The Mathematics Education Study Abroad Program has been to Albania and Greece (2019), Peru (in 2007, 2009 and 2015), China (in 2011 and 2013) and Germany (in 2017). This faculty-led program offers a focus on mathematics education in other cultures, including the nature of mathematics and mathematical behavior, and theories and issues in the teaching and learning of mathematics. These study abroad experiences have provided UW Oshkosh students and future mathematics teachers with a powerful means for viewing our culture and norms with respect to mathematics and education in contrast with those of other cultures.
The History and Philosophy of Mathematics and Math Education in Albania and Greece
Spring Interim 2021
Faculty leaders: John Beam and Eric Kuennen
Next spring interim 2021 we will be offering a UWO faculty-led study away trip in Math History and Education to Albania and Greece. The course offered on this trip, Math 432, is a 4 credit course that will be co-taught by Dr. John Beam and Dr. Eric Kuennen, and will counts as the senior capstone for middle school math minors and secondary ed math majors.
The program is offered every other year (2021, 2023 etc.) though the location may change for future trips.
We will spend two weeks in Albania and one week in Greece. Our base in Albania will be the capital city Tirana, and we will be hosted by Beder University there. We will hold classes at the university, meet Albanian mathematics education students and sit on on some of their math education classes there, and visit schools in and around Tirana and observe mathematics lessons.
We will do lots of traveling for cultural and historical tourism in Albania and Greece: exploring mountains, beaches, communist History, Ottoman castles, Orthodox monasteries, and Roman and Greek ancient sites.
Our base will be Tirana, the capital of Albania, where we will be hosted by Beder University. From Tirana we will take a day trip to Durres on the coast, and the historic citadel town of Kruje, and take a weekend trip including a ferry ride into the mountains of Valbone.
After leaving Tirana, we will travel by bus through Albania, stopping in the Ottoman era mountain town of Berat, the ancient Roman site of Apollonia, and stay in a beach town on the Adriatic coast.
We will continue south into Greece, seeing the clifftop monasteries of Meteora, the ancient Greek sites of Delphi, Olympia, and Corinth, before finishing our trip in Athens exploring the famous Acropolis and the iconic Parthenon.
Who Should Go?
- Mathematics Minors for Elementary and Middle School Programs
- Mathematics Majors or Minors with a Secondary Education or Teaching Emphasis
- Mathematics Education graduate students and current teachers looking for new experiences or continuing credits
- Global Educator Certificate Program students
Math 432: International Comparative Mathematics Education Seminar
The course offered is Math 432, where we will explore the nature of mathematics and the teaching and learning of mathematics. visit Albanian schools and compare mathematics teaching across cultures, study historic mathematics and classic proofs, and explore sites related to the history and philosophy of mathematics. As a part of their coursework, students will do a curriculum project that will include planning and presenting a mathematics lesson to English-speaking Albanian students. It is not necessary for program participants to speak Albanian or Greek.
What to Know Before You Go
Reading up on Albania and Greece
- Read up online about the destinations on our itinerary on Lonely Planet Albania and Lonely Planet Greece webpages, TripAdvisor or Wikipedia.
- Guidebooks. Check out the Bradt Guide to Albania, and the Lonely Planet Greece.
- Read Chronicle in Stone, by Ismail Kadare, a great autobiographical novel by Albania’s leading literary figure. We will be visiting the city of Gjirokaster, which is essentially one of the main characters in this novel.
- Check out and read a copy Homer’s Odyssey from Polk Library or a book on Greek Mythology so you know some of the stories about Athena, Apollo, Zeus, Hera, and the other Greek Gods and Goddesses before we see their temples.
Weather in Albania and Greece in May and June is similar to Wisconsin, perhaps a bit warmer. Daytime highs should be in the 70s and 80s. It will be cold (60s) on our weekend trip into the mountains, and hopefully hot and sunny at the beach.
What to Pack
Luggage: On our flights you can check 1 bag up to 50 lbs. You are also allowed one carry-on sized bag and one personal item (purse or backpack). Pack light: remember you will want to bring more back than you will bring there. Save room for souvenirs!
Laundry: We will locate a laundry service while in Tirana, so that you can get your clothes washed at least once in the middle of the trip.
Recommended list for clothes:
- 12 days of underclothes: socks, underwear, T-shirts or undershirts. This will keep you in clean underclothes by doing just one wash in the middle of the trip.
- 3-5 shirt sleeve shirts (e.g. polo, button-front shirts, blouses)
- 2 heavier long-sleeved t-shirts or light-weight sweaters
- 2 nicer outfits for visiting schools (doesn’t need to be very fancy)
- 2 pairs of light-weight jeans or khakis
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 1 swim-suit
- 1 medium weight jacket or polar-etc for cool evenings and when in the mountains
- 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes (hiking boots, sneakers)
- 1 pair of comfortable walking sandals (no flip-flops).
- A photocopy of your passport information page, kept separate from your passport. (Or take a picture with your phone)
- WI driver’s license as a back-up photo ID.
