Students see the world via CPS immersion trips
By Brendan Raleigh, News Editor
The Gettysburg College Center for Public Service (CPS) offers a number of Immersion Projects each break. When students go home for Winter Break, Spring Break and the first weeks of summer break, those who want to serve communities both domestically and abroad apply to CPS to serve and learn in an unfamiliar destination.
The focuses of these projects are also areas of social justice. They have taken place in communities as far as Nicaragua and as close as Baltimore, Maryland. Various private organizations, separate from the college, collaborate in order to create these projects and facilitate the students’ trips. Participating organizations have included the Center for Cross Cultural Learning (CCCL) and the Lutheran Border Awareness Project.
This winter break, CPS hosted four Immersion Projects in Rabat, Morocco; Alabama; Leon, Nicaragua and El Paso, TX.
This year’s Morocco trip focused on women’s rights issues as they relate to Islam. The project’s goal was to clear up any misconceptions that students may have about the relationship between Islam and women’s rights.
In addition to meeting women who work in parliament and work to spread the concept of Islamic feminism, students were also able to experience what life is like in Rabat.
The CCCL helped facilitate the trip by attracting a list of lecturers including outstanding scholars in the areas of social science, humanities, literature, religion and architecture, as well as artists, journalists, NGO activists, artisans and craftsmen.
The Morocco trip was led by senior Erin O’Connor. O’Connor commented on the trip, saying, “Overall, I think the trip went extremely well. It was the first immersion project in Morocco and I hope this trip continues so many more students can have a similar opportunity and experience.”
The Alabama trip dealt with the state’s history regarding the Civil Rights Movement. The state was thrust into the national spotlight when the African American community in Montgomery boycotted the public transportation system to end segregation.
The point of the project was to educate students on the past and present struggles for political, social and educational equality.
Students traveled to Birmingham, Tuskegee, Montgomery, Selma and White Hall to experience economic injustice firsthand.
The Alabama trip was led by senior Amy Whitehouse. “We learned so much it’s hard to put it all into words,” said Whitehouse. “One thing the group took away was that narrative we learn in school about the Civil Rights Movement just gives us a few major events and figures when in reality the Movement was comprised of so many unnamed, ‘ordinary’ people who exhibited tremendous bravery and sacrificed so much to move towards progress.”
Another immersion trip took students to Gettysburg’s sister city of Leon, Nicaragua. This trip was sponsored by Project Gettysburg-Leon (PGL). Students visited various PGL-sponsored agricultural projects in the Nicara- gua area. These projects dealt with the issues of deforestation, large commercial agriculture, lack of land ownership by small farmers and health concerns from pesticide use in the area. This trip was led by senior Steph Adamczak. Adamczak stated of the trip, “Despite the tumultuous past Nica has with the U.S., most Nicaraguans were more than happy to host us and speak with us. They were able to look at us as individuals rather than products of a country that has repeatedly wronged them. I feel that we are all capable of labeling individuals based on their country of origin, but for students to witness the understanding that individuals are not themselves evil and are not representative of all of their country’s decisions was very powerful.”
The last immersion trip concerned immigration on the U.S.- Mexico border, which involved students traveling to El Paso, TX and Las Cruces, NM to look at the economic and political effects that U.S. immigration policy has on Mexican families. Like the Moroccan trip, the U.S.-Mexico border trip sought to dismantle any erroneous preconceptions students may have about life on the border and the United States border policy.
The Lutheran Border Awareness Project hosted this project in order to educate students about the various issues affecting those near the U.S.-Mexico border. The leader for this trip was Kyla Schneider. Most of the immersion trips lasted about ten days. The cost for each trip varied, with the most expensive trip costing $2950 and the least expensive costing $950. Financial awards were available, however, to help students afford the immersion trips.
The Center for Career Development also hosts Career Immersion trips over winter break and after exams in May. These three-day trips are designed to give students an intensive look at various career fields. In the past, these trips have taken place in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Philadelphia. This year’s trip took students to learn about Ebola professionals in Washington, D.C.