Winter break study abroad programs change lives

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courtesy of Lindsey Pitzer

Traveling is on a lot of people’s minds these days and some students can feel like they can’t afford the experience while in school.  

The Study Abroad program that is offered here at Washburn University not only allows students to travel at an affordable cost but also lets them gain valuable experiences that they can take with them throughout their careers.  

Over the 2019 winter break, Tina Williams, a Washburn study abroad coordinator, said three faculty led programs and one student-initiated program took place. The students who participated in the faculty led programs were able to visit the Dominican Republic, Belize and Costa Rica – while the student-initiated program visited Germany.  

The trip to Belize was through the English department, led by Williams. The trip provided Lindsey Pitzer, a sophomore English major, with her first experience abroad.

“I’ve traveled a lot in the US, I’ve been to almost every state and I really wanted to go internationally and travel abroad.” said Pitzer. “I always knew I wanted to travel abroad sometime in college and then when I heard about the one with the education department, I really thought that would be an amazing one to do.” 

Pitzer said that before helping in the school they were able to immerse themselves into a bit of the culture of Belize to be able to relate somewhat to the students.  

“The first week when we were there, we got to experience more of the cultural immersion. We went around and did some fun things like snorkeling and things like that to really get to know the culture of Belize itself and kind of understand it better,” said Pitzer. “The second week was more of us at schools everyday, actually working with the kids, and by doing the cultural immersion stuff, the first week really helped. When we were working with the kids we were able to understand what is normal to them and so we were better able to help them.” 

While at the school, Pitzer said that she and her fellow peers got to help the students with things that they don’t normally get to do and make improvements to the school as needed.  

“We brought lesson plans and activities to do with them. We also painted part of their school for them, and we volunteered to do that, said Pitzer.  

Jasmine Creighton, a junior secondary English education major, also took part in the trip to Belize. Though, this was her second study abroad trip. 

I was first interested because we could go and work with students in Belize, and I was interested in seeing the different education system as well as getting to work with students of a different culture,” said Creighton.  

Creighton was surprised at how westernized Belizean society was, and how despite the students not growing up with the modernization that American students are used to, like technology and advanced buildings, they were grateful for the education they were able to receive.  

“It was interesting being in a developing country and seeing the differences between their infrastructure, the way they spend their money and the way that education there is; the buildings there are all very open, and they don’t have central heating or air conditioning,” said Creighton. “It’s all very eye opening how the students are all learning in these building that are falling apart, but they all are very joyous and so thankful for what they have. It’s just so crazy to see the differences between that and America.” 

Creighton said that the activities they brought for the students to do were received very well.  

We got to do arts and crafts activities with them since they arent able to do that type of stuff because they don’t have the supplies, said Creighton. “So we brought all the supplies with us and each person had to plan three activities to do with the students and we all kind of rotated with different groups of students around and we did games with them, just a whole bunch of activities that they wouldn’t normally get to do. 

Both Pitzer and Creighton appreciated how grateful the students were to learn from them and how mature and well-mannered they were for their young ages. They acknowledged that this study abroad trip would help them to appreciate their own classrooms one day. They are also both in talks with Williams to do study abroad student teaching experiences to enhance their skills, compassion and knowledge for their future classrooms.  

In contrast to the Education department’s trip to Belize, the student-initiated program held over break visited Germany, where they took part in a two-week ISA International Business & Brewing Industry Brand Management program.  

Jacob Talkin, a senior actuarial science major, took part in the trip that spanned until Jan. 18Talkin wanted to study abroad prior to graduating and originally had wanted to go to Sweden, however, Washburn students are offered very limited options to go there, so he found program that fit into his schedule. 

During the trip, Talkin had the opportunity to build new connections with fellow students going into the business field from around the world.  

I’ve made a lot of friends from Australia, other locations in the United States, Malaysia, Vietnam, and I get to take a course in business that’s in a very interesting field, which is brewing, and with that comes a lot of tastes testing here, so its pretty cool.” 

Talkin noted that he found the course interesting in how detailed the marketing strategies could get, down to gauging people’s reactions, to learn how to market better to them.  

Since the course was only two-weeks long, Talkin couldn’t gauge the differences in teaching strategies between Germany and America, but he did notice the difference in campus structures. 

“The campus itself is not like ours back in the US, most campuses here are just a few buildings scattered around the city. The buildings aren’t all lumped together, people don’t live on campus. There’s really no campus life, outside of going to class and maybe there’s a cafeteria,” said Talkin.  

Talkin said that the realization of how different cultures view each other really struck him during his time there and even though they are in Germany they can learn from other cultures and make friends from around the world, whether they are business related or personal, since multiple countries participate in the program.  

“Most people we come to school with have their notion of what an American student is like, based off movies from Hollywood for the most part, and there’s definitely a couple students here that fit that role for these individuals,” said Talkin. “But they were surprised to see the variety of us that have way stronger personalities than what they expected.”  

Within both programs, the message was clear among these three students. They all wish to participate in more study abroad programs in the future and would highly recommend them to any students considering taking part in one. They all also encourage students to reach outside of their comfort zones if they’re scared to participate in one because in the end, whether it’s teaching a group of students or honing your business skills, the connections you make while taking part in one is life changing.

Edited by Jada Johnson, Adam White, Wesley Tabor