By Nick Bray, Staff Reporter 

Professors Linda Beck and Waleck Dalpour are leading a trip to the island of Cyprus in May 2017. Titled Ecotourism and Environmental Activism in Cyprus, the course will immerse students in the culture of the small nation for twelve days.

Cyprus is an island nation located in the eastern Mediterranean sea and is a member of the European Union. The primary language is Greek, but most citizens also speak English. The population is roughly the same as the state of Maine, with about 1.1 million people. It’s capital and largest city is Nicosia.

The northern portion of island is under Turkish control, and the southern portion is the free, independent Republic of Cyprus. With approximately three million visitors a year, Cyprus’s major industry is tourism, representing about eleven percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Students will be touring the entire island, observing and learning about the Cypriot culture. A relationship has been established between UMF and the University of Nicosia, which will help facilitate some parts of the trip. A big component of the trip will be the study of the ecotourism industry, and how tourism impacts the nation.

“Ecotourism is a type of tourism that is sustainable,” said Professor of Political Science Linda Beck. “Sustainable in terms of environmental, economic and social components.”

While traveling across the island, course participants will meet with ecotourism operators and organizations that support ecotourism. Meetings have also been arranged with government officials including the Department of Environment, and the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry, and Tourism. Participant observation is an important component of the trip.

Students taking this course will gain an understanding of the theory and purpose behind eco tourism. “Students will learn that they will never travel as a tourist in the same fashion again,” Beck said. “The trip will make them more cognizant of the impact they have as a tourist.”

Today, most tourists visiting Cyprus are from the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia. Far less frequent are visitors from North America. Beck explained this is due to the stereotypes made about the region. “There is a major difference in the knowledge that Europeans have about Cyprus, compared to Americans,” Beck said. “Americans see geographically where it’s located and start making generalizations about the country, where Europeans are much more familiar with the politics in that region.”

Courtney Fowler, a senior studying business and economics is one of the students taking the travel course. This will be Fowler’s first international experience, and she believes this trip will be full of opportunities for hands-on learning.

“Originally I was interested in going to Turkey, but after the destination of the trip changed, I was even more excited to travel to Cyprus to learn about ecotourism and enjoy the beautiful scenery,” Fowler said. “I think it is extremely important for everyone to have the opportunity to travel during their college career, and especially to learn how the culture of other nations differs from the culture of the United States.”

The trip fee is $2900, plus tuition. The course may be taken as either two or four credits, making the trip more affordable for students. This course can be taken to meet the social science gen-ed requirement. Students from all majors are encouraged to sign up for the course. “The door is open for everyone” said Dalpour.

Students who are interested in learning more about the trip may contact Linda Beck at linda.beck@maine.edu, or Waleck Dalpour at dalpour@maine.edu.