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Explore 'Middle Earth' during Lord of the Rings study abroad trip


February 04, 2013

Do you know the map of Middle Earth better than Phoenix? Is lembas bread one of your major food groups? If you answered yes, then consider signing up for a once in a lifetime Lord of the Rings study abroad tour through New Zealand.

Kevin Sandler, professor of film and media studies in the English Department at Arizona State University, is leading a 30-day trip that begins June 1, 2013. Students will start their journey in Auckland and conclude in Queenstown, with stops in major film hotspots such as Hobbiton, Rohan and Rivendell.

The group will be treated to a very special tour of the Weta workshop in Wellington that created the miniatures and models used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as movies such as "Avatar" and "King Kong." Students will have the opportunity to speak with staff involved on these projects and get a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to create visuals such as Minas Tirith.

However, Sandler says the tour will provide more than just a look at Lord of the Rings but a comprehensive view of New Zealand culture and cinema.

“Half of the tour will look at Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson, while the other half will examine New Zealand history by interlacing visits to historical and war museums, as well as old movie theaters,” he said.

Other stops include Mt. Cook, Rangitoto Island and Tongariro National Park where students can learn the lay of the land and take in the breathtaking landscape.

Sandler says he saw this as a chance to study a topic that is interdisciplinary and could appeal to a variety of students across ASU. With its unique world of characters, archetypes and related themes, he feels it is easy to understand the fan appeal that the books and movies have garnered.

“Lord of the Rings is a very complete world with a lot of mythology. Tolkien created themes that are universal – good versus evil, hopes and dreams, etc.,” he said.

Students will earn six course credits for participating in the study abroad opportunity. Assignments will be reflective of the material studied during the journey. And if the experience itself is not enough, Sandler says he is giving a free Lord of the Rings Pez set to those who sign up. Can you say second breakfast?

The Department of English is an academic unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.