Ohio University students went through a transformative experience when they flew to Ecuador to engage in service learning and Chagas Disease research.
The undergraduate students studied abroad from June 15 until July 2. While there, they took five credits worth of classes with the options of choosing between classes in biology, communications, and journalism.
Additionally, they took part in pre-trip reflections, four reflection sessions while abroad, and are expected to do post reflection work after returning to the U.S.
“These experiences teach us all to be more inclusive, embrace diversity, and demonstrate some amount of humility for the privileges we experience,” discussion leader Maria Modayil said. “I hope we come to the realization that we are only one culture or one person in the largeness of this world and that we truly need to co-exist and embrace differences.”
As part of the four reflection sessions, students presented on different topics relating to having an open perspective and the ethics of different international situations.
Additionally, they participated in photo reflections where they took photos throughout the day of sights that represented happiness, assets of the culture and safety.
Modayil first got the idea of photo reflections from a qualitative methods class she took.
“The activity … sparked conversations about how and why someone saw something they did from one snapshot,” she said. “We currently live in a Twitter and Instagram age where young adults communicate most with visuals and images. I think it is important for pedagogies to adapt to changes in culture and technology.
Students also engaged in critical reflections to test their perspective of society.
“I think these interactions and experiences help us learn about different perspectives, incorporate different viewpoints, and listen to those with varying ideologies while at the same time cultivating within ourselves concepts such as open-mindedness, curiosity, critical thinking and have critical yet constructive dialogue on divergent topics and views,” Modayil said.
While listening to the student’s reflections, Modayil said she keeps a mindset of expecting the unexpected. Everyone perceives the world differently based off their past experiences, she said.
“We might all look at a picture but have very different interpretations of it,” she said. “This is what I expect to hear from the reflections. There is always some newness to it and some unexpected things about it but that is what I like best.”
Modaylil said she hopes that by engaging in studying abroad and service learning, students learn how to critically reflect on their lives and think about the reasoning behind their actions. Also, she hopes it helps them explore the causes behind social, economic and cultural differences in the world.