As with all Maymesters, Span 3330: Cultural Studies in the Andes requires us to take courses Monday through Friday. Classes are typically from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and we engage in a variety of different activities, ranging from delivering in-class presentations on articles relating to Andean culture, watching and analyzing movies and videos pertaining to our weekend trips (i.e. Machu Picchu), and holding seminar discussions about the activities we’ve participated in thus far. While I find the classwork and material incredibly interesting, I cannot help but notice differences between the university in Cusco where we take our classes and traditional universities in the United States.
First, the use of technology in the classroom is far less in Cusco. Although we use a television in the classroom to project our class lecture notes and material, there is no projector. At Vanderbilt, I’ve taken courses where one classroom will have access to smart boards, projectors, and in-room computers. Because we’re gotten the same amount of material accomplished in our classroom in Cusco, I wonder if it’s even necessary to have all of the technology that we do in classrooms at Vanderbilt. In addition to this difference, the University here is Cusco is also relatively small. There are fewer classrooms, and the building is located in a relatively secluded location with few classrooms, in contrast to a traditional college campus with several different buildings around one community. I also wonder whether or not students at the University live on campus, as it seems like most students commute from other locations here in Cusco. Finally, there is a certain level of hospitality that exists in the University in Cusco. In each classroom, there are glasses, tea bags, and hot water for all students and professors to access. These give the classrooms a more “homey” feel and help students stay focused.
After observing all of these differences, I’ve noticed that certain aspects of Vanderbilt’s campus are not imperative for our learning; instead, they are there to make the school more attractive and appealing. Without the overuse of technology or traditional campus environment, Vanderbilt could put that money towards other aspects of schooling; however, I wonder if the school would still be as attractive to prospective students. Furthermore, I wonder if schools in Cusco don’t necessarily have to do seemingly unnecessary things to make the school more appealing, as there are fewer competitors.