Hard work, meaningful lessons, life-changing cultural experiences and new friendships. That’s how members of Nebraska Wesleyan University’s Global Service Learning (GSL) student organization describe their recent experience in Turkey.
“Immersing yourself in a way of life where you rely entirely on the earth for your well-being was hard for me to get used to, but it taught me much about patience and gave me lasting memories I will never forget,” said junior Becca Brune.
Each summer the student organization participates in an international service trip. In recent years they have served in Guatemala, Malawi, Nicaragua, Swaziland and China. The opportunity to serve in Turkey was introduced by Jessica Danson, a NWU alum, former GSL member and Rotary International Scholar. Danson is currently attending Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey. She planned the service trip and organized specific activities that would culturally enrich NWU students.
For two weeks, NWU students cleaned trash from the coast, volunteered with art therapy classes at a school for disabled children, assisted with farm work, interacted with village children, and attended a gender workshop to better understand issues affecting women in Turkey.
Students described the experience as life changing.
“Living in the village for a week had the biggest impact on me,” said Brune. “While the poverty and lives of the villagers saddened me, their hard work was inspiring. They opened their homes to us and I could not have felt more welcomed.”
The trip also provided the opportunity for students to reflect on themselves and their own cultures.
“Going to Cazgirler village was incredible,” said recent NWU graduate Kyle Rohrich. “We were the first Americans many of these people had encountered, and despite not speaking each others' languages, we had such a bond with some of these people.”
Rohrich said some villagers were wary of Americans, and many had stereotypes based on what they had seen of Americans on reality TV.
“Some thought that we would be spoiled and not be willing to do any work,” said Rohrich. “We built such a strong friendship with the people in the village. This trip really broadened all of our cultural horizons.”
Kelli Wood, Coordinator of Service Learning and Global Service Learning at Nebraska Wesleyan, accompanied the students on the trip. She said her overall goal for the group was to understand and create relationships despite language barriers.
“The cultural exchange was excellent,” said Wood. “Not only did we gain an unbelievable amount of knowledge about the culture of Turkey, but the people we bonded with in the village now know so much about us and our culture as well.”
Translations are literal. NWU is not responsible for translation accuracy.
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