Washburn students see the world to learn, serve in communities

Travis Perry

The average college student spends their breaks lounging in a beanbag chair eating Cheetos or hibernating. But there are a few who choose to do more with their time, and decide to jump from that cushy chair and go outside their comfort zone.

While most people were enjoying the Kansas winter weather, there were several students who ditched the flatlands and branched out far from home. Some traveled to do service work in New York, while others discovered hidden histories of the Mayan Empire in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Working through the non-profit group Project Hospitality, Vincent Bowhay and Whitney Philippi, along with other students, donated a week of their winter break toward helping homeless and low-income individuals in New York. They also helped organize a coat drive for Project Hospitatlity.

“It helps you see the parts of society you don’t normally see, so you learn a lot more about how the world works,” said Bowhay. “It also gives you a better appreciation for your chances at education and the chances you have to succeed.”

Bowhay, who had gone to Africa with the Washburn Choir two years ago, highly recommended that anyone wanting to grow as a person and expand their education should go on some sort of trip to expand themselves.

Philippi, also a participant in the New York trip, said the time wasn’t filled completely with sleep and soup kitchens. While in the Big Apple, they took advantage of their location and were able to see the local sights and venues.

Those traveling to warmer weather over the break found themselves in the heart of Mexico as they discovered the secrets and history of the ancient Maya

Margaret Wood, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, was a faculty sponsor for the trip.

While it’s one thing to travel to different regions of your own country, going to foreign countries is a whole different matter. There were some instances of culture shock among students, said Wood. One of the biggest was the gratuity expected of everyone, due to the economy of the Yucatan Peninsula relying heavily on tourism. Outside that, Wood said the trip was fairly insulated from being totally immersed in Mexican culture.

“I think [these trips] can add a lot,” said Wood. “One of the things that I hope it does is to encourage them to travel more in the future.”

It’s becoming more and more important to become a citizen of the world, said Wood, and traveling is one way to stay globally connected. This trip allowed students to gain an appreciation of the past and inspire them to learn more in the future, she said.

“I think these things are worth it,” said Wood. “It might cost a bit, but it’s worth the investment for what it adds to you as a person. It’s important to step outside your comfort zone.”