- Your UWO student ID card in order for us to get student discounts on our group admissions
- ATM Card
- Credit card
What else to bring:
- Bring your phone. Even if you don’t get a SIM card for it, you can still use it with WiFi when available (such as at our hotel), and use it as an alarm clock and camera.
- Shutterbugs should bring their nice camera, with back-up memory card and batteries and battery charger.
- You might consider bringing your laptop or tablet, as we expect to have wireless internet access at the the hotels.
- Comfortable, rugged shoes for hiking and walking. We’ll be doing lots of walking and you’ll want to enjoy it. You walk a lot more when you are travelling than you normally do at home. Rugged sandals are also a nice option — I don’t recommend flip-flops. Don’t bring new shoes, as this is a recipe for lots of blisters! If you want to buy new shoes for the trip, get them early and start wearing them all the time to break them in before you go.
- Necessary prescription medicines in their original bottles.
- Over-the-counter medicines such as pain reliever, allergy medicine, sleeping pills. It’s harder to find what you want and what your used to when in a different country so bring anything you might end up wanting to have.
- Women should bring their own feminine supplies.
- Travel packs of tissues. Public toilets often do not have toilet paper, so you need your own.
- Ear Plugs. Chances are there will be a snorer in your room! Or a loud bar in the neighborhood.
- Band-aids—good for blisters from walking so much.
- A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
- A travel umbrella or waterproof jacket
- A small backpack for day trips and while on bus rides.
- Pack light. Pack everything you think you’ll want on your trip, then try carrying all your luggage once around the block. Then go through your stuff and take out half of it.
- Don’t bring anything that you’d be heartbroken if it got lost or ruined. It’s inevitable that your suitcase will be thrown, dropped, and bounced a few times. Especially when we’re traveling, having rugged clothes in colors that don’t show dirt is the best way to go.
- Definitely don’t bring expensive jewelry, watches, or leather coats.
- Bring things to do on the plane and on bus rides.
- Some of the hotels will have hairdryers, but we might not be able to rely on this. If you bring a hairdryer from home, you’ll need a voltage converter.
- Go in with your friends and spit up the things you’re bringing—not everyone needs an entire bottle of sunscreen, etc. Share hairdryers, books, and other entertainment.
Phones and Keeping in Touch
If you plan to use your phone to make calls back home, make sure you check your plan for foreign usage and international calling costs. It’s quite cheap to buy a SIM card while in Albania to put into your phone that will give you lots of data for your phone. For about $12-14 you can get a SIM card and and 10 Gb of cellular data that’s valid for 2 weeks. It’s very common for Albanians to use Viber or WhatsApp for calling internationally using Wifi or cellular data rather than international voice. Also use Skype or Facetime for free video calling with your friends and family online.
When traveling abroad there are two separate issues for electricity: plug style and voltage. Albania uses different style plugs and different voltage.
Fortunately, battery chargers (such as for your phone, tablet, laptop, or camera batteries) are almost always dual voltage. (Check the label: if it says input 110-220 V, then you’re OK). So if the only electronic items you are bringing are battery chargers then you will not need to bring any voltage converters converters with you.
A “Power Bank” (portable battery charger) such as this one https://www.amazon.com/Anker-PowerCore-Ultra-Compact-High-Speed-Technology/dp/B0194WDVHI/ is very useful when traveling to recharge your phone or tablet during the day. I find I use up my phone battery much more quickly when I am traveling taking photos, using google maps, etc.
Albania has it’s own currency, the Lek. 100 Lek is about $0.90. They also use the euro often for tourist prices or big ticket items. Greece uses the euro. One euro is about $1.15.
ATMs are the best way to get money. Inform your bank that you are going to be in Albania and Greece, and set daily limits to the amount that can be withdrawn from your ATM or debit card in case it gets lost or stolen. Also check with your bank about ATM fees they’ll charge.
Cash is the usually the best way to pay, but most places will also accept a credit card. Most cards charge an extra 3% for a “foreign exchange transaction fee”. One exception is Capital One does not charge this extra fee. If possible, bring a card with a chip and ask your credit card if you can get a PIN for it.
You don’t need to get any money before you go. Once we arrive, you can get Albanian Leks out of the ATM, either at the airport, or when we get into the city. You won’t be needing cash right away.
In Albania, small currency exchange shops are common, where you can exchange US dollars into Albanian Lek at a decent rate. (It’s common for Albanian Americans send cash to relatives in Albania). So if you’d like you can bring some US dollars (say about $100, make sure they are newer bills in good shape) to exchange in Albania.
Before we enter Greece, you can exchange the rest of your Lek into Euros, and then get more Euros as needed from ATMs.
I do NOT recommend traveler’s checks. These have to be changed at banks in person (and many banks don’t even do this anymore). If they do, it takes a long time, and the banks also charge a fee to do the exchange and you’ll get a poorer exchange rate.
