Hofstra’s ‘European Odyssey’ turns 20
It’s six months away, but Hofstra University global studies professor Linda Longmire is already prepping for her 20th European Odyssey tour, a semester-long study abroad program that takes 12 students through two dozen cities over 10 weeks.
A North Dakota native, Longmire, 62, gained an appreciation for a having a global perspective when she hitchhiked across Europe in her early 20s.
“I realized how big, complex and diverse the world was, so when I came to Hofstra in 1982, I wanted to share that experience with my students,” Longmire said.
Longmire won permission from Hofstra in 1992 to begin the program with four students. The Odyssey now takes a dozen students to France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Sometimes other countries are added to the tour too..
Students start the journey in February with a three-night stay in a Paris youth hostel. They are immediately introduced to Parisian culture and are expected to navigate the city.
After Paris, they are thrown into a whirlwind of road trips every three days. They attend classes in cafes and hotel lobbies, meet European college students and taste-test their way through Madrid, Munich, Prague, Florence and about 20 more European cities throughout almost three months.
“It gives students a more global perspective and internationalizes our local culture because their learning is brought back here and has a long shelf life at home,” Longmire said.
Longmire chaperoned the students alone for 13 years. In 2005, she was joined by her husband Timothy Smith, 76, after he retired from teaching at Hofstra.
“I taught for 41 years in the School of Education, but I don’t think I ever realized the possible transformation of people’s lives from the Odyssey experience,” Smith said.
Hannah Skahill, 20, took the trip in 2010 as a student, then again in 2011 as a peer teacher.
“The European Odyssey has created a generation of explorers and has formed a community within Hofstra that links current students to alumni spanning 20 years.”
Longmire keeps in touch with many of her students and believes the Odyssey program has at least in some ways contributed to their successes.
Renato Matos, 29, who attended the program three times from 2001-03 and is now an attorney, said the steady hands and passion that Longmire and Smith offer are crucial to the program’s own success.
“You need to have that kind of personality to tolerate a bunch of undergrad students,” said. “Linda and Tim are a phenomenal couple who have dedicated their lives to these students.”
When they aren’t driving across Europe and teaching at Hofstra in the fall, Longmire and Smith attend an international conference for a few weeks every summer. The two have been to more than a dozen countries through these scholarly get-togethers, where they meet with other professors from all over the world and exchange alternative teaching strategies.
“We hope the Odyssey and traveling will keep us younger than we might otherwise be,” Longmire said. “To share your life’s mission is a wonderful thing for any relationship.”