During the recent independent study week, fifteen second year MDX students travelled to Rome, Italy, as part of their “Researching Peoples and Places” module for the BA Honours International Tourism Management programme. The modules main focus is to develop student’s knowledge and skills in the collection and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data. Students have the opportunity to then apply and employ their knowledge and skills in a real world setting addressing a research question of their choice. This year’s group focused on a range of interesting research questions around the topics of Sustainable Tourism, Urban Tourism, Heritage and Culture.
Dr. Cody Morris Paris, Associate Professor and Deputy Director of Middlesex University Dubai, is a large proponent of international experiential learning opportunities, particularly for developing research and analytical skills.He notes that, “there is no better way for students to develop genuine abilities to carry out and understand research than to actually do it in a real world setting. This trip to Rome allows students to actually collect data through participant observation, interview, and survey methods, as well as deal with the limitations, challenges, ethical considerations and other practicalities.Upon return the students final research reports are more than just normal assignments, but represent ‘new knowledge’ they have uncovered!”
In addition to the ‘research component’ the international study trip to Rome offered students an opportunity to engage on a deeper level with the faculty and classmates, to explore the historic sites of Rome, enjoy the Italian food, and, of course, to have fun while doing it. Rachel Simmons one of the students that joined the Rome trip said: “Being passionate about travelling and tourism in general, it is safe to say that one of the most awaited events this year was the overseas field trip to Rome, Italy. The experience of being in the field and partaking in research in the real setting was exciting and not easily forgettable. Being in a completely different environment also allowed all of us classmates to bond and continue to grow as individuals, allowing us to get freedom as researchers but grounded by the seriousness of carrying out the tasks as required. To have this field trip as part of the course is highly beneficial for us students, for which I will forever be grateful for being provided the opportunity by Middlesex University”.
Ms. Lulu Baddar, Campus Programme Coordinator for the International Tourism Management Programme highlighted the range of benefits that trip affords students: “Taking students into a new environment gives them the experience of travelling in a group and teaches them to appreciate the locations they visit. Many students who become interested in particular themes of sites during fieldwork pick up these topics for their future studies or become interested in employment in issues dealing with debates covered in fieldtrips. Moreover, the type of memories that educational trips create, called episodic memories, helps students retain information for longer periods. These are just a few of the many benefits that field trips could provide to students.”
Of course, a great benefit for tourism students is to gain experience in visiting some of the iconic attractions in Rome, many of which have been discussed during their modules previously.On this trip, students had a mix of organized trips (to the Vatican and St Peters Basilica, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon) and free time to explore on their own. Ujala Tariq one of the students who also attended the trip reflected on the trip: “With antique churches and basilicas Roman monuments, ornate statues and graceful fountains, Rome has an immensely rich historical heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere. It was an amazing opportunity to visit the numerous tourist attractions and experience the sights of the Eternal City”.
The international field trip programme runs annually, including past visits to Ghana and Singapore, and is led by Dr. Cody Morris Paris, who has also previously led and developed international study programmes to Australia, Fiji, Dubai, Austria, Holland, and the Caribbean, and Ms Lulu Baddar, who has also previously led MDX students to Malaysia, London, Istanbul, and Hong Kong.They both look forward to taking a new group of students on the international trip next year!