Students' Summer Studies Go Abroad

Three years ago a group of Nebraska Wesleyan University students traveled to Guatemala where they helped the organization Constru Casa build a house for an impoverished family.

As the students prepared to return home, Volcano Pacaya erupted, spewing rock and ash over Guatemala City. The natural disaster was soon followed by another: Tropical Storm Agatha, which caused deadly mudslides.

The members of Global Service Learning extended their stay — airports were closed. They rolled up their sleeves and assisted with recovery efforts.

The experience was talked about long after the students returned home. Now another group of Global Service Learning members are returning as part of the student organization’s annual international service trip.

“Many have heard the stories of the last trip there,” said Kelli Wood, coordinator for Global Service Learning.

While in Guatemala the students will join up again with Constru Casa to build a house for an impoverished family.

“Our students understand the poverty issues and what led to the poverty issues there,” said Wood. “This group of students has a strong interest in Central America.”

“This is a good opportunity for students to see a tangible result of building a home while making important connections with the people there,” Wood continued.

In addition to the service trip to Guatemala, three other groups of students are traveling abroad for special faculty-led study programs.

Communication studies professor Rachel Pokora is leading a group of students to Florence, Italy, where they will develop an understanding of the culture and cultivate intercultural communication competence and confidence. Students will live in apartments and will negotiate Florentine life through walking, watching, eating, navigating, and reflecting on their experiences.

“I lived in Florence when I was on sabbatical leave,” said Pokora. “Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and it is an ideal place to study culture. New and old mingle everywhere.”

Across the continent health and human performance professor Pat Pettit is leading a group of students in Ireland where they are studying the culture and history of sports. The group will spend 13 days exploring the country from their home base in Dublin. They will also attend presentations that explore sports in the context of technology, politics, history, and culture, and will participate in traditional Gaelic games.

“I want students to be introduced to the people, schools, sports, economy, landscape, culture, and traditions of another country,” said Pettit.

Spanish professor Cathy Nelson is leading a group of students to Spain for the summer course, “Learn Spanish in Salamanca, Spain.” Each summer Nelson leads a group of students to Spain to immerse themselves in the language and culture.

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NWU students traveled to Gratemala in 2010 and will return there this summer for a service trip.