Charmaine Gardner had never been on a plane. Avery Ebron thought traveling with a big group “would be fun.” And Krista Walker saw an opportunity to visit the country of a good friend.
The three Georgia Perimeter College students from Decatur and Clarkston campuses joined seven other GPC students this past summer in a unique service-learning/study abroad project working with young people in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Their experiences exceeded their expectations, they say.
Directing the study abroad trip were GPC Foundation Trustee Carolyn Glenn; her husband, Dr. Earl Glenn; GPC’s Institutional Advancement executive director Vicki Carew, Access Programs director Tracey Knight, GPC English professor Dr. Nicolette Rose and Dr. Rhonda Wilkins, director of education and field experience at GPC.
For two weeks, the students taught classes and arranged activities for about 75 children at Mt. Zion Primary School and helped conduct entrepreneurial classes for the children’s parents. They also took classes in Jamaican culture and toured the countryside. The school is in a remote location in the mountains of Montego Bay, accessible by a single-lane dirt road and equipped with little infrastructure.
Ebron says he was surprised how attached he became to the children. “I didn’t expect the trip to be as emotional as it was for us. We really got to know them, and they got to know us,” he says.
The GPC students wrote about their experiences for Rose’s English Perspective course, in which they were enrolled, and received credit for the class.
“The great thing about this experience is that we were there studying about the Jamaican culture while experiencing it,” says Gardner. “It really heightened my level of understanding to see people of another country and the way they view the world.”
Gardner says she was so moved by her experience at the school that she has since returned to Jamaica.
“For me, everything about these kids was special,” she explains. “I am a very introverted type of person, but being in this experience almost pushed me to the forefront, and I had to be a leader with these kids. I did things I didn’t think I could
Walker, a sophomore majoring in psychology, says the experience helped her define her own major. She often acted as a mediator and counselor for the young children and now says she wants to focus on child psychology.
“I knew we would go and make an impact on the kids and learn a new culture, but what I didn’t expect is how that culture impacted me,” Walker says. “It brought me to the place of being appreciative of basic amenities and understanding there are many things that money can’t buy. Before I went to Jamaica, I always thought the impact was made in big things; I didn’t understand how the very simple act of giving of yourself can leave a lasting impact.”
Plans already are under way for a study abroad trip to Jamaica July 5 through July 19 this year. Students may earn up to six credits and will start their classes at GPC May 29 before leaving for Jamaica. For information, email Rose at Nicolette.email@example.com or call 678-891-2454.