Left to right: (top) Anahi Ramirez, Ruben Avalos Arroyo, Jason Wong, Katie Zuercher, Jackson Hook, Luke Short, Elizabeth Eby, Cole Ours, Jacob Durren, Laura Troyer, Jonathan Reimer-Berg, Peter Kratz, Charlie Thornton, Clay Kauffman, (bottom) Maddie Renner, Kenzie Gardner, Morgan Pletch, Jonas Beachy, Ben Greenleaf, Olivia Beiler, Zach Bauman, and Hannah Landis pose for a photo at the Torres de Serranos, in Valencia, Spain. (Courtesy photo)

Students share reflections from summer interculturals to Spain, Ghana

As the summer comes to a close, students at Eastern Mennonite University reflect on their summer 2022 intercultural experiences in Spain and Ghana. 

The current trip to Spain and the past trips to Ghana and Spain are only three of six intercultural experiences this summer. The others include a 3-week seminar to the U.S West entitled “A Women’s West,” a local context 3-week seminar highlighting diverse histories and cultures in Harrisonburg, and the Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC).

Fall interculturals travel to Peru and WCSC. Learn more about future interculturals.

Read about students’ experiences in Spain and Ghana from the EMU intercultural blog below:

Spain II

Coming up on their last week abroad, the 4-week summer Spain intercultural program has seen everything from bullfighting in Valencia to the Royal Palace of Madrid. Led by Deanna Durham, the group of 16 EMU students will travel across Spain from July 6 – Aug. 1.

Junior Ashley Mellinger reflects on culture shock and community:

We have been totally immersed in the Spanish culture here in Valencia. From the heat and lack of air conditioners to different foods and paying for water, the culture shock is real. We found comfort in the small things and stuck together to get through the uncomfortable feelings. Just two weeks ago, a lot of us were strangers to each other, but now it feels like we’ve known each other for a lifetime. 

Read more reflections from Spain on the intercultural blog.


Ghana

The Ghana Year of Return trip is a unique intercultural experience: the theme is connected to the 1619 project which is honoring the “Year of Return” in Ghana and the 400-year anniversary since the first documented captured African was brought to Virginia. 

From the intercultural desecriptions: “This journey to Ghana is intended to be a healing trip for students of color at Eastern Mennonite University who have historical and ancestral connection to the legacy of slavery. Our learning will explore and honor both the pain and the resilience of our identity.”

Aliyyah Haggard and Rayn Robinson reflect on their first day in Ghana:

Monday was our first official full day in Ghana. We started off the day around 8 in the morning and had our first couple of lectures at the University of Ghana. The focus today was on the slave trade (from an African perspective) and religion and human rights. After class we went to a local restaurant for lunch then drove to the DuBois museum for a tour of DuBois’ Ghanaian home and burial site. Then we returned to our hotel for some dinner, and discussion time.

The rest of their week included learning about Child Rights and Protection and mental health concerns in Ghana, experiencing Ghanian theater and dance, volunteering, visiting a former Ghanian President, and much more.

Read more about Ghana on the intercultural blog.


Spain

Led by Deanna Durham and Byron Peachey, the 6-week summer Spain intercultural program saw 22 EMU students travel across Spain from May 9-June 20. The group explored several of the diverse regions of Spain: Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea, the central capital Madrid, Andalucia in the south and Asturias along the northern coast. Students stayed with host families, learned Spanish in an immersive program, and learned about the culture, history, and contrasts of Spain.

Junior Olivia Beiler reflects on her host family experience:

As we begin our last week with our host families, I’ve done some reflecting on how I’ve appreciated the relationships we’ve built with them. From our conversations every evening about our days to playing with our host dog Luna, I am so thankful for every moment of it. Two ways we really connected with our host family were through food and Lord of the Rings. Our host mom loves to cook and has made us many delicious traditional Spanish dishes for dinner. She has also expressed to us how much it means to her that we always eat all of the food she’s made and are not picky eaters. As for Lord of the Rings, one of our first nights here our host dad invited us to watch Lord of the Rings with him—little did he know Elizabeth is an avid Lord of the Rings fan. We picked up a little ways into the second movie with the audio in Spanish and English subtitles. Since Laura and I have never seen Lord of the Rings this was a bit confusing for us, but we have loved this special time to bond with our host dad. Now we are working through the third movie in bits every few nights and it makes our host dad thrilled every time we ask if he wants to watch some more.

Senior Jacob Durren reflects on trying new things:

Throughout this trip I have taken a lot of time to get out of my comfort zone and try new things. From trying exotic foods like octopus and raw squid to even just exploring the cities by myself, I feel as though I have definitely achieved that goal that I had set for myself. One specific example that sticks out to me is when a group of us decided to surf at the Beach of Rodilles. Although it was harsher conditions and the waves were quite powerful, I found the courage to put on a wetsuit and try to tame the ocean with my rented surfboard. While I fell almost every single time I tried to stand during the first hour, I still persevered and had some great encouragement from my friends on the trip. For the last hour of surfing I felt much more confident and was able to consistently catch a wave and then stand up for at least a few seconds. While I will not be attending any competitions soon, I certainly feel as though surfing could be something I would enjoy doing from time to time when I have the chance to. If anything, this trip has taught me the importance of trying new things even when at first they might seem to be too overwhelming.

Read more reflections from Spain on the intercultural blog.

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