Throughout the past year, I have been pondering the idea of studying abroad. Due to my love for traveling and meeting new people, my interest was sparked when I heard about how awesome Winona State’s study abroad and travel abroad programs are. However, the thought of studying in a foreign country with the likelihood of a problematic language barrier quickly put a negative spin on this idea. Therefore, just as any good Rori Gilmore imposter would do, I started to create a pro/con list of the perks and disadvantages of studying abroad in college. So far, I have found that the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. You may find it strange that I am writing about the positive aspects of studying abroad when in fact I have never actually studied abroad. However, I have traveled out of the country and have experienced what it is like to live fully submerged in an unknown culture. This leads into my first perk of studying abroad in college…
1) Experiencing a new culture
Studying abroad provides a unique opportunity for you to experience a different way of life. People all across the world engage in unique social activities, have diverse beliefs and customs, follow dissimilar daily routines, communicate differently and eat peculiar cuisine. Experiencing first-hand the different ways in which others live is a chance for you to find new interests and live a more culturally diverse life, too.
2) Seeing the world
When you go abroad, your eyes are opened to new ways of life, and you lose the U.S. centric mindset in which you have lived by your whole life. When you experience a different culture, see new terrains and experience the dissimilar ways people live their daily lives, you take on a new perspective of the world; a global perspective.
3) Meeting new people/make new friends
Typically, when you study abroad you stay with a host family. Doing so opens the doors to meeting new people and creating friendships that will last a lifetime. Also, when you choose to study in another country, verses just traveling there leisurely, you have the opportunity to sit in classes with many students your age. Having this opportunity makes it a lot easier to make friends who are the same age as you.
4) Learning a new language
I believe that everyone should, or at least attempt to, learn a second language. In fact, there are many benefits to learning a second language. A few of them are enhanced brain health, creating better job prospects, more opportunities for travel and leisure, and experiencing new cultures. Yes, it is extremely difficult to learn a new language and it requires much dedication and effort, but mastering a new language is an accomplishment to be proud of.
5) Gaining life experience (perfect to go before you get a job/career/family/etc.)
Overall, studying abroad in college is an opportunity to gain great life experience. Taking a semester to live abroad, away from your family and normal life, forces you to step outside of your comfort zones and really makes you grow as an individual. I have heard from many college graduates that their only regret in college is that they never studied abroad. They say they wish they had done it while they were in college because it is the perfect time in life to go. College is when you have the most freedom to go wherever you want before you get married, start your career, have a family, and so on.
Therefore, studying abroad in college has many perks and is definitely something that I would encourage you to look into for yourself. If you can, be sure to make every effort to seize this opportunity and gain life experience you will remember forever.
If you don’t follow Winona State on Snapchat yet, add winonastateu and tune in for live snaps of traveling Warriors this week as they embark on their travel study adventures in Paris, Thailand, Spain, St. Croix and many more!
As we’re nearing graduation, if you’re graduating like me, you’re probably wondering: well, what am I doing next? That’s a good question, and I know I can’t answer that for you, but I can tell you what I’ll be doing next in order to improve the community (and world) of Winona, Minnesota!
During the next academic year, I’ll be working with Minnesota Reading Corps, which is a non-profit organization that aims to help all Minnesota children become proficient readers by the end of third grade. I’ll be doing this in Winona itself to help the Winona elementary children become better, passionate readers! In addition, I’ll be volunteering in the Winona community as much as possible!
If this is something you might be interested in, but you’re not comfortable with reading and you’re better at math, there’s also the Minnesota Math Corps, too!
There are plenty of other organizations that are good candidates for “gap years.” People often get involved with Peace Corps to go overseas and help people in need. The Peace Corps is aimed to help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served, and to help promote a better understanding of other countries and people.
If you don’t want to travel overseas and want to stay in the United States, consider AmeriCorps!
Why consider organizations like this? Well, they usually offer some kind of loan forgiveness and typically put your student loans on hold while you’re serving the community you’re in! All the organizations mentioned above do offer loan forgiveness and freeze at the end of your service. Not only that, you get to serve in areas of need on both a local and global level, and improve living conditions for everyone you come across. Besides, if you’re unsure of where you want to work in the future, or if you’re considering grad school, taking a year off to serve is a good way to do extra research on your next step! Giving back is one of the many ways that we can best serve our communities. You don’t need to have money to volunteer and serve!
Wherever you go, Warriors, think about how you can serve the communities that you’ll be in for either a few months or even years! You will make an impact in every area you’ll be in, so make sure it’s a positive one!
