If you’re looking to take your international studies outside the classroom and engage in community service, then participating in a service learning class abroad is for you. Not every USAC program offers a service learning class, in fact, they are only offered through the Ghana and Alicante programs. At USAC Alicante you can participate in a service learning class that combines community service with academic instruction; focusing on critical, reflective thinking and personal and civic responsibility. Service learning programs involve students in activities that address community-identified needs while developing their academic skills and commitment to their community.
In Alicante, we partner with community-based organizations to provide students with an authentic and unique experience to engage within the community. If you’re wondering if the service learning class is for you, take some insight from the Spring 2017 students who participated in the class and hear how it affected their study abroad experience.
Students: Kylie Beneke (University of Iowa), Emma Berry (College of Charleston)
APSA is a non-profit entity and its first goal is to help increase the quality of life of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Kylie and Emma taught English to people between ages 16 and 26 years old with an intellectual disability.
This semester, I had the opportunity to work with Asociación APSA. Essentially, I got to help teach basic English to students with intellectual disabilities. We did a lot of games and interactive activities in order to facilitate conversation in English. The students were so much fun to work with, and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Saying goodbye to the students and professors was tough. Everyone had been so gracious and welcoming throughout the entire semester, and I only have positive things to say about APSA. Again, I am grateful for the opportunity, and I hope USAC can continue working with APSA in years to come. (Kylie Beneke, University of Iowa).
For the Service Learning class, I worked at a non-profit APSA, which seeks to improve the quality of life for people with mental disabilities. Every Friday morning, I taught students between the ages of 16-25 basic English. Prior to this experience I had never taught English or worked with people with mental disabilities. I found the experience to be both challenging and rewarding. The students were always happy to see me and interact with one another. They were interested in learning new things about the world. I found that it did not matter how much they retained but that they engaged and interacted with each other during my time.
I hope I have somehow made an impact on them, but even if not they have certainly impacted me. That is something I am truly grateful for. (Emma Berry, College of Charleston).
Student: Evelyn Oceguera (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
DASYC is a foundation for the development of social and cultural actions which the first goal is to prevent social exclusion. Their area of action is the Comunidad Valenciana and Palma de Mallorca (in Spain), and they are also now cooperating with a few projects in India and Guatemala.
Taking the Service Learning class while studying abroad was such a great experience. The foundation which I volunteered for, DASYC, is a great foundation that works with Juvenile stars, Adoratrices, And Residencia PMD Alicante / Juan XXIII. I worked with Residencia PMD Alicante / Juan XXIII, which is a center that works with elders who have personal issues or they are currently alone and need someone to talk to. I volunteered once a week and during my visit at the office I made phone calls to these elders and listen to them because for most of them that’s all they need is someone to vent to. It was definitely a great experience just to hear the lives of these people who some have been through so much. It was a privilege to work with this amazing foundation, the conversations I have had with these elders are unforgettable and truly life changing, it has been a great experience volunteering while studying abroad. This experience will definitely be taken straight to the heart. I thank the foundation DASYC for such an amazing opportunity.
Students: Rachel Niesen (Northern Arizona University), Madison Quinn (Colorado State University, Fort Collins), Victoria Wallace (Agnes Scott College), Kylie Beneke (University of Iowa)
Proyecto Paloma is a project that belongs to the Association San Vicente de Paúl de Alicante. The goal of this project is to help women and children who suffer from social exclusion by helping them in all the ways they can: they organize workshops, activities and free courses and they also give them access to services such as counselors, psychologists, lawyers, nurseries, etc.
For the service learning class, I worked at Proyecto Paloma, which is an organization that gives free classes to women in situations in which they have found themselves unable to support their families. Many times this is because they are refugees and are trying to learn the Spanish language and skills like cooking and other things in order to get a job in Spain. My job was to play with the children of these women every Thursday evening while they were taking classes. There were so many groups of children: older ones and younger ones. We switched each week with who we will take care of and all of the kids were very well behaved and fun to take care of! (Madison Quinn, Colorado State University, Fort Collins).
Proyecto Paloma is an organization that works with women immigrants in helping them immerse into Spanish culture. This includes providing classes in the Spanish language, Spanish cuisine, and Spanish etiquette. While the women are taking classes, we (the volunteers) work with their children. who can range from less than a year old to twelve or thirteen. During the hours there, we play different games and activities to help the kids stay active. This can include hangman, connect four, word games, as well as dancing and singing. This way the children can still have fun while their mothers are learning and taking classes. The great thing about this organization is it free for all the women and children who participate thus giving women who may not have the means to take classes, a better chance of immersion. For me, this organization has really opened my eyes to what it means to be an immigrant. I have had the chance to both talk to the mothers and children and many of them have dreams and goals similar to children and families in the United States. It also breaks the stereotype that immigrants don’t try to work with the community when this program literally helps immigrants become more submerged. Overall Proyecto Paloma does great work in bringing free classes to immigrants who are transitioning into the Spanish lifestyle thus giving them more job and lifestyle opportunities to support their growing families. (Rachel Niesen, Northern Arizona University).
Student: Estefanía Cervantes (University of Idaho)
Despensa solidaria de Alicante is a non-profit association formed by volunteers who work to try to alleviate the situation of people living in moments of extreme need. All of the people who make up the Solidarity Pantry team offer their help in a completely altruistic way without perceiving it more reward than the satisfaction of helping to create a more just and supportive world, delivering food to those who do not have it, attending to the passing families hunger. Since their inception in 2009, they have helped more than 10,000 people and distributed about 462,970 pounds of food.
At the Despensa Solidaria (a food pantry) I usually work for 2.5 hours a week organizing and distributing food to those in need here in the community of Alicante. While you are there you begin to learn about the processes that are needed in order to get food to this pantry, such as governmental contribution through supermarket chains, like Mercadona, and out of pocket expenses required in order to have sufficient amounts of food for distribution.
Student: Estefanía Cervantes (University of Idaho)
Cafetería Tierra Solidaria is a place where people can appreciate, obtain, and consume fair trade products and, in turn, enjoy cultural, social, and artistic events, according to the activities that are scheduled by ACULCO in their Land Solidarity Shop. In this way, ACULCO makes a cordial invitation to approach the store and enjoy the products and their events. The Sociocultural and Development Cooperation Association for Colombia and Latin America (ACULCO) assists in the voluntary return to their country of Latin Americans who are receiving the unemployment benefit and who want to return, in a way that is managed that they finish receiving unemployment aid in the country. In addition, the plane ticket is provided to the user who receives this aid called APRE.
At the coffee shop, Tierra Solidaria, I volunteer my time working on marketing for the shop. I create flyers to promote cultural events as well as the unique conversations with native English and French speakers during designated hours, take pictures, and manage the social media for the shop.