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June 13, 2018
By Grace Niemeyer, communication assistant
Thirteen Northwest Missouri State University students embarked on a study abroad trip to Northern Ireland May 2-10 to study childhood imaginary play and thinking.
Dr. Keely Cline, assistant professor of psychology, and Elizabeth Dimmitt, senior instructor of psychology, led the trip. Both have a shared interest in childhood creativity, imagination and play, which led them to create a course last summer and take students on an exploration of London, based on “Peter Pan.”
Lindsey Madsen, a Papillion, Nebraska, native who recently completed her master’s degree in guidance and counseling at Northwest, participated in the London experience last year and joined the Northern Ireland group to gain additional insights about childhood play. “After having experienced London, I knew it would be an amazing opportunity, not to mention Ireland has always been a location I had dreamed of going,” she said.
The May course was built on similar ideas of the previous experience and focused on the portrayal of the developmental psychology topics in C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
In coursework prior to traveling abroad, students explored the topics of childhood magical thinking, imaginative play and the role of experiences in nature for development prior to departure. Students analyzed how these topics are reflected in Lewis’s book and how literature reflects these concepts.
The combination of coursework and travel helped students learn content related to psychology while increasing cultural understanding and competence.
“Going on this trip really helped me understand children in a better light, especially when it comes to imagination and play,” Bridget Cunningham, a junior psychology major from Springfield, Missouri, said. “Knowing the psychology behind creativity and imagination now, I think I can empathize with children more deeply than I could before. That’s a good thing, considering I want to eventually be a therapist.”
For some students on the trip, studying abroad has always interested them. For Cunningham, her Irish heritage was even more of a reason to go.
“A lot of things drove my decision to go,” Cunningham said. “For one, I’ve always wanted to study abroad. It’s a great opportunity to really open up your mind to new cultures, new ways of life and experiences and get to grow as a person in ways not many other experiences can. Two, I’m an artist, so seeing that the class related a lot to creativity and imagination, I was immediately hooked.”
The group traveled to Belfast where C.S. Lewis drew much of his inspiration. They also traveled to Kilbroney Forest, Tollymore Forest Park, Legananny Dolmen, Mourne Mountains, Crumlin Road Gaol and Giants Causeway. The trip concluded with a visit to the Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and a day to explore Belfast.
“Picking one part of the trip to call the highlight feels near impossible,” Cunningham said. “But I would love nothing more than to have spent more time at the Giants Causeway. I could have spent hours there just listening to it and bathing in the natural wonderment of it all.”
The study abroad package included the costs of international airfare, entrance fees and reservations. It included daily breakfast, transportation, special welcome and farewell dinners, cultural experiences with bilingual guides and academic and professional excursions.
“Having the chance to take what we studied and then see it come to life, it has a more lasting impact,” Madsen said. “The people we interacted with, the culture, the history, that is what will remain with us. We will remember how we applied that knowledge in real time and how that knowledge enabled us to better understand the world.”
Said Dimmitt, “I was so impressed with their critical-thinking processes and how they were travelers rather than tourists. I hope they were able to assimilate, retain, and interpret the complexity of the conceptual issues related to imagination, magical thinking, and creativity while studying the development process. Most importantly, I hope they grew not only as future professionals but as humans.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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