“The trip made me a global citizen,” said Frankie Franco, a junior education major, of his 10-day, faculty-led experience in Cuba. Franco’s take-away was echoed by everyone who spoke about the impact of Worcester State University-led trips to the seven places featured at a Latin Heritage Month event called “Student and Faculty Reflections on Global Latin Experiences.”
Those areas—the Amazon, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Spain—were celebrated by showcasing authentic regional food, and students’ experiences were chronicled via posters, videos, and other materials representing what they learned while studying away.
Franco and six other students also served on a panel that offered encouragement to about 150 attendees who stopped by the North/South Auditorium to hear them and perhaps decide for themselves if they’d like to travel to and study at one of the featured sites.
The mid-October event was co-sponsored by WSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs; the Biology, Communication, History and Political Science, Nursing, and Sociology Departments; the Binienda Center for Civic Engagement; the President’s Office; and the student organization Third World Alliance. The Sidney Buxton Scholarship fund also supported the event, which concluded with OMA staff and President Barry M. Maloney recognizing the faculty members who led the trips.
A video, “Reflexiones Sobre Cuba,” produced by Assistant Professor of Communication Julian Berrian in conjunction with OMA and the WSU Center for Community Media, premiered at the event. It features reactions of the students, faculty, and staff to the trip, which took place May 14-23, 2017.
Several mentioned a pre-trip curriculum component provided by Associate Professor of History and Political Science Aldo Garcia Guevara, where students learned about the 50-year U.S. blockade of the country and how intervention by foreign nations has affected Cuba and Latin American countries.
In the video, Guevara says, “We live now in a world in which xenophobia is rampant. It’s important to see how other people live, in a positive way.” So it’s no accident that the WSU group was housed “right in the middle of a Cuban neighborhood,” according to Franco, and they were able to experience “how genuine the people are,” according to another student, junior Silvia Rodriguez.
WSU’s Office of International Programs offers 300 or so options for study away. In addition to the one-to-three week trips to Spanish-speaking and dozens of other countries, WSU offers semester or year-long exchange and partner programs to the Czech Republic, China, England, Portugal, South Korea, and Thailand. In addition, WSU partners with a dozen affiliated providers for access to a number of other countries, as well.
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