“I saw that the Guatemala trip was being offered again in the spring . That is very exciting since it was such an amazing experience. I wanted to let you know that I had the opportunity to spend 5 weeks in Guatemala this past summer. I lived with a family in San Pedro Lake Atitlan. I was able to learn how to weave the traditional way, it was quite a process and art form. The mother also taught me how to cook on the traditional stove which I wasn’t so good at. I attended a funeral while I was there, which are very different from the ones here in the states. I got to go to birthday parties, festivals, religious ceremonies.
So overall thank you for exposing me to this amazing culture it allowed me to go back and have another amazing learning experience!
I graduate in December  so I am student teaching at the moment. I plan on moving to Chile for a year in June.”
-Erica (Education Major)
Samantha J. Smith, the winner of the Peace Studies Award, shares her experiences with PeaceWorks
“My experience with PeaceWorks was most enjoyable. The board members were very welcoming and eager to work with students. As a PeaceWorks scholar I was given the opportunity to be a part of a board that works so hard in and for the community. As an award recipient, I was also granted a monetary award, which greatly added to my success with my studies.
While a part of PeaceWorks I was exposed to policy issues, topics of community safety/ concerns and peaceful tactics used for community change. All of which I was able to reference in my academic studies. The board addressed a variety of community issues, but focused primarily on topics of drones and nuclear weapons. I found these topics interesting, as I had very little education on these prior.
For my time and involvement with the board, I was given a monetary award. I used this award to conduct my dream study for my capstone course. This included offering all staff at an area agency a facial day and a yoga day. This was done for the purpose of assessing vicarious trauma and job burnout. With extra funds leftover I was able to pay for a licensure prep course, association fees, and towards the cost of the 2013 NASW annual conference.
I encourage anyone interested in applying to do so. It was the best academic move I made my senior year. For what I gave, I got back tenfold.”
Sara Barlett, Guatemala 2012
We were asked to write about limits, and I know I hit several of mine. There were a few times when we were hiking where I really had no desire to keep moving, but that is the type of limit I have hit before, having been active in sports off and on throughout my life.
I mentioned to my room mate that I had read a quote that suggested doing one thing each day that scared you, but this was back at Anadesa.
Every time I hit my “limit” or started thinking that I really didn’t know if I was willing to make things work, I would remember the generocity of my hosts, and things didn’t seem so bad. Having them trying their best to make us at home while we cringed at the living conditions didn’t seem just.
It is easy for me to quit at home, which is why I like having deadlines or a training buddy, I need someone holding me responsible. Here I was constantly pushed beyond where I was comfortable, and even to the point of wanting to quit several times. Yet being able to say I walked down a mountain, or I understood one phrase in Ixil was oddly rewarding. There was no bandstand moment where I received a praise, but it is one more way I can say “well I did _______, so this new obstacle can’t be that bad.”
Ultimately noting I did this last week compares to what many of these families have endured, and I would not claim I can relate to their suffering. Yet this trip was designed to not just learn about those people who live in Latin America and survived a civil war. It was to meet people and get a little taste of who they are as people, not just as survivors.
I think witnessing how they live day to day has made it more potent to then hear their stories. I feel like I can understand better what it means to be a leader and an activist having met the people I have on this trip.
Bri Tarr, India 2013
Yesterday we visited the fishing community. We were immediately welcomed when we stepped foot off of the bus. Children were grabbing our hands shaking them and asking our names…it was beautiful! The entire experience was definitely an eye opening one not in a bad way but something you would never see in the United States. Here life is different it is simplistic, family oriented, and some would say slightly appalling. The people of this community were so welcoming and friendly. Which is quite different then some areas in the U.S. where people push away outsiders. We learned that the people here suffer from inequality issues that most of us could never imagine because of our privilege. Such as, women don’t really have a lot of choices or rights here where as in the states we feel its our privilege, our right, and our freedoms which should automatically be given to us. The group that out reaches to this community informs, educates, and empowers the community especially women to want more. When asked to speak each woman had a different story but all had one commonality and that was empowerment. Empowerment to overcome many things and obstacles.
While walking through the streets and seeing these people’s livelihood I am humbled by what I have and I am taken aback by not acknowledging the simple things in life. Even though there is a lack in cleanliness throughout there is a sense of pride for upkeep for their own space. They took us into their homes (which ranged from cubicles and huts to apartment buildings) and showed us how they lived their daily lives. The smell of animal feces, dead fish, sea, and rot is their lively hood. Like one woman said without this smell, without the fish we have nothing we are nothing! If you would visit here many people would describe the animals, smells, trash, and filth that surround them as disgusting. Others would say it was beautiful. I would fall on the side of beautiful. Out of all of the places we have been I have enjoyed this experience the most. The sight of women, children, and men covered in filth and human feces leaves me with the impression that we should be thankful for clean water, running water, a place to live, and many other things. To not take family for granted or our friends because without them where is our identity? In money or selfishness? We as a community need to take care of others and not push them away…show love and compassion to all human kind! We all need to be the change we want to see and not be bystanders when we see injustices. This community has left me with an experience that I will never forget and I can’t thank the people of the fishing village enough for their hospitality and warm welcomes. My heart is alive for the people of India and I don’t want to go home.
Q&A with Christina Baker, England 2008
The benefits of study abroad, 5 years later, continue to show themselves, often in the most unpredictable of places. Relating to the international students I work with, personal connections all over the country and even world. It creates a time in one’s life that enables you to look back and think “I did that. No one can take those experiences away from me.”