Maymesters Return to Curriculum


A group of students led by Dr. Julia Schmitz in front of the Eiffel Tower. // Photo Courtesy of Dr. Schmitz.

Hannah Osborne, Staff Writer

The incomparable opportunity for students to truly immerse themselves in their studies has once again graced the Piedmont curriculum. Two years after cancelling the 2020 Summer Travel Study programs (also referred to as “Maymesters”) due to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, matters have finally subsided to the point in which Piedmont feels they can safely return to students partaking in studying abroad.

A Maymester is a summer travel study that occurs sometime in May between the end of the spring semester and before the summer semester starts. Maymesters provide students the opportunity to experience first-hand a new culture and the history of subject matters. While abroad students are working towards six credit hours; allowing students to simultaneously see the world and work towards their degree. Piedmont’s Summer Travel Studies allows an enriched education through firsthand experience in a concentrated amount of time. This year’s trips include:

  • Greece with Dr. Julia Schmitz and The Rev. Tim Garvin-Leighton (dates TBA)
  • Scotland with Dr. Tim Lytle (May 15-28)
  • Ireland & Northern Ireland with Dr. Susanna Warnock and Dr. Margaret Ryder (May 7-15)
  • Japan with Prof. Chris Kelly (May 16-30)
  • Poland with Prof. Ryan Franklin and Dr. Matthew Teutsch (May 9-22)
  • Germany with Prof. Sandra Maughon and Dr. Jeff Bruns (May 8-19)

History Professor Ryan Franklin will be partaking in the Poland trip along with Director of Lillian E. Smith Center, Dr. Matthew Teutsch visiting the cities of Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow. This trip will focus on the Holocaust and make connections to the Jim Crow South giving students course credit hours in HIST 4490: Special Topics: The Holocaust and ENGL 2220: Ethnic American Literature (Gen Ed Course).

Prof. Franklin considers these travel studies the best form of education, that a traditional classroom setting could not provide.

“I travelled during my years as an undergraduate and it completely transformed my view of the world. I took these visits on my own – not with my university,” said Franklin. “This gave me a great deal of freedom; however, I wish that at least one of those experiences had been through a Maymester program due to the professors tailoring the trip to meet specific educational goals.”

Franklin hopes students find a way to attend at least one trip during their collegiate career. “I encourage every student at Piedmont University to seriously consider doing at least one Maymester – preferably the one to Poland this May – during their time year.  I wager they won’t regret it.”

Dr. Julia Schmitz, Assoc. Prof. of Biology and Rev. Tim Garvin-Leighton, Campus Minister and Ass. Prof. of Religion will be co-hosting the trip to Greece. Their trip will be dedicated to study BIOL 4800: Special Topics: Human Behavior and Public Health, in addition to, PHIL/RELG 3325: Environmental Ethics (Gen Ed course). Both have hosted Maymester before and strongly encourage students to seize the opportunity. Dr. Schmitz highlights not only the value educationally, but the value monetarily as much of tuition costs overlaps with travel costs making the trip worthwhile on both accounts.

Rev. Tim Garvin-Leighton led a group of students to Vietnam during a Maymester in 2019. // Photo Courtesy of Rev. Garvin-Leighton.

Rev. Tim, who has chaperoned a number of trips with Piedmont, says, “Traveling beyond one’s known world, i.e., one’s geographical comfort zone, is an act of faith that is necessary for human flourishing. You can spend hours, even years, studying about a place, but it is not until you go to said place, walk the streets, hear the language, eat the food, gaze upon the monuments, that you really begin to know a place, to know its people, and its culture. Piedmont’s study/travel program affords you the opportunity to risk stepping outside of your geographical comfort zone with classmates and faculty that you know and trust.”

Travel study programs have been missed by both students and faculty alike. With the pandemic subsiding, students are once again afforded the opportunity to participate in Piedmont’s Maymesters. For more information, visit