same or differed) and better understand the interconnectedness between different bodies of water.”

My favorite moment

“My favorite moment was seeing the Rhine for the first time and traveling the most famous stretch of it from Koblenz to Bingen. It was a beautiful and amazing experience! I can see why the Romantics fell in love with it!”

Ohio Wesleyan students visited the Rhine during their study of the ‘History of European Rivers.’ (Photo courtesy of Ellen Arnold)

Lessons learned

“One of the things we learned in the classroom was that rivers and humans are so much intertwined with each other that we change the river while the river changes us. To see in real life how humans interacted with the rivers – especially [during our trip] because the rivers were flooding due to heavy rainfall – really showed me that it is a working relationship.

“Though humans use the river for industrial purposes and may harm the river, the river can fight back when it floods and proceeds to affect even train schedules.

“As for tying this experience in with future plans, I feel that I am a more well-rounded historian. I believe that I now understand that history is not just about humans and that there is more to explore and study. I also learned new methods to study environmental history such as GIS mapping.

“Experiences like this matter because I believe it is important to no just learn from reading a textbook but to actually go to the areas themselves and see what is happening day-to-day. That gives the classroom learning more concrete meaning.”

Why I chose OWU

“I decided to come to OWU for three reasons. First, I am a legacy student with many family members attending and teaching here. Second, I was impressed by the travel opportunities provided by The OWU Connection. There were so many options to choose from – whether to study abroad for a semester, take a class that went abroad for two weeks, or write a grant to study what I wanted to study. Third, I liked the History Department here and thought that I would really fit in.”

My plans after graduation

“I hope to immediately go off to law school to get my law degree. Right now, I would like to be a museum attorney, but I am willing to keep my options open!”