As the trees begin to bloom into the beauty that engulfs our campus, it’s important to realize that they do much more than stand tall and look pretty. Without trees, the world would not be in existence. Recognize Arbor Day today and learn about what our trees do for us each and every day! #WhyTreesMatter
(All of the following facts provided by the Arbor Day Foundation)
1) Trees help clean our air
2) Trees contribute to our health
3) Trees provide us with oxygen
4) Trees help clean our drinking water
5) Trees provide much-needed cooling
6) Trees help reduce the effects of climate change
7) Trees help us save energy
8) Trees provide vital wildlife habitat
9) Trees help reduce crime
10) Trees are a good investment of our public dollars
To get involved in the Winona community, join the 2016 “Why Trees Matter” event that will be held Friday, April 29 from 9:30am – 3pm on the WSU campus.
WSU’s Arbor Day events includes learning how to plant and protect trees, and celebrating the recognition of the Landscape Arboretum at Winona State. School children are also invited to take part in numerous hands-on activities, and participants will have the chance to take home a tree or shrub!
For more information on this year’s event and about WSU’s trees on campus, read the Winona Daily News article contributed by Jim Reynolds, co-chair of the WSU Arboretum and Land Stewardship Committee and Winona State Professor Emeritus of sociology.
In March, WSU students in SPED 425 (Inclusion in General Education Classrooms) had the opportunity to showcase their “Project of Choice.” Students picked a topic related to inclusion and a format in which to share the information. The Inclusion Event was an opportunity for WSU students to share their projects and discuss inclusion with other WSU students, professors, community members and local educators.
A few reflection quotes from students after the event:
“I also loved sharing my work with everyone, it allows me to gain greater ownership for my research and feel as though I am truly advocating for inclusion.”
“It was worthwhile to inform others on a topic that they may or may not have known before, especially when the audience members asked questions that led to discussions.”
“I just really appreciated this opportunity to share ideas and concepts with a broad audience and to get so much positive feedback was an added bonus!”
“It was really interesting to walk around the room and see people’s passions and beliefs come alive in their project and information that they shared.”
-Amy Olson, assistant professor
For those of you that read my blog post earlier this semester about my most recent trip to Ecuador, you know how the country of Ecuador holds a very special place in my heart. Saturday night I was on top of Garvin Heights when I received an alert on my phone that an enormous earthquake shook Ecuador. In magnitude, the earthquake was a 7.8 at the epicenter followed by more than 100 aftershocks, landslides and collapsed buildings and bridges. Today, Thursday, CNN announced that more than 570 people have died, and, according to Ecuador’s Risk Management Office, “155 people remain missing, and 7,015 injured. It also announced that almost 25,000 people remain in shelters.”
As I read about the devastation, I could not help but think about the utter shock, pain and fear the people of Ecuador are faced, and continue to face. You see, when a natural disaster like this happens in the United States it is devastating, but it is not as extreme as it is in countries like Ecuador. For most people in Ecuador, they lost everything Saturday night. They do not have emergency savings accounts or insurance to cling to in times of despair. The only thing the people of Ecuador have now is hope, and for many Ecuadorians that hope is fading fast.
It is crucial that we act quickly to bring aid and relief to help those in desperate need. After reading about this disaster, it is my hope that you will feel compelled to help the people affected by the quake, and that you will commit to joining me in prayer for the healing and restoration of Ecuador. Furthermore, Ecuador is currently in need of food, water, blankets, clothing and so on. If you would like to help meet the physical needs in Ecuador, you can give financially to the following organizations that are providing relief efforts:
Although many of you reading this blog are most likely broke college students, you can still be of help. As many of us are starting to pack up our dorms, houses and apartments, we are going to find things that we no longer want or need. In that case, there are people in the area that may be interested in buying those unwanted items from you! There are many groups on Facebook you can find where you can sell your things. Wazoo’s List, which is run by WSU, is one of those groups where you can buy and sell unwanted items to people in the area. After you rake in some cash, you can donate that money to relief efforts in Ecuador, listed above.
Another way you can support Ecuador is by going on Amazon and buying one of their support T-shirts for only $19.99.
Thank you in advance for helping support the country that is so near and dear to my heart. You are making a difference in so many lives just by sharing the news and asking others to join us in prayer for Ecuador. My heart is broken for the people of Ecuador right now, but I believe that together, we can help bring hope and restoration to the country Ecuador. #PRAYFORECUADOR #FuerzaEcuador
In the university setting, we’re exposed to a lot of new people, ideas, values and beliefs. It’s ever so more important to be aware of all these and be able to respect them. We’re lucky to have a diverse population in Winona where we can safely learn about different people. So, you may be wondering, how do I communicate with people of different culturals? Well, from my own personal experience of working with international and diverse students for the past four years, I have made up a little guide that usually helps me better communicate with other people:
1) Make time to get acquainted with people
This goes without saying. It’s hard to communicate with someone you really don’t know. Take some time to get beyond introductions and surface-level interactions.
