NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – I’ve never been to Chicago. I’ve never been anywhere, actually – so the trip to Chicago for the Studies in Drama class was an eye-opening and ultra-fun experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Our cross-cultural experience in Chicago actually started at the Newton train station at 3:01 a.m. We boarded the Southwest Chief (Amtrak) and got settled in for our 12-hour journey. The train was exciting for about an hour, then the entire class was out like a light. However, I could only sleep for 20-minute intervals since the seats on the train were impossible to get comfortable in.
We arrived in Chicago around 3 p.m. and within the first 10 minutes of exploring downtown Chicago in search of coffee, all us girls (since we travel in groups everywhere we go) got called “white trash” for wearing sweatpants, comfortable hoodies and boots.
During our trip, the class had to experience all kinds of ethnic foods. We had Mexican and Indian food in the same day. We had Chinese food and “organic whole foods” and Ethiopian food within the next two days. Most of us had never eaten Ethiopian cuisine, so when our food was served at the restaurant it was fun to watch each other play with our food and use our hands to eat. It was definitely fun to give up manners for an evening.
We toured different communities in Chicago such as Pilsen, the South Side and Halstead. Pilsen is a Latino community rich in culture and graffiti art. The art we observed on our walking tour all told different stories about the Latino community. One focused on women and one on movie figures, and one showed the struggles of the Latino heritage.
We also toured the South Side of Chicago. We went to the DuSable Museum and observed the artifacts there. My favorite exhibit was about Mayor Harold Washington. The exhibit had a mechanical Mayor Washington that came to life and told us about the turmoil Chicago faced during his term.
We also took a van tour of the South Side with Rev. Steve Saunders. He showed us the abandoned houses and countless discount stores in and around the South Side. It was interesting to see the difference just between the North Side and the South Side.
We visited the community called Halstead, where we toured the LGBT Center, a place where gays, lesbians and bisexual and transgender people could hang out and not feel discriminated against. The center was three stories high with a spacious gym on the third floor. The center was also open to helping out teens who did not feel welcome in their homes for their personal decisions.
At night, we saw plays. We saw Yoni Ki ‘Baat Hits the G Spot, Blue Door, To Kill a Teenager and three plays written by three different high school playwrights. We had read Blue Door in class before leaving for Chicago, so it was fantastic to see the play acted out in real life. It was wonderful – it was better than it had played out in my head.
I saw Navy Pier and shopped on the Magnificent Mile during some free time. I spent a lot of money in H&M (which Dana Daugharthy convinced me was called “Hot & Moxy”) and I ate at Chipotle – both of which were a ton of fun.
The entire trip was memorable and I encourage everyone to take the class if they can. Ami Regier is one of the best professors to travel with and to watch hilarious plays with ridiculous titles with.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.
Abbey Kirk is a sophomore from Minneola. Other members of the class Studies in Drama: Multicultural Drama, taught by Ami Regier, professor of English, were: Janesa Bartel, Mead; Erica Buller, Lenexa; Dana Daugharthy, Iola; David Daugharthy, Iola; Nathan Dick, Baldwin City; Pia Goedicke, Bergheim, Germany; Maggie Goering, Hutchinson; Mariah Hostetler, Dodge City; Jenae Janzen, Newton; Jacqueline Lohrmann, Wuppertal, Germany; Breanna McConnell, South Haven; Lisa Penner, Fresno, Calif.; Renee Reimer, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Alex Roepke, Waterville; Allison Schrag, Newton; Melissa Volk, Newton; and Allison Yoder, Kalona, Iowa.