Short-But-Sweet Service Learning Summer Course in Australia Inspires U.S. Student
When Erica Graves, a recent graduate of Fitchburg State University, planned her strategy for studying abroad in Australia, she decided to not only go deep, but to go short, with an intensive four-week program that combined service learning with cultural exposure.
The program, called the Community Engagement Learning Project and part of the University of Adelaide’s summer school, matches student skills to community and business needs to develop cultural awareness. Organized over 4 weeks, the program, offered by GlobaLinks Learning Abroad, links students with community organizations so they become active participants in their host organization, engage with members of the community and develop skills that will make them better able to contribute to society as global citizens.
Graves, 23, wanted to study abroad in a way that exposed her as much as possible to Australian culture in a short time before returning to the U.S. to finish her communications degree and psychology and international studies minors.
“I was placed with WIS, Women’s Information Service,” she said of the organization, which provides information to South Australian women online, by phone and in person. “Here I was able to work at the storefront seeing all the services that were available for women in primarily South Australia. I was also taken to an information hub within the community that holds information pamphlets available to women.”
Graves had classroom hours 4 days a week for about an hour and also spent about 8 eight hours on one day of the week at WIS. During class hours, Graves and the other students discussed each of their different organizations, and at the conclusion of the course, were required to complete a research paper.
“The women I worked with were very open and pleased to discuss their culture with me,” she says. “Not only were they willing to discuss their way of life but were interested in my way of life as well.”