What to Plan to Spend
Budget up $300-$400 for food. In general, Albania is quite a bit cheaper than Wisconsin. Breakfast is included at our hotel. $5 will buy you a decent lunch, and $10 will buy quite a nice dinner in a restaurant. While we are in Tirana, you’ll be able to find good cheap restaurants where $5 will do nicely for dinner as well. While we are traveling, we’ll have to eat often in tourist restaurants, which tend to be pricier. Tourist restaurants while in Greece will be more expensive, but you should still be able to eat well for $15 for dinner.
You might budget $25-50 for optional activities and entertainment. We will have some free time, not much, but some. You might also want to budget $100- $200 for souvenirs and things you might buy.
Tipping in restaurants is welcome, but not expected. Do NOT tip 15-20% like you would in the US. Instead, round the bill up to a convenient figure, or leave a tip of about $1 per person in your group. You pay your server directly. Do not leave money on the table.
You do not need to tip any of our tour guides, as our program has already budget money for tips.
You are not required to get any vaccinations to travel to Albania or Greece. The UW Oshkosh Student Health Center offers Travel Health Consultations for just $15.
The tap water in Albania and Greece is treated and officially safe to drink. However, the pipes in Albanian cities are old and most Albanians drink bottled water.
Albania and Greece are safe countries, but it’s always best to be extra cautious when you are in an unfamiliar setting.Always go out in a group with at least one other person. The more the merrier and safety in numbers!
Carry some form of identification with you. A driver’s license is a good choice. It’s official and has all your information, but is not as big a deal if you lose it as your passport. You’ll also want to carry around your student ID. In addition, I know this sounds obvious: always know the name and street address of your hotel. Take the hotel’s business card, available from the front desk, it’s handy to just show this card to the taxi driver.
Leave your passport and extra money in the hotel. You can leave this with the hotel desk, and they will put them in the safe. Make a photocopy of your passport photo page to carry with you. If you choose to carry your passport with you, do not just put it in your pocket. Buy a “passport pouch” and wear it under your clothes.
Be alert at major tourist sites! There are pickpockets around the tourist sights especially in Greece, just as there are at all major tourist sites around the world.
- Don’t make yourself a target—no expensive looking jewelry, keep an eye on your bag, don’t wave money around, be discrete. There are lots of indiscreet people waving money around, who thieves will prefer.
- Don’t carry lots of money on yourself—minimize potential loss. Similarly, on a day-to-day basis, leave your passport in your hotel room (safely stowed in the hotel safe).
- Use a travel purse that you keep in front of you, or keep your wallet in your front pocket. Or leave your wallet at home and only carry the money you need for the day in your front pocket. There are also neck pouches and money belts that are good theft deterrents.
- Keep a careful eye on your bag—when at a restaurant or on a bus, keep one strap around your leg, or keep it on your lap. Never put it down on the ground, especially when you’re talking to someone.
- When in a crowd, keep careful track of your belongings and watch your friends’, too.
At the tourist sights, you’ll see plenty of folks who carry their wallet in their back pocket, a giant camera on their stomach, and who put their bag down on the ground. If you’re careful, you’re unlikely to be a target. The thieves have better options.
Drugs. Stay very, very, very far away from drugs of all kinds in Albania and Greece. Don’t even talk to people about drugs. Don’t think they’ll let you off or let you out because you’re an American. Don’t expect the US embassy to be any help. If you’ve broken the law, there’s nothing they can do to help.
“Unforgettable and enlightening. It really gave me a better perspective towards life and what I should be thankful for.”
“My favorite part of the trip would be visiting the schools. I think that going as an education major it really showed me the differences between our school systems. I also really liked trying the different foods and just being immersed in the different culture.”
“It was an awesome experience to go in front of a class of students that don’t speak your language. That was the first of many times in my life where I will have a student that doesn’t speak English and I will have to learn to communicate and teach the student.”
“I would absolutely recommend this trip. You can travel, get a new perspective on the world, and make new friends all at once. The Math Ed. trip is a unique opportunity to learn about math while in another culture. You also get to sightsee amazing places.”
“I would definitely recommend this trip. Not only do you get the study abroad experience, but you get to see mathematics education from a different perspective and broaden your own horizon for teaching in the future. You also have an experience of a lifetime, touring and exploring another country mostly unlike our own and meet some amazing and incredible people, that may become lifelong friends”
“Today, cultures are becoming more intertwined and this fact impacts the classroom. As a result, I think it is important for teachers to realize what type of impact culture plays on the classroom. Although people can get this understanding from reading, I think seeing it first hand plays more of an impact”.
“I learned more than I thought I would. Not only just about math in the classrooms, but I learned about the people there and the culture. I’ve known all along that I wanted to be a teacher, but really this experience opened up my eyes the greater things I can do in a classroom … how much of an impact I can have on these kids.”
“It is hard to pick my favorite parts of the trip because I had so much fun.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Don’t just consider going, make sure to go! This is an experience of a lifetime.”