Where in the World is Widener?
From Trinidad to Thailand, from China to Costa Rica, from Argentina to Australia—Widener
students and faculty are expanding their horizons on every continent in the world
except for the ice-covered South Pole of Antarctica. The following three stories highlight
student experiences in disparate parts of the world.
Honduras: Trip Brings New Appreciation of Life in America
Janelle Rouse, a junior elementary education major from Washington, D.C., visited
Honduras with four Widener students and two faculty members in March.
By Janelle Rouse '15
With shaky legs we walked across the tarmac to go through customs in Tegucigalpa, Honduras's capital city. When we left Philadelphia that morning, the temperature had been about 40 degrees. When we landed in Central America, the temperature had more than doubled.
The 36-mile drive from Tegucigalpa to Zamorano, a university in a rural area where we would stay and collaborate with the students there, showed me the level of poverty that plagues Honduras. Children with no shoes and dirty clothes walked along the road with stray dogs at their heels. We drove into the mountains and saw homes made of cardboard, scrap metal, and planks. These homes could only be reached on foot because the mountain was so steep.
At an elementary school on the university's campus, a Widener classmate, Kati Pappas, and I spent time observing an English teacher. One of the school's teachers had a death in his family, and it was the local custom to bury the dead the same day of death. The principal asked us to substitute in the sixth grade class. I was very nervous and feeling ill-prepared. Although I have extensive experience working with children, I had worked with students who were much younger. But Kati and I worked as a great team, teaching the students about fractions, reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, and discussing science fair projects. The students gave us some resistance at first but after a while they participated and were engaged.
We also visited a local orphanage where we cooked spaghetti for more than 50 children. None of the children were picky eaters. They ate everything that was given to them and asked for more. The hardest part about going to the orphanage was that the children only spoke Spanish and we only spoke English, but they showered us with hugs and smiles. They did not seem to understand why we would not speak Spanish to them. They thought it comical that we could not speak Spanish, so we tried our best. Our Spanish was indeed comical!
On this trip I learned so much about the advantages and blessings I have in America. I want to seek happiness instead of seeking status, and I desire more than anything to return to Honduras. I do not feel that my time there is done; I want to do student teaching at the elementary school there. I learned so much, but there is so much more that I desire to learn, so my return to Honduras is imminent.
England: Across the Pond
Many Widener students often seek out individual study abroad programs that align with
their interests. Nicolina Givin, a senior English major from West Deptford, New Jersey,
spent the spring semester of her junior year studying at Royal Holloway University.
By Nicolina Givin '14
When I first arrived in London, I was amazed at the sight of everything. I was completely distraught and felt lost and alone with a major case of homesickness. But once I opened up and became more involved in the culture around me, it became my second home.
Hearing "Mind the Gap" became a ritual in mornings. Getting lost in Piccadilly Circus and ending up in front of Buckingham Palace or walking through Hyde Park towards Knightsbridge to shop at Harrods were daily activities while throwing coins in Trafalgar Square fountains and shopping on Regent Street were sunny weather ideals.
Apart from being an avid tea drinker and going off on adventures, I took seminars and lectures that gave me an in-depth look at British literature and the impact it had on society and the world around us. Apart from literature, my Contemporary Theory in Literary Debates class stepped outside that boundary and we talked about bigger topics such as Marxism, Freud, feminism, post colonialism, deconstruction, and ideology and the relationship it holds with literature and the reader. These topics have given me the outside-the-box perspective on how we can analyze what lies between the texts and the targets they pursue.
My Intensive Shakespeare class had me analyze three of Shakespeare's most treasured plays: Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Richard III. I received a better understanding of the focus that Shakespeare was trying to portray to his audience and how these themes reflect current issues in literature today. My last class, Sociology of Popular Music, gave me a history lesson of music dating back to the 1800s all the way to today's era in Britain.
Having this unforgettable opportunity has taught me so much and has given me access to the most incredible sights and places. Widener helped prepare me for what English literature stands for and how it influences today's society in literature. By traveling to England and receiving an in-depth look on the importance of literature, it makes learning and experiencing new things in the English realm of literature and art so much more enthralling.
China: Calling Chongqing Home
Ron Rabena, a sophomore from Philadelphia majoring in international relations and political science, was one of nine Widener students who participated in the 2013 China Exchange Program with Chongqing Technology and Business University (CTBU). The students and three faculty members visited Beijing, Chongqing, and Chengdu in May.
By Ron Rabena '16
In only two weeks, we traveled long and far. We made lifelong friendships and called a new city, Chongqing, our home. I personally learned to adapt to a city very different from my hometown of Philadelphia. Walking in someone else's shoes and trying something new every hour of every day can be exhausting, but these experiences were worth it. I tried more new things in those two weeks than at any other time in my life. I enjoyed this opportunity that most will never have.
During our time, we toured one of the biggest cities in the world, learned basic Mandarin, danced for CTBU students, ate a local dish known as "hot-pot," enjoyed many dumplings, visited with a local ultrasound company, visited a Taoist temple, learned some martial arts, and most impressive, took a trip to the Dazu Stone Carvings.
These carvings date back to the 7th century, and they remain strikingly beautiful. Walking through the carvings, I was amazed to see all of the rich details—the statues seemed to be alive. It was obvious that there was a detailed story being communicated. The carvings depict the Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist beliefs, and even though they differ from my own religious view, it was amazing to learn more about their rich history and learn more about how the world looked and people felt during that time in human history.
I had so much fun with our new friends from different countries all over the world. Comparing cultures, breaking language barriers, laughing at our differences, and marveling at our similarities is what makes life meaningful.
Although I can never adequately explain how much this trip has helped me grow, I can say that this was the experience of a lifetime. China is far different than my mind would have previously allowed me to imagine. It is a beautiful country, rich with history and home to some of the kindest students at CTBU.
I can say that each day in China was a new, fun, and exciting experience. From the Great Wall of China to the nightlife in Chongqing, every part of this trip was thrilling. Our group has made lifelong memories together and now have stories we will always enjoy telling. This trip has set the bar high for the next stages of our lives, but I know that I will eventually return to China.
Widener study abroad, service learning, research, scholarship, and other projects from recent years span the globe, reaching more than 40 countries worldwide, as well as study away locations in the United States. For more detail on these various programs and activities, visit www.widener.edu/world.