Summer ’17 cross-culturals travel to the Navajo Nation, Bolivia, Spain and ‘Anabaptist Europe’

Madalynn Payne, traveling this summer with the “Radical Europe Anabaptist Roots” cross-cultural group from Eastern Mennonite University, says train travel, walking tours, independent exploration and dining in unfamiliar cultures have become exciting and comfortable experiences — thanks to the guidance of experienced travelers and cross-cultural leaders Professer Kimberly Schmidt and Seth Miller ’07, MDiv ’15.

In a recent blog post, Payne reflected her own growth as she ‘mimicks’ her experienced guides and then steps off on her own.

As a child, I played follow the leader. I mimicked the actions of others for fun.

As a college student, I find myself in a very similar situation. This cross-cultural is an extreme game of follow the leader.

Our leaders, Kim and Seth, model how to function in contemporary Europe. They guide us through cities and on public transportation. They gladly share their wisdom and calm our nerves. We follow. We learn by example.

These times of mimicking prepare us for times of independence. Almost daily we are given opportunities to explore or assignments to find specific locations. This is when the roles reverse. My peers and I will take turns directing, learning through practice.

Students decorate a wall with colorful tile in Bolivia.

Although this ever-changing game of follow the leader is fun and challenging, it has a specific focus. We are tracing the paths of our Anabaptist roots.

Besides the “Radical Europe” tour of Anabaptist sites in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, EMU cross-cultural groups are in Bolivia, the Navajo Nation and Spain.

  • The Bolivia group is led by Brian Martin Burkholder, campus pastor, and Linda Martin Burkholder, cross-cultural program assistant.
  • The Navajo Nation group is led by Gloria Rhodes, chair of the applied social sciences department, and Jim Yoder, biology professor.
  • The Spain group is led by Professor Adriana Rojas, of the language and literature department, her husband Patrick Campbell, and Barbara Byer, the department’s administrative assistant.

    A Navajo homestay group mixes mud for an adobe oven. (Photo by Victoria Messick)

The EMU cross-cultural experience, which has been part of the curriculum for more than 30 years, is very different from the typical “study abroad” program. Approximately 68 percent of all EMU graduates go on an international cross-cultural trip; the remaining students fulfill the cross-cultural requirement exploring the vast diversity here in the United States. Most graduates name their cross-cultural experience as a significant part of their EMU education.

Trips are led by faculty members who have deep roots in the countries and communities where groups travel. As an example of these deep roots, nearly 20 faculty and staff are “Third Culture Kids,” who spent significant years of their youth in another country/countries. Some 20 countries on six different continents are represented tin these experiences. Most EMU faculty and staff have also lived and worked abroad for significant periods of time.

Upcoming cross-cultural trips include:

  • Israel/Palestine, fall 2018, with Bill Goldberg, director of the Summer Peacebuilding Insitute, and Lisa Schirch, research professor at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding;
  • Guatemala and Cuba, spring 2018, with Byron Peachey, academic advocacy program adviser, and Lisa King, instructor in the nursing department;
  • India, spring 2018, Kim G. Brenneman, psychology professor, and her husband, Bob Brenneman;
  • Kenya, summer 2018, with Roxy Allen Kioko, professor of business, and her husband, Felix Kioko;
  • Paraguay, summer 2018, with Greta Anne Herin, professor of biology, and Laura Yoder, professor of nursing;
  • Marginal(ized) Europe: Bulgaria and Greece, summer 2018, with Andrew White, professor of English, and his wife, Daria White;
  • Lithuania, summer 2018, with Jerry Holsopple, professor in the visual and communication arts department;
  • Washington Community Scholars’ Center, offered each semester in Washington D.C. allows for immersion into urban culture, while acquiring valuable work experience in an internship.