2) Do your research
If you don’t know about the cultural norms of a country, use your resources to learn about them! We have Google for a reason, right? Take advantage of our plethora of online information!
The first step of talking to someone is actually to talk to them. Say “hi,” ask them how they are doing, and ask specific questions about their country. When I was an international student, when people tried speaking my language it made me really happy. Try learning how to say “hello” and repeat it back to them. Even if you mess up, trying is greatly appreciated!
4) Practice patience
I think with any encounter with another human being, especially initially, patience is crucial. Patience goes a long way, and it shows a lot about your character if you can wait and try to invest in someone.
5) Writing helps mediate communication
If you can’t understand what someone is saying, try have them write out what they are intending to say. You may also do the same too!
6) Don’t be worried about making mistakes
College is the perfect time to make mistakes. As long as you’re making an attempt at fixing mistakes and reflecting on them, then you’re doing it right in the aspects of intercultural communication.
7) Include them in activities
People come to America to experience American culture. What if you wanted to go to Spain, but no one ever reached out to you to include you in what people in Spain did? You’d feel really left out and lost. Don’t be that person to someone else! If you’re doing something that can include another person, feel free to invite them!
8) Learn from each other
As mentioned, college is the perfect time to make mistakes. We’re interacting daily with people from around the world. For example, we don’t have to go to China to experience China! We can learn from the Chinese students here!
ggpril is a fantastic month for a variety of reasons, including that it finally feels like spring in Winona. Another reason to look forward to April is the celebration of National Sibling Day. National Sibling Day falls on April 10, so make sure to call your brother or sister if you’re lucky enough to have a sibling. In addition to National Sibling Day, April is also Autism Awareness Month. Autism may not impact you personally, but it’s becoming more prevalent in society. My brother has a form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, and he’s also the coolest person I know.
My brother was diagnosed with asperger’s before he entered kindergarden. He struggles with socializing including giving eye contact. However, he also knows how to intelligently debate about politics, religion and social rights. He may use filler words frequently, but he has the biggest heart. My brother is so much more than the disorder he has been diagnosed with. When my brother is stressed sometimes he can get angry and blame himself. He also happens to know every rule in every board game we have ever played. He’s the Snoopy to my Woodstock and he’s someone who has taught me a lot about maintaining friendships.
The biggest lesson I have learned with my brother is patience. My brother can aggravate me sometimes like any other sibling, but I have to realize that he has his own struggles. He can be unorganized at times and sometimes he forgets things that you tell him. Patience allows me to be the best sister I can be, but also to help him when he needs it. I have also realized tolerance goes a long way. I have witnessed bullying first hand to kids with Aspergers and it’s terrible. Tolerance and having a non judgemental attitude is crucial for interacting with someone that falls on the autism spectrum. The stereotypes of autisitic kids as stupid or mentally ill are old and inaccurate. Also, banishing that infamous R word that I won’t mention because I don’t want to say it is really important. I’m sure all of you know what this word is and please don’t use it. It’s incredibly offensive and it shouldn’t be used in daily speech. Patience, tolerance and banishing the R word are necessary when interacting socially with someone on the autism spectrum.
So don’t forget about National Sibling Day! Take a break from studying at the library and snap, call or text your sibling. They will surely appreciate it, because it’s great to have someone who will stick by your side throughout your college experience. Also, take this time to become aware of the people around you. Autism is something we should all be aware of, because autistic kids are the sweetest people I know. They will brighten your day and teach you a thing or two about living and enjoying life.
Like many Winona State students, eight Chi Alpha students went on a trip over spring break. However, on March 5, they embarked on a mission that has set their trip apart from many others. Instead of lying on a beach over spring break, these eight students chose to spend their “break” serving and enjoying the people of Mexico City. Having wished I had gone on the trip myself, I decided to interview one of my friends who went to get an inside scoop of what his personal experience was like. Travis Salo, a sophomore at WSU, described his experience in Mexico so well that I could not have worded it better myself. Here is a Q & A with Travis…
Q: What did you do in Mexico?
A: We went on a missions trip and got to help the local church. That included putting on a VBS for the younger kids as well as playing street hockey, soccer, and football with the kids. We also did puppet shows, arts and crafts, and songs with the kids.
Q: What was your favorite memory?
A: My favorite memory of the trip was definitely meeting Jesus. He was a young kid who had a ton of energy, but he had the best attitude and always enjoyed playing street hockey.
