College Employees – Spring Break in Puerto Rico
Susquehanna University is on the leading edge with the school’s most recent study abroad program.
A generous donation from a Susquehanna alum was earmarked to send a small group of faculty and staff on a seven-day trip to Puerto Rico during 2016’s spring break. The gift was designated to pay the expenses for ten employees so they could experience an immersion into a different culture, specifically outside of the United States. The experience is designed to give the participants the same cultural experience students receive on a three week GO Short program and was coordinated by Spanish Studies Abroad.
The program was open to all faculty and staff at Susquehanna University. Any interested employee was required to submit an essay describing how the trip would benefit both the employee and the university. The selection process was completed; the people were required to attend evening “prep” classes scheduled prior to the trip. These classes provided instruction in packing, practicing of common Spanish phrases and addressed health, safety and food concerns.
After the group arrived in San Juan, they traveled to Ponce to spend a half day with a K-12 charter school. A trip to an organic farm in the central mountain rainforest provided a look how a farm can be self-sustaining while providing ecological benefits to the local watershed. A service learning trip to La Perla allowed the travelers to paint and clean up a city playground. Later in the week, the group met the island’s most popular artist and sculptor, learned about fishing from a local fisherman and experienced the lights of a bioluminescent bay. Other cultural experiences included decorating masks used in religious ceremonies, learning about the island’s military fortifications and discussions about the Spanish influence on the inhabitants. Throughout the entire trip, the group had an embedded, native Puerto Rican tour guide who thoroughly explained the cultural components.
Upon their return to the United States, the group met for reflective classes. These classes assisted the participants to “unpack” the many cultural workings they experienced. Associate Registrar Monica Leitzel explained to the class how the trip has helped her “…connect with our students as they prepare to go abroad for a semester.” She added, “I feel that I can relate to our students on a different level.”