While many University students are staying in Ann Arbor to take spring and summer term classes, others have decided to venture around the nation and overseas to take courses, embark upon internships or partake in volunteer groups.

By engaging in worldly pursuits, many students said they’re gaining far more than just an addition to their resumes or a fulfilled requirement. Instead they said the opportunity to mingle with people from different backgrounds and ethnicities presents a unique learning experience, as well as a chance to learn more about themselves and their place in the world.

Language studies in Italy

LSA sophomore Nicole Biltz is fulfilling the LSA language requirement while living in an Italian villa outside Florence for six weeks. In an email interview, Biltz wrote that the experience has allowed her to grow more confident and independent, and that by being fully immersed in the language she has been able to become more proficient in Italian.

“When we don’t have class, the workers around the villa speak Italian to us, and all the shopkeepers in town speak Italian,” Biltz wrote. “I believe that I will become more comfortable with my speaking abilities as the days go on, though I know that my accent is still largely American.”

Cultural immersion is an important facet of the trip, according to Italian Prof. Sabina Perrino, the program’s faculty coordinator. Sabina said that in addition to attending class Monday through Thursday and completing internships at an Italian elementary school, the students also have the opportunity to travel the country.

Social justice learning in the U.S.

The North American Summer Service Team proves that students don’t have to leave the country to have a meaningful summer traveling experience.

NASST, which operates under the umbrella of the Ginsberg Center, sends students to U.S. locations throughout the summer to volunteer with local organizations and explore social justice issues such as sustainability and community health, according to Lilliane Webb, business junior and NASST’s public relations and outreach co-coordinator.

LSA junior Holly Godden spent the first week in May in New York City with NASST working with God’s Love We Deliver, an organization that delivers meals to individuals struggling with illnesses like HIV and AIDS.

“I really liked going into a community and seeing how people’s lives are different than mine and also how they’re similar,” Godden said.

Recent LSA graduate Anne West’s NASST team traveled to Waco, Texas from May 3 to May 15 and studied agricultural sustainability with the organization World Hunger Relief. West said the experience has reinforced notions she learned in her courses at the University.

“I can understand better what I’ve learned in the classroom by taking it out and applying it to this kind of work, and then it resonates more with me,” West said.

Engineering sophomore Erica Mertz said her experience with World Hunger Relief taught her about more than just the organization’s mission. Near the end of their trip, they had to prepare their own dinner with limited tools, which involved catching and preparing a chicken for consumption. Mertz called it an “eye-opening” experience.

“When you buy packaged chicken in the store, you don’t really think about … where that chicken was raised or how it lived or how it died,” Mertz said.

Health care assessment in Ghana

The one-year, intensive curriculum of the Accelerated Second Career in Nursing program normally does not allow for international study, so when a summer trip to Ghana became available this year, SCN student Peter Kachur jumped at the opportunity.

“I’m really interested in seeing (Ghana’s) level of health care and their knowledge base in regards to medical care and nursing and learning about how they utilize their resources,” Kachur said.

Nursing Lecturer Norma Sarkar, the trip’s on-site coordinator, said that the group — which is made up of both SCN students and undergraduate nursing students — will be visiting hospitals and community care clinics, as well as teaching about health issues in schools in Tamale, the capital of Ghana’s Northern region.

Cultural immersion in New Zealand

LSA junior Kaille Meguiar is among a group of students who spent four weeks in New Zealand this past May with the Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates program. Meguiar will work in schools and on environmental projects to study and promote revitalization of land, language and culture in the small island nation, according to Cathy Reischl, an associate professor at the School of Education and one of the GIEU faculty site leaders in New Zealand.

Meguiar, who hasn’t been abroad before, said the reason she chose the New Zealand trip over other GIEU destinations was the unique opportunity to “join a community, if just for a month.”

Living with New Zealand families in home stays have allowed the students to get a firsthand look at local customs. LSA sophomore Hayley Sakwa said the home stay families take the students on a variety of afternoon excursions around the city of Hamilton.

“We weren’t coming here just as tourists, we were coming to live,” Sakwa said.

Sakwa added that her experiences in New Zealand have altered and expanded her perspective in a multitude of ways.

“I really liked how this trip worked very hard at making the effects of the trip itself last past actually being in New Zealand, learning the idea that you don’t know everything about everyone and that they have more to offer you than you have to give,” Sakwa said.

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