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Experiencing Exeter Cultural Immersion In Great Britain Forms Foundation For International Education

8 October 2008 No Comment

Encouraged to step outside the familiar, many Wittenberg students annually immerse themselves in cultures around the world, a decision that not only reflects the university’s mission but also its century-old commitment to studying abroad.
According to A History of Wittenberg College (1845-1945), by Harold H. Lentz,
in 1935, as the college celebrated its 90th year, “opportunities to study abroad through exchange fellowships resulted in Wittenberg alumni living all over
the world – some as missionaries, as employees of the State Department or as foreign representatives of American concerns. Others were men of foreign birth, educated at Wittenberg, who returned to their homelands.”

In a single decade from 1925-1935, students from Argentina, Austria, British
Guiana, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Korea, Macedonia, Norway, Palestine, Panama, Russia and Romania had studied at Wittenberg.

In 1967, after nearly two years of planning instituted by Professor and Chair of the Department of English William T. Coyle, a new program sent a group of 27 English majors with then Assistant Professor of English Allen J. Koppenhaver (1961-1981) to Great Britain to participate in the first term of the Exeter Program.

Koppenhaver chronicled the experience in “Just Obliterate The Impossibiles…And Spend the Third Term at Exeter,” which was printed in the September /October 1967 Wittenberg Alumnus. He explained that the students were assigned 12 books
of English literature with both literary and topographical significance in preparation of visits to the localities of the works. He added that they visited Joyce’s Dublin, Scott’s Midlothian, Smollett’s Bath and Shakespeare’s Stratford among others, and enjoyed weekend excursions to a variety of destinations  ncluding Stonehenge, Bath, the legendary burial site of King Arthur, and the Holy Chalice and Old Sarum.

Professor Emeritus of English and General Secretary Emeritus Richard Veler ’58 told of his experience escorting 20 students to Exeter in 1975. The program included three weeks touring the British Isles, visiting various literary sites, homes and museums, and travels to other destinations of literary importance on weekends throughout the stay.

“The whole point of the program was to gain a sense of place – the places associated with the authors’ work,” Veler said. “Each student was required to do
an independent study of an author of the student’s choosing.” Veler added that
they also participated in the traditions of their hosts, including instructors dining at what’s known as high-table, on a dais, in the front of the dining hall, with all diners wearing suits, sports coats and ties.

The Exeter Program continued for 14 years between 1967 and 1979. The last mention, in a 1979 article in The Torch, states that Professor of English Conrad
Balliet accompanied 16 students, and the program had evolved to allow all
Wittenberg students. Each could earn two credits in English and one credit for
an independent study in a major of the student’s choosing.

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