Last week was our spring break here at Defiance College, and I must admit that when I look at everything that was going on, the term “break” just really does not apply. Indeed, sometimes I need to catch my breath when I think of all the places our DC students are traveling at any given time of the year.
I had the pleasure during the past week of traveling with a group of DC students to Peru. The students lived with Peruvian families in the town of Urabamba (in the Cusco region), and participated in service activities that included handing out shoes to elementary school students, painting murals at a school, building a stove in a village, and helping with after-school programs. We had the opportunity one day to travel together to Machu Picchu and that was truly a tremendous experience. I am continuously amazed by how much our students learn from and grow while on these trips.
While the students and I were in Peru, other groups of students were traveling in Ireland and in Italy. In addition, on the domestic front, we had students traveling to Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, and Missouri.
And there is even more travel coming up, with students leaving this week for Philadelphia (this trip is coordinated by the Criminal Justice Society), while next week about 50 students will be traveling to New York City. In May, students will be heading off for Tanzania and Cambodia, with trips to France and to Costa Rica to follow during the summer months.
We make a real effort to offer travel opportunities that expand students’ learning and knowledge without disproportionately burdening their wallets. Under our DC Global Program, incoming students who successfully complete the full four-year program at DC (in good academic and financial standing) are guaranteed an international opportunity in their junior or senior year. In order to make it possible for even students from families of limited economic means to gain the benefits of international travel, we subsidize the DC Global trip significantly for our students.
While specific costs vary by trip, students typically pay only a part of their air travel or hotel expenses and the cost of their passport, travel insurance and incidental expenses for international trips. Similarly, we make a real effort to offer our domestic trips at very low or no cost to our students. We work very hard to keep the student’s portion of the costs as low as possible.
This is all a significant investment by the College, but it is one well worth making. I have been now on many domestic and international trips, and I am thrilled each time as I watch our students grow in curiosity, competence, cultural understanding, confidence, and many other ways. These trips offer students opportunities to take what they are learning in the classroom and move a step beyond, by exploring those concepts in the outside world. They add wonderful elements to our students’ resumes, while also challenging students to think about places and people they have never encountered. They truly can be life-changing experiences.