Faith, service and learning opportunities do not come to a halt when students leave Waynesburg University’s campus for winter break. Two service trips will be offered this January, before spring semester classes begin, to provide students a unique opportunity to serve communities overseas. The first, a trip to Bonaire, affiliated with the Department of Communication. The other will be a trip to the Bahamas, which is affiliated with the Education Department.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to utilize what they are learning in and out of the classroom,” said Kelley Hardie, assistant dean of Student Services.
Students attending the trip to Bonaire will receive the opportunity to work with Trans World Radio, one of the world’s largest evangelical media organizations.
“Public relations students are writing press releases and newsletters and radio students are in the studio. Students really get to see that what they are learning is valuable,” said Chad Sherman, associate professor of communication and faculty administrator of the trip. “It’s neat because you get to know the missionaries and families really well. We have a good connection with them, and they know what our students are able to do.”
Sherman has attended the trip for the past seven consecutive years. He has also led several other service trips offered by the school such as the Habitat for Humanity service trip. Many of these are centered around physical labor. Sherman said he has learned that service can come in many shapes and sizes.
“Service can be really oriented to what you are learning,” Sherman said. “Physical labor doesn’t have to be the standard.”
Service is no one-way street. Students tend to reap just as much of an impact as the communities they are serving.
“I hope that a student who goes on the trip in respect for service gets a passion for it. Once someone serves, they learn to love it and want to do it again,” Sherman said.
Serving across cultures also provides insight for students.
“Students are taking learning experiences and ideas and bringing them back here. They get to see first-hand what another culture looks like,” said Kylee Sargent, associate director of Client Services and faculty administrator of the trip to the Bahamas.
Students attending the trip to the Bahamas volunteer at the E.P. Roberts Primary School in Nassau, Bahamas. They create lesson plans and work alongside teachers in the classroom.
Sargent said students really benefit from learning styles of teaching from a different culture. For example, students are not typically taught to raise their hands, and there is no separation of church and state within school systems in the Bahamas.
“It’s so cool to watch them grow and learn and see what ideas they can bring back,” Sargent said. “Faith and spirituality are really knit into their culture. It is cool for our teachers to see that, although it is a poorer culture, it brings a richness to their culture that we don’t always get here.”
This will be Sargent’s third year attending the trip to the Bahamas.
Both of these trips are located in tropical climates, so students receive a unique getaway from western Pennsylvania’s frigid January temperatures.
Sargent said after students are finished with each day’s duties, they spend the evenings sharing dinner together, spending time at the beach or shopping along the local ports.
Thanks to the university’s partnerships overseas and the service trips they offer, students fly home with lasting memories, field experience and cross-cultural relationships.