Fall Semester 2024 Europe Semester
What is Europe Semester?
Europe Semester couples intensive study with first-hand experience of the places and people that have shaped European history and cultures. You will travel widely, read, research, and write extensively, and learn from experts and everyday people from across Europe. Your courses will fulfill Common Inquiries requirements from Westmont's General Education program, but your academic experience will be much more than meeting requirements. You will discover new perspectives, wrestle with challenging questions, and see abstract ideas embodied in real people's lives, all while being a part of a small, Christian learning community.
Students will be able to fulfill these general education requirements: Thinking Globally, Reasoning Abstractly, Reading Imaginative Lit, and Understanding Society. A PE course will also be available.
England, Netherlands, and Germany
Widespread environmental challenges such as biodiversity loss, resource depletion, and environmental change and degradation are among the most pressing global issues of our day. They have tremendous scientific, social, and moral dimensions that require a sophisticated, informed, and compassionate response from a range of disciplinary perspectives. This course is an introduction to global environmental issues, with a special focus on European wildlife, history, and politics. While encountering landscapes from Cambridge’s Fenlands to the greenbelt along the historical Iron Curtain, from the Black Forest of Germany to the cities and farmlands of Italy, we will cultivate a deep understanding of individual and corporate connections to the natural world in all its diversity. We will develop an interdisciplinary knowledge base and set of skills to engage contemporary environmental issues from local to global scales, and situate stewardship of the earth in the context of Christian theology and social and environmental ethics. GE: Thinking Globally
Biblical apocalyptic literature was written in response to the oppression and persecution of the people of God. The vivid imagery and dramatic events offered readers a way to interpret their experience of the world, and they could find hope in the proclamation of God’s victory over evil. The visions of biblical apocalyptic literature also have provided imagery and concepts for later writers, in and outside Jewish and Christian communities. Writers throughout history and into our own day adopt and adapt biblical imagery in response to new crises in the world–including the climate crisis. In this class, we will explore the book of Revelation. We’ll seek out echoes of biblical apocalyptic imagery in medieval doom paintings, visionary poetry, and modern novels. And we’ll think through the power and significance of the apocalypse as an interpretive framework for our own world. GE: Reading Imaginative Literature
The early modern period in philosophy (which covers, roughly, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) was a time of dramatic societal and intellectual change in Europe. The Reformation had fractured the unity of the continent under the Catholic church during the Middle Ages, and the ensuing conflicts between Catholics and Protestants set the stage for debates about political authority, religious toleration, and the rational foundations of religious belief. In science, new work in physics by Copernicus, Galileo, and others challenged the received view of our place in the cosmos, while the revival of vivisection and the development of the microscope facilitated the investigation into the nature and function of living things. And although scholasticism, the Aristotelian-influenced tradition of philosophy that emerged in the later Middle Ages, continued to reign in the universities for much of the period, methods and ideas circulating within the “republic of letters” would eventually lead to its decline. A cultural movement known as the Enlightenment, which emphasized the use of reason and evidence, and was often highly critical of received traditions and authorities, would transform European society, culminating in the French Revolution towards the end of the period. In this course, we will look at a range of philosophical topics, debates, and texts in early modern philosophy, including metaphysics (the study of what is real), epistemology (the study of what we can know and how we know it), political philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics. Geographically, our focus will be on philosophers in Britain (e.g., John Locke and Margaret Cavendish), France (e.g., René Descartes and Émilie du Châtelet), the Netherlands (e.g., Anna Maria von Schurmann and Baruch Spinoza), and Germany (e.g., Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Immanuel Kant). GE: Reasoning Abstractly
This course explores the societies of our host cultures on Westmont in Europe, including England, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, Croatia, Italy, and France. It will foster understanding of European societies in both historical and contemporary contexts through study, analysis, and observation of political, economic, religious, social, and cultural patterns and controversies. Guest lectures will provide insights that help to explain historical and contemporary social issues in each country. Students will be required to engage with host contexts with breadth and depth, with assignments focusing on matters of pressing public interest. Given the themes of the program as a whole, we will particularly focus on the ways environmental issues–such climate change, biodiversity loss, and warfare–impact politics, the economy, and daily life. We will also reflect on the place of Christian community in these cultures, both historically and in the present, and their role in responding to environmental challenges. GE: Understanding Society
This course invites students to connect physical fitness with their understanding of the use and significance of space, and the work of creation care. For instance, how do the spaces and industry of cities contribute to environmental degradation? How does how we move ourselves – by private car, taxis, public transport, bike, foot – matter in light of the climate crisis? What’s different about exercise outside of cities, in forests or fens or mountains? And how can we cultivate awareness of other species as we travel from one place to another? GE: PE credit
Dr. Sparkman graduated from Westmont in 2003 with degrees in both English and biology. She attended graduate school at Iowa State University, earning a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology in 2009. For the next two years, she was a post-doctoral researcher at Trent University in Ontario, Canada studying the evolution of social behavior in wolves. She joined the Westmont faculty in 2012, and teaches courses in ecology, evolution, behaviour, ornithology, herpetology, and bioethics. She is also the co-advisor of the Environmental Studies minor and co-teaches Westmont's introductory environmental studies course. Her current research projects include the evolution of dwarfism in reptiles on the California Channel Islands, the response of western terrestrial garter snakes to environmental change, and the impacts of urbanization on western fence lizard physiology, behavior, and distribution.
Dr. Reeder earned a B.A. from Augustana College, an M.A. in biblical studies from Wheaton College, and an M.Phil. in Old Testament and Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Cambridge. She came to Westmont in 2007. Her research interests include the household, gender, and violence in the Bible and biblical worlds. Her recent research addresses women, children, and warfare in the Gospel of Luke, and the interpretation of the story of the Samaritan woman in the context of women's lives in the church. She also teaches in the Gender Studies program. Her newest book, The Samaritan Woman's Story: Reconsidering John 4 After #ChurchToo, was published in January 2022 by InterVarsity Press.
Dr. Zylstra earned his B.A. from Providence College in Manitoba, Canada. He pursued his graduate work in philosophy in Toronto, receiving an M.A. from the Institute for Christian Studies and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. His main area of research is 17th- and 18th-century European philosophy, with a special focus on the Amsterdam-born Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). He is also interested in environmental and animal ethics. He has been teaching philosophy at Westmont College since 2012. His recent courses include Philosophical Perspectives, Modern Philosophy, Environmental Ethics, and Medieval Philosophy. He also regularly co-teaches the biology department’s Seminar in Bioethics with Dr. Sparkman.
Westmont semester tuition, room, board, a program fee of
$3000, plus round trip airfare.
Students are allowed to apply their financial aid awards from the college—both need-based and merit-based awards—toward the program’s cost.
Faculty leaders take into consideration all of the following:
- Class standing
- GPA (minimum 2.3 GPA for eligibility) and no student life sanctions
- Application essays
- Faculty and personal recommendations
- Participate in occasional communal meals based on local diet with limited control over food choices.
- Navigate multiple irregular surfaces and walk/travel an average of 3-5 miles a day independently and up to 10 miles a day on monthly field trips.
- Anticipate having sufficient emotional wellness to fully participate in the program safely and successfully despite the limited availability of frequent access to psychological services.
- Anticipate at least double occupancy accommodations.
How to apply
Click the apply button at the top of this page! Applications close on November 15, 2023.