Dr. Jason Swanson, Associate Professor in the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, and three students.

Experiencing Valentine’s Day, Easter or Spring Break in London would be an amazing adventure, maybe even a once-in-a-lifetime event. But what about living every day among the city’s historical geography, iconic architecture, and famous sites?

That is the opportunity Dr. Jason Swanson, Associate Professor in the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, and three students have this semester through his program, Transformative Travels: Explore London.

Swanson’s faculty-directed program, through the University of Kentucky and Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, allows students to earn 15 credit hours while taking four classes, two with Swanson and two through Arcadia. Swanson’s two classes are HMT 486: Transformative Travels: Exploring the United Kingdom and HMT 580: Trends Analysis in the Hospitality Industry.

Students can choose from a variety of Arcadia classes that line up well with UK’s general education requirements, making it a great opportunity for younger students with more core classes to fill. “Think about it sooner rather than later,” Swanson said.

Swanson’s class analyzing trends of the hospitality industry will be tailored to each student’s major. He will remain flexible about what trends they study, how they are interpreted, and how they are applied.

The Transformative Travels class includes a weeklong exploration of smaller cities in England and Northern Ireland. The class will decide on its destinations once they are in London. “We will look for neighborhoods off the beaten path,” Swanson said. “We will find out what they (the students) are interested in as travelers whether it be physical or cultural challenges.”

They will be taking trips to Greenwich and Stonehenge, which will coincide with Swanson’s wife’s trips with her Centre College students. Ellen Swanson, a math professor at Centre, is taking 34 students for the semester to study statistics, and mazes, castles, and codes. The couple are also taking their two children. “It doesn’t matter that they are so young,” he said. “Travel is so important, they’ll get a benefit out of it even if they don’t remember it.”

Everyone will have plenty of pictures to remember the experience along with a TV show. Swanson is planning a television show about the group’s London experiences along the lines of the show documenting his Transformative Travels: Exploring Kentucky class. In that class, 10 students and Swanson travelled to western Kentucky for a week, accompanied by a video production crew. That six-episode series will continue to air on the various KET channels through February. Check https://www.ket.org/series/KTRTR/ for details.

Swanson wanted to show his students that you can stay in Kentucky and have the same transformative experiences as traveling overseas. “Students always say that their trip to Greece, France, or Panama was amazing and life-changing,” Swanson said. “But if you have an open mind, you can really get a lot out of staying close to home.”

For this semester, students will be living full-time among a foreign culture which will provide its own challenges and rewards. “Hopefully they will have an opportunity to become more open-minded about other cultures and people,” Swanson said. “I hope they have an inspiration or a challenge while there and they learn the benefits of travel.”

One challenge they’ll be facing is a pretty big one. The deadline for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is March 29. “(Brexit) is a major world event, so it’ll be interesting to be there while it’s happening,” Swanson said.

Another challenge some students might not be able work around is the $17,000 price tag. Swanson says the expenses of living on campus including room, tuition, board, books, etc., is comparable and can actually be cheaper for out-of-state students. Scholarships, available through the Education Abroad program and the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management, help address the financial challenge.

Students will be in London from January 6 to April 18.

Author: Alyssa Simms
Terms: RTM