France Griggs Sloat
Xavier students studying in far-away places discover the world is their classroom as they come face-to-face with different cultures, languages and people. Academics are the focus of the academic service-learning semester program, whether it’s spent in Delhi, India; Managua, Nicaragua; Kumasi, Ghana; or Over-the-Rhine in downtown Cincinnati. The difference is that the students’ daily living experiences make their studies come to life in a way that can’t happen in a classroom in Alter Hall.
“We try to identify the cultural components we think are important, and what we’ve done everywhere is talk about the history, the politics, the economics and the theology of the area,” says Susan Namei, director for the program. “We use the service site as the focal point to attach a face to what they’re learning. It makes the learning real and memorable, and gives the students a living context.”
Wherever they go, the students are always learning—whether at their morning volunteer work sites, in their daily afternoon classes or while living with their host families. Students in the program earn a standard 15 credit hours during their semester away by taking:
- Six credit hours of the local language—Twi in Ghana, Hindi in India, Spanish in Nicaragua, while the Over-the-Rhine students choose two other electives.
- A three-credit course in theology that examines the local religions and the impact of others such as Catholicism, Islam or Buddhism depending on the location.
- A three-credit cultural studies course that varies, such as literature or history.
- A three-credit service-learning class that involves daily journaling about their work site experiences plus a final reflective paper.
“Our goal is that they’ll develop some sort of solidarity and compassion with the people they’re working with and learning from,” Namei says. “The experience usually raises more questions than it answers, and they begin to see the complexity of how the world really works.”