One thing that some people don’t realize about Business 200 is that they can incorporate it into their study abroad experience. This coming January I am going to Guatemala through the University of St. Thomas. I will be earning credits towards my theology requirement while at the same time volunteering at San Lucas Mission in Guatemala.
Two friends of mine went to Guatemala for a mission trip a few years ago. Their stories inspired me and piqued my interest in the culture. They told me that it was life changing to see how the people that live there have so little but are so grateful for everything that they have. It was hard for my friends to see the intense poverty of the area but they said it was wonderful to see how these people turn to their faith for support.
I especially like this program in particular because I enjoy doing service. In fact, I live for it. I have been on two incredible week-long service trips within this past year and I’ve learned there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you are making a difference, no matter how small the tasks seem. By doing service abroad, I know I will become more versatile and adaptive to different situations. I have to be assertive, enthusiastic, and confident in order to succeed.
For example, over spring break this year, I took part in the Students Today Leaders Forever Pay it Forward Tour. Forty or so St. Thomas students and I spent nine days on a bus, traveling to different cities doing service across the United States. One day we walked dogs at the animal rescue shelter in St. Louis. Walking dogs doesn’t seem that important, but when there is a lack of volunteers and many dogs need exercise, fresh air, and socialization, it is extremely important. Many dogs came from the streets and had aggression issues. Having over forty volunteers there to give the dogs extra care and longer walks made the St. Louis rescue staff so grateful. It was touching to see how such a simple thing made such a difference!
The best part of the Pay it Forward experience was that we never knew where we were staying or what service we were doing. Not having expectations or plans helped me live in the moment and I hope to continue that attitude through the rest of my life. Part of group travel has to do with dealing with the unexpected, and the STLF group became closer because we had to accept what was dealt to us and take each moment head on.
My ideal cross-cultural service experience is one where I go somewhere different, experience a new way of life – new food, new customs, new ideas, etc – and in the process, learn something new about myself. I want to grow as a human being and strengthen my own values and faith. I have often heard that when you study abroad, you realize more about where you come from than anything. I know that witnessing the contrast between third-world Guatemala and the cozy United States will be difficult. I want to become more open-minded and develop a heightened sense of global community. Essentially, I am hoping to leave Guatemala with a new perspective of the world.
One of my life-long goals is to get more involved in serving others internationally. Eventually I am hoping to go somewhere to volunteer long-term through a program such as the Peace Corps. As an International Business/International Economics major, I think that my experience in Guatemala will be a great first step to take, and I encourage others to do the same! Be willing to get out of your comfort zone, take a risk, and experience the unknown!
By Emily Seitz, BUSN200 Facilitator