Central’s study abroad program turns 50 this year, but service learning abroad is a relatively new component that took root about 12 years ago. Service learning is an experiential component that allows students to learn and develop skills by volunteering in the local community. In many cases, these skills relate directly to students’ future careers by helping them learn about contributing effectively to an organization.
“Connecting two of Central’s strongest programs—service learning and study abroad—was a way to help students maximize their potential by giving them an experience they could utilize for the rest of their lives,” says Cheri Doane, director of Community Based Learning.
Two of the fundamental visions of service learning abroad are to increase global citizenship and gain valuable experience for future careers. “Service learning abroad provides a direct connection and interaction to local people and culture that a classroom experience simply cannot,” Doane says.
Service learning is available at all study abroad sites except Ghana. Each city has a unique culture and diverse opportunities for service, and residential directors help students make connections.
Opportunities change with city and semester, but past activities have included teaching English to kindergarteners in Granada, Spain, outreach to the homeless population of Vienna, Austria, and helping refugees acclimate to local culture in London, England.
Kendra Haack ’12 volunteered at English Academy, in Merida, Yucatan. While there, she tutored students ages 15 to 45 in speaking and reading English. Haack says, “As an aspiring immigration lawyer, the time at my service learning site taught me to never make assumptions about people’s actions. There were so many reasons people chose to learn English, many of which were truly humbling.”
Elaina Loyd ’15 volunteered at Centre Cerise, a community center in Paris, France. Loyd tutored children in English and led English conversation hours for both children and adults. This opportunity gave Loyd hands-on experience that will support her future plans to teach English in France after graduation. “I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned a lot about French culture,” Loyd said, “while simultaneously improving my language skills and making great connections.”