While students wait eagerly for study abroad programs to open back up, the ACES Global Service Learning course is proving to be a fulfilling alternative.
ACES 298 is a first-year experience course that would typically be connected to a study abroad program, but this year it is presented without travel to connect with community partners in Italy, Ecuador, and Pine Ridge (SD). This class is offered in partnership with Amizade, a global service learning nonprofit who has facilitated many of ACES study abroad programs in the past.
Even though they won’t be traveling, the students will “visit” the three sites, learning about a different topic that relates to sustainability and service in that community. Some examples include: cattle farming and the ski industry in Italy, the pipeline in South Dakota, and conscientious living in Ecuador. Students will also complete a short internship project with either the community organization in Italy or in Pine Ridge.
Ali Freter, director of ACES study abroad and ACES 298 instructor, says, “In parallel to the international work, the class covers a wide range of topics that relate to service learning and cultural humility (for example, stereotypes, privilege, culture, identity, fair-trade learning, etc.). Last but certainly not least, the students will be completing a ‘bringing it local’ series where they learn about the Champaign-Urbana community, identify an issue they would like to support, and create an action plan to do so after the end of the class. Mr. Sam Smith from the Krannert Center helped me facilitate this session and connected our group to Silver Hearts and Sola Gratia farms in Urbana.”
Jada Davis is a crop sciences major currently enrolled in the ACES Global Service Learning class. She is working on a virtual service learning project with a partner in Italy to design a future-focused, sustainable study abroad experience.
“The most rewarding part has been getting to connect with partners in locations all over the globe,” Jada says.
She notes her experience connecting globally through a virtual context has also allowed her to develop new teamwork and relationship building skills.
“There's a difference in going to a zoom class and collaborating with partners in different time zones. It has definitely taught me to be patient and adaptable,” she says.
Looking ahead to Spring 2021, a number of ACES faculty and instructors will be including a virtual global component in their courses. These alternative experiences have become a strong, sustainable option for students to not only connect globally, but find a way to make a difference in the world, gain comprehensive international experiences, and build a global/intercultural fluency. The College of ACES Study Abroad Office looks forward to expanding these opportunities for students even after it is safe to travel.
Article submitted by Gregory French, Outbound Study Abroad Advisor, College of ACES