BETHANY, W.Va. — The International Relations Club (IR Club) and Tri-Beta Biological Honorary Society at Bethany College recently returned from Spring Break trips to The Gambia and the Amazon jungle. The trips were part of the College’s ongoing initiatives to enhance classroom learning with multi-faceted educational experiences in the United States and abroad.
Professor Clinton Maffett, Chair of the Department of History and Political Science, led nine International Relations Club members to The Gambia.
“Our trip to The Gambia was a unique opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of what they’ve been learning in the classroom,” Maffett stated. “We saw first-hand the process of democracy-building in a developing nation and enjoyed tangible cultural experiences that will stay with the students for a lifetime.”
The group spent two days in London preceding their stay in Gambia and visited sites such as Tower Bridge, Parliament, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus and the Tower of London. Some students attended evening prayer at Westminster Abbey, followed by a traditional English dinner at The Albert on Victoria Street.
Participants arrived in The Gambia on March 13. In Bintang, 70 miles east of the capital Banjul, the group participated in African dancing and drumming and stayed in eco-cottages raised up by stilts on the Gambia River. A visit to the villages of Albreda and Juffureh offered the opportunity to learn about the history of the slave trade from James Island, as well as a chance to meet a village chief descended from Kunta Kinte. Club members also visited a primary school, where they learned about the Gambian educational system.
While visiting the Banjul area, participants took part in Islamic prayer, experienced a traditional Gambian lunch and learned about life in a family compound. Other activities included a seminar on building basic election administration to further democracy, as well as a day trip to southern Senegal and a cruise on the Gambia River.
Bethany alumni Malleh Sallah ’96, Vice Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of The Gambia, and Sil Jawara ’95 contributed to the planning and activities of the trip, which the IR Club takes approximately every two years.
John Burns, Professor of Biology, accompanied 10 members of Bethany’s Tri-Beta Biological Honorary Society to the Amazon jungle of Peru.
In Peru, students had the opportunity to see first-hand the Amazon’s biodiversity and better understand the role the jungle plays in replenishing the Earth’s oxygen supply. After their flight to Lima, Peru, group members boarded a plane to Iquitos, a major city on the headwaters of the Amazon that is accessible only by river boat or plane. Soon after landing, they climbed aboard a speed boat traveling up the Amazon River and headed into the vast jungle habitat.
Throughout their expedition, participants enjoyed numerous hikes, swims, and boat and canoe trips. They were housed in a lodge built on stilts above the Tahuayo tributary to the Amazon. The rooms and walkways featured floor boards that left the flooded Tahuayo River visible below. Warm water was piped in from the river for showers, and heavy layers of mosquito netting hung over the beds.
A flight through the Amazon jungle canopy along the zip lines served as one of the trip’s highlights. The adventure allowed participants a unique view of the foliage and colorful birds they learned about during their visit. During their zip line experience, the group perched in a tree-top to wait for a thunderstorm to pass.
Night excursions helped group members more fully understand the nocturnal creatures of the jungle. Trips to native villages—including meals of new fruits and vegetables, as well as piranha and other exotic fish—rounded out the group’s experience.
Adriano Alvarado, who claims to have lived for three years among various jungle tribes, served as the group’s guide throughout the trip. He provided information about the ecology and culture of the Amazon. The trip was organized by Tri-Beta members through Amazon Expeditions.
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.