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'Summer school' and vacation time can be a good mix

To some people, the mere mention of going to school during the summer sparks woeful memories of grumpy teachers and missed beach time. But many today are opting to mix - or replace - sunshine with academic endeavors. For those who are, there are special college classes, worldwide tours, and theme packages.

Visitors to Santa Fe, NM, for example, can learn about literature, art, and opera in the Summer Classics program at St. John's College. Participants select one seminar per week for up to three weeks and attend classes in the mornings. They can take college-sponsored excursions, independent site-seeing trips, or study in the afternoons. St. John's, which is located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, is within walking distance of four major museums and the Canyon Road art galleries. Call 505-984-6104 for more details.

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For those who crave outdoor exploration or field research, there's the University of California's Research Expeditions Program. It lets people take part in its field research worldwide. Travelers - who rarely need related experience - work with university scientists to search, excavate, and explore. Some programs include: excavating the gardens of Horace's Italian Villa, tracking gray whales off Vancouver Island, studying small mammals and their prey in the Chilean Andes, and searching near the Sea of Japan for artifacts of ancient maritime cultures. Accommodations are basic: Those studying pelicans on the Baja Peninsula will stay in palm-covered shelters and tents. But people excavating a Moche ceremonial site in Peru will live at a small beach hotel. The projects, which run from March through September, last one to three weeks. Call 530-752-0692 to learn more.

Another option is the History Channel and IST Cultural Tours "Enlightened Journeys," which teaches vacationers about different cultures and their origins. Archaeologists and scholars teach travelers about history, people, and geography in Europe, Central Europe, Egypt, and China. For example, the "Great Composers" program looks at the geniuses of Central European classical music. There's also a "Treasures of the Nile" historical journey along the Nile River. Call 800-833-2111.

These are just a few of the educational tours and programs you can explore. For more information on others, contact your local university or travel agent.

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