STORM LAKE, Iowa — Fourteen students, including Olivia Wieseler, of St. Helena, Nebraska, and two professors, started their summer by working thousands of miles from the Buena Vista University campus in Storm Lake.

Drs. Andrea Frantz, professor of digital media, and Annamaria Formichella, professor of English and director of strategic initiatives, accompanied a BVU record 14 students of varying majors in a two-week study of Ireland, of which about half the time was spent in the village of Sneem as students worked to photography interview and write about residents for the annual “Sneem Parish News,” a magazine, and the community’s sole source of local news, published by volunteer editors from the village.

“We did seven feature stories,” says Frantz, who noted that she paired students for the project because of the size of the BVU traveling contingent. “Typically, we have eight or nine students for the Ireland study experience. This year, we went way beyond that.”

Following the week-long stay in Sneem, population 400, the group traveled north and experienced sites such as the Dingle Peninsula, where portions of the most recent Stars Wars movie was filmed; Tralee; the Cliffs of Moher; and then into Northern Ireland, where stops included Belfast, Sligo, Derry, and the Causeway Coastal Route, where “Game of Thrones” was filmed.

“We then made our way down to Dublin and the Republic of Ireland,” Frantz says.

Sophomore biomedical sciences major Anthony Baird participated in the journey as a way to study religious history while “crossing off an item on my ‘bucket list,’” he says of travel to Ireland.

His first trip beyond the U.S. borders also came with a family highlight as one of Baird’s sisters, Audrey Cronin, was on her honeymoon with husband Steve Cronin, at the same time. The siblings met one another in Tralee.

“We made sure to take a photo because I’m pretty sure we’ll never meet again in Ireland while being under separate travel plans,” Baird says.

“I had an incredible time,” says Ella Wiebusch, a senior digital media major, who, like Baird, left the confines of the U.S. for the first time. “I’m admittedly a bit of a home-body, but Andrea made me feel confident I could travel. Getting to see a different part of the world while traveling with fellow digital media majors, biology majors, theatre majors, education majors, and more, was something I’ll never forget.”

Wiebusch snapped more than 3,000 photos during the experience and spent weeks following the trip in the editing process, attempting to find her favorites for use in the planned book of photography. Frantz will compile the images from all the travelers and edit the book throughout the summer.

“This trip opened my eyes to a different culture and way of life,” Wiebusch says. “This will help me break down any barriers to travel I may have.”

Most students involved in this international study opportunity applied for and received BVU value-added funding for the trip. Some students, according to Frantz, are Dean’s Fellows who used stipends to help fund their experience.

“For me, introducing students to the Irish culture and Ireland’s people is more than a joy,” says Frantz, who has directed four BVU groups to ‘The Emerald Isle.’

“I feel very fortunate to be able to do this,” she concludes. “It is a thrill to watch students walk away with a new, profound experience.”


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