PERUGIA, Italy — Cassidy Boston (Majoring in Early Childhood Education and Special Education) and Katie Bowman (a Speech Language Pathology Major), both chose to spend their Fall 2016 semester studying abroad at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program located in Perugia, Italy. Both students are seeking to enter service careers with the goal of helping others. For this reason, they chose to enroll in a number of Service Learning courses offered by the Umbra Institute.
“The biggest thing that I expect to get out of my study abroad experience is what I am learning about other cultures and how I am becoming aware of how things are different,” shared Cassidy when asked what she hopes to gain from her study abroad experience. Cassidy has gone on a number of mission trips to Latin America where she was introduced to societal differences and issues, specifically the relationship between poverty and hunger. This inspired her to take Umbra’s STFS 330: Sustainability in Italy course, which offers a service learning component that gives students the chance to work in a local synergistic garden, where individuals with mental health challenges learn relaxing and rehabilitating techniques by actively maintaining the garden. Beyond helping the community, Cassidy feels that she has learned a lot about food systems as a world-wide issue through this course. She has learned about synergistic and organic gardens and participated actively in class discussions about both the benefits of the more sustainable techniques and the difficulties that keep these techniques from being solutions that could feed the world.
Cassidy is also taking PYHD 430: Human Development in Culture, with a service learning project that will allow her to work directly with local school teachers, at the elementary and secondary level, to organize lessons and activities for Italian students.
As for Katie, she chose to spend her first trip abroad to further her education, studying language and communication at the Umbra Institute. During her first week participating in Umbra’s Italian 101 course, Katie struggled with the pronunciation of certain letters, “the letter ‘I’ sounds like ‘E’ and that confused me.” She went on to explain that the little things that are marking her experience with the Italian language will help her understand the children she hopes to assist in her future career. “I will understand that, when struggling with English [as a second language], it is not always a problem,” Katie says. “Sometimes it is just a miscommunication between the languages.”
Katie is also participating in service learning components correlated with her courses in photography and archaeology. Through the photography class, she will assist with the promotion of RE.LEG.ART, a small social co-operative in Perugia that trains workers with special needs to make handmade leather goods and hand-bound books. The archaeology class allows Katie to work directly with the National Archaeology Museum of Umbria and the San Lorenzo Cathedral Museum to help them better communicate the context of historic and modern Perugia to international visitors. Katie is eager to participate in service-learning activities that focus on communication because she believes it will help her better understand cultural differences in expression and language. “When working with kids or adults with speech issues, you have to take their culture into account because each culture, each language, says words differently,” she explained when expounding on why she believes service learning and intercultural experiences will benefit her overall education and future career.