Summer holds different possibilities for the students of EMU. Some students may choose to use the summer for rest and relaxation; others will be working, interning, or doing volunteer work.
Junior Krista Rittenhouse, Senior Corben Boshart, and Sophomore Carlos Romera have been given the opportunity to use their summer to complete practicum hours in a different country. Rittenhouse and Romera will be traveling to Columbia and Boshart will be traveling to Iran.
Each trip has its own supervisor. Terrence Jantzi, Ph.D., a former Professor of Sociology at EMU, is supervising Rittenhouse and Romea’s trips to Columbia. Jantzi currently serves with Mennonite Central Committee as the country representative for Columbia.
Ed Martin, Director of EMU’s Center for Interfaith Engagement, is supervising Boshart’s trip to Iran. Martin has worked with American Friends Service Committee as the Quaker International Affairs Representative for Iran.
Despite these connections, the students will still be responsible for their own flights, work, and transportation while in the country. The students will live and work in their respective countries for a 12-week period, similar to the practicum that students do in Harrisonburg.
About completing her practicum out of the states, Rittenhouse said, “Completing my practicum in Colombia will give me the opportunity to see how peacebuilders are working in areas of the world where large groups of people have been victimized by violence. I will be challenged to look at my understanding of the world through a new cultural context and continue working on my Spanish.”
Romera recognized the rarity of these opportunities and did not think twice before applying.
He said, “My native language is Spanish. I grew up in Mexico, and the thing I am looking forward to the most is to be able to work with people in my native language again.”
Washington, DC offers opportunities for practicum work, but Boshart said, “A trip to Iran offers a more diverse learning situation than Washington. Iran is one of those places in the world that has so many misconceptions about it coming from the Western world. To go and actually see the country and its people firsthand is an opportunity I can’t pass up.”
Each student is excited about various aspects of their trips. Rittenhouse said, “I think I am most excited about the possibility of hearing many people’s stories that are so different from my own. This will be the closest thing I could experience in order to understand what it means to live with that type of conflict.”
Romera’s practicum will also possibly put him in a situation that deals with conflict and violence.
“Colombia will be a challenging context because of the ongoing violence,” said Romera. But he is hoping to use these experiences to help further his work at EMU. “I am hoping to come back to EMU with a better understanding of how things work on the field and I am also hoping to be able to connect and expand relationships between Colombia, Mexico, and the United States.”
The students are looking to take various things back from their trips but understanding and improvement seem to be themes that coincide in Romera and Boshart’s hopes for the trip.
“I’d like to take a broader worldview away. Seeing such an alienated and misunderstood country that has a culture and lifestyle very different from America presents a lot of potential for personal growth,” Boshart said. “We learn a lot when we are placed out of our comfort zones and in situations we are not familiar with. You have to be flexible because there are different expectations and norms. It forces you to be learning at all times and prepared to adjust from the expectations you have grown up with. In the end you cannot help but be changed into a broader, more understanding person.”
Rittenhouse, Boshart, and Romera’s practicum work is being made possible by the United Service Foundation, which is giving a total of 20,000 dollars to the project. This money will benefit these three students, as well as five more, who will do internships next summer.