Tusculum students explore politics, history and economy of Malta

Posted on 10 April 2014 by eestes@tusculum.edu

Six Tusculum College students had the opportunity to explore some of the oldest known free-standing structures on earth, talk to business leaders about their experiences in the European Union and learn about international law during a trip to Malta in March.

The six students were accompanied by Dr. Troy Goodale, assistant professor of political science, for the trip to the small island nation south of Italy on March 8 -15. This is the third year for a group of Tusculum students to travel to Malta and the second trip that has included both students from the Residential College program and the Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) program for working adults.

The trip’s purpose was to give the students an insight into international law, economics and history of Malta, said Dr. Goodale Tuesday evening during a presentation by the students about the trip to the campus community.

“It was an awesome trip,” said Christian Grumbach of Oak Ridge, who encouraged those attending to study abroad. “It is a great opportunity. I would highly recommend going on a study abroad trip. You can learn a lot.” Grumbach is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration through the GPS program.

The students stayed at the University of Malta, where they attended a class about international law. Grumbach said that the class focused on laws regarding search and rescue on the high seas, which he found interesting because of his background in the military.

Malta’s rich history was the focus of several of the excursions by the students, including to prehistoric temples that are considered to be some of the oldest free-standing structures on Earth and pre-date the Egyptian pyramids.

Describing the temple of Hagar Qin, Heather Hammack noted that it was built so that the light from the summer solstice strikes an interior stone. Hammack, who is from Maryville, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in organizational management in the GPS program.

In the Mnajdra Temple, located about 500 feet down the hill from the Hagar Qin, the students discovered that it was built in such a way to not only mark the summer solstice but also the spring and autumn equinoxes. A museum at the temple sites contained objects found inside the temples, including statutes that are believed to be related to fertility beliefs of the builders of the temples.

The third temple the students visited was Ggantija, which gets its name for the Maltese word for “large.” Hammack said they had a long walk to reach the temple, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

While the students did much walking in their visits to the temples, they enjoyed a boat ride to travel to historic Birgu, which was an earlier capital of the nation. “The ocean was so beautiful, and the history is so rich,” said Grumbach. “I learned a lot and the culture was awesome.”

The students also visited the Domus Roman, a Roman villa that was unearthed during a construction project. The students said a museum was literally built around the villa, giving visitors an idea what it would have been like to be inside the villa.

Tusculum students Hannah Lefler, Christian Gumbach, Ryan Norton, Christina Murrell, Heather Hammack and Debbie Smith (from left) explore the Domus Roman, the remains of a Roman villa.

The students also visited Mdina, one of the oldest cities of Malta, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, named in honor of the Apostle Paul, who was shipwrecked on the island on his travels to Rome. The island’s people are primarily Roman Catholic, said Christina Murrell of Maryville, who is pursuing a business administration degree. The island has a church on almost every street corner, the students noted.

The striking Blue Grotto was one of the highlights of the trip for Ryan Norton, an art design major from Greeneville. Some of the students took a boat ride through the series of sea caverns. “The water is so blue,” Hammack said. “And it is so clear you can see to the bottom.”

The students noted that while they saw incredible architecture, the country is in an almost constant state of renovation because of the damage caused by the winds and salty air on the island.

As a student with a background in business, exploring the economic side of the nation was fascinating, said Debbie Smith of Knoxville, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration. The students visited the Malta Financial Services Authority, which is the agency that regulates all aspects of financial for the nation.

There they learned more about Malta’s entrance into the European Union. The European Union was established following World War II initially to foster cooperation between nations in Europe, explained Smith.

Malta joined the European Union in 2004. During their visit to the Attrans, an international transport company, the owner told them that joining the European Union helped them as previously they had to go through the differing customs processes and tariffs in each country but now it is uniform, Smith noted.

“They are also very frugal, recycling and repurposing all they can,” she said. “Nothing is ever wasted.”

A trip to Gozo, one of the three islands that make up the nation, provided insights into history, business and culture. The island can only be reached by a ferry, said Hannah Lefler, a psychology major from Chapel Hill, and this lack of access has been debated for years as it limits commerce on the island. A bridge between the main island of Malta and Gozo is proposed, but so far not much progress has been made toward its becoming a reality, she added.

Victoria, the main city on Gozo, was first fortified in the Bronze Age and inside its walls are very narrow streets. The students visited three museums – one dedicated to forklore, another to archeology and the third to natural science.

The students also discovered a thriving jewelry trade in the city. The jewelry was made by hand and was inexpensive. Gozo is also known for its glass production and the glass items were much more expensive, the students noted.

A visit to the U.S. Embassy allowed the students to talk to employees about what they do and the life of a diplomat.

As they ended their presentation, they encouraged the students in attendance to travel to Malta or other international destinations for study. “If you have the opportunity, just go,” said Hammack. “It is the best money you’ll ever spend.”

Additional opportunities for study in Malta may be offered soon as the college is entering an exchange relationship with the University of Malta, which will allow Tusculum students to study there as well as University of Malta students to study at Tusculum, said Dr. Geir Bergvin, director of the Center for Global Studies.

The students traveled by boat to both the city of Birgu and the island of Gozo.

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