Q: What was a shock to you (culture wise)?
A: One of the biggest shocks to me was how polite everybody was. People would listen to what you had to say and then tell you to have a good day. Here [in the United States], most people will just ignore you if you do not know them.
Q: What challenged you the most?
A: The most challenging thing for me was the language barrier. I wanted to communicate with the people, but there was not always a translator nearby.
Q: How was the food?
A: The food was amazing! We had a family in the church make us home cooked meals for dinner each meal. You cannot get more authentic than that. It is amazing how they do not waste any part of the animal as they do in the United States. They made us a different meal each night that reflected what a typical family would eat. Random side note, I ‘out spiced’ some of the Mexicans. [In other words] I could eat hotter food than some of them were comfortable with.
Q: What impacted you the most on this trip?
A: The thing that impacted me the most was probably the relationships we were able to form with the kids even though there was a language barrier between us. We still keep in contact with many of them over Facebook!
By sharing this interview between Travis and I, it is my hope that you, the readers, realize and appreciate the sacrifice these WSU students made over spring break to improve our world. It is inspiring to hear about the difference they made in many lives in Mexico City, as well as the change it brought to their own lives. It is certain that the students who went on this trip will never be the same again. Their eyes were opened and their hearts were broken as they experienced a different and new way of life. Thanks, Travis Salo, for sharing your experience in Mexico City with the WSU community.
National Common Courtesy Day is observed annually on March 21st. This day brings awareness to how important common courtesy is in our lives. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courtesy is defined as “behavior marked by polished manners or respect for others.” On a related note, common courtesy is defined as “politeness that people can usually be expected to show.” Common courtesy can be as simple as saying “please” and “thank you” when asking for and receiving a service, gift or assistance.
Kindness and courtesy really do go a long way and are noticed by others even if you do not realize it. It is easy to let someone in front of you in the line for the cafeteria. Hold open a door for someone or give a random person a high-five. Give up your seat on the west campus/East Lake shuttle to someone who might need it. These are just a few examples of small things that make a difference to someone else. They are momentary deeds of being courteous! It doesn’t have to be anything big, either! In my previous blog on the power of recognition, the same concepts and theories can be applied to this blog too. Being able to recognize when someone has done something out of their way for you is an awesome skill to have, and that skill will serve you well in the future.
Now, I’m not saying that we should only be courteous just on this day, but it’s an important reminder that we should be respectful and appreciative for what others do for us!
How are you observing this day? Try doing a few small things like the suggestions above. Not only will the other person appreciate it, you will feel good about it also. Use the hashtag #CommonCourtesyDay and post your acts of courtesy today! Be sure to tag @WinonaStateU as well.
During spring break, seven travel leaders and 18 students (including myself) embarked on a travel study through SPED to Treasure Beach St. Elizabeth, Jamaica that turned out to be one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my life.
Our group took with us $4,000 and 2,000 pounds of donations that we gave among five schools (the primary schools of St. Mary’s, Seaview, Sandy Bank, Epping Forest and Pedro Plains), the Treasure Beach Women’s Group, student scholarships and the Project Jamaica fund. Through out the week we visited the schools and the women’s group, and finished mixing and pouring cement for a netball court at Pedro Plains for four of the days. We also conducted music lessons there as well as bird passage readings, and we painted two classrooms.
Rather than explaining the specifics of our days and how beautiful the hotel and area was, I want to share what I’ve learned and gained from this experience. This service-learning project introduced me to amazing people, both from Winona State and in Jamaica, and for that I am so thankful. At first we barely knew each other, and by the end of the trip we felt like a family and worked together like a well-oiled machine. It’s amazing the amount of work we did and it was extremely empowering, especially since 24 of us were women.
We could definitely feel and see the impact we left on the kids at Pedro Plains and the school itself. The kids were so outgoing and loving, always wanting pictures with us and running up to us to play and ask us a thousand questions. Many of the kids cried when we left, as did we. The bonds that we formed with them in the few days we were there were incredible, and it was difficult to leave them. In addition, we accomplished our goal of finishing the netball court, bucket by bucket, and when we were leaving the children were already playing on the dry portion of it. That alone really struck me, to think that what we did there will last and serve many kids for years to come.
Even though we gave our time, money and effort towards this trip, I don’t feel like I really “gave” anything at all, and we all feel this way after holding a post-trip discussion. We all definitely gained from this trip. We gained an appreciation for the Jamaican culture, a knowledge for the tremendous need and poverty that is in Jamaica, a huge amount of love for the kids we met, as well as new friendships in the process. I would do this travel study 100 times over, if I could.
To read more about our trip and view my photos, visit my Jamaica 2016 blog.