Five William Woods University students and two faculty members recently traveled to Peru as part of the “Woods Around the World” global studies class.
While other students spent spring break in Panama Beach or Padre Island, these students chose to learn more about another culture.
According to participant Michelle Proffitt, what makes “Woods Around the World” unique is “the extensive hands-on opportunities and real-world experiences” available.
She explained, “Many students are hands-on learners, so they grasp and take in so much more by actually doing what they are learning about instead of just hearing it or memorizing it.”
During the semester, the students studied the history and culture of Peru, wrote papers and journal entries and completed class projects, all leading to the ultimate hands-on experience, a trip to Peru.
“Our class aims at globalizing the education of our students so that they gain valuable knowledge about the world and are better equipped for the future,” said the Rev. Travis Tamerius, WWU chaplain and class coordinator.
“In the class and on the trip we focus on what happens when individuals and cultures encounter differences and consider the possible outcomes of assimilation, annihilation or mutual exchange and appreciation,” he added.
Students who traveled to Peru were Eric Dunn, an American Sign Language interpreting/pre-med major from Bowling Green, Mo.; Bryn Hudson, an equine administration and theatre major from Carrolton, Texas; Katie Minnis, an equestrian science major from Manchester, Mo.; Michelle Proffitt, a communications/pre-med major from Warren, Ohio, and Jamie Strobel, a social work major from Berger, Mo.
Such trips serve “to enrich and enhance one’s knowledge of another culture by interacting face-to-face with the people, currency, language, cuisine—all aspects of life in a foreign country,” Proffitt said.
Hudson agreed, “The purpose of the trip to Peru was to get a sense of different cultures and try to understand them. It is one thing reading about it and another thing seeing it with your own eyes.”
In addition to Tamerius, Paul Clervi, professor of art and chair of the arts and science division, accompanied the students. Dr. Aimee Sapp, associate professor of communication arts, helped with the classes and planning the trip. EF Tours made the arrangements.
“We chose Peru because it is home to the Inca Empire, one of the most important civilizations in the history of the Americas,” said Tamerius.
While there, they experienced the cultural aspects of Peru and explored some of the world’s spectacular sights. They hiked the Andes Mountains, rode horses in the Incan ruins; climbed Machu Picchu; toured some of the world-famous cathedrals in Lima and Cusco; visited Ollantaytambo, an Incan vestige that was a military, religious and agricultural center, and visited Koricancha, which is the Temple of the Sun.
“I did not have a favorite thing during the trip because I loved it all,” said Hudson. “The entire experience was eye opening.”
According to Tamerius, “The students gained an appreciation for someone else’s way of life. They gained an appreciation for other cultures and their own way of life in America.”
“The most important thing that I learned,” said Hudson, “was to accept people for being different and learn from them even if you do not like how they look or do things.”
The students encountered numerous differences between Americans and Peruvians, including eating habits. Peruvians are accustomed to eating foods like guinea pig and alpaca, which surprised the Americans.
Many Peruvians are bilingual or trilingual. Most speak Spanish and Quechua, and many of them speak English.
“The language barrier was the worst part,” said Profitt. “I felt completely stupid for not being able to communicate with the people in the community. Having to pay for the restroom was interesting. . .also, whenever you ordered your food, you never knew what to expect.”
She added, “Being an American, we are closed-minded to anything outside of our sheltered world. Participating in this class opened up a different understanding of the world for me.”
Now that the students are back from Peru, they will continue to work on their final projects, which will be put in a binder to be viewed in the WWU library. They will also give presentations on their experiences.
Proffitt said, “It was truly the most amazing week of my entire life. Now, I’m so gung-ho about visiting many, many more countries. I just yearn to learn about people and their culture.”
William Woods University students and advisors pose at Machu Picchu (one of the newly crowned Seven Wonders of the World) during their Woods Around the World trip to Peru.
Left to right are: Jamie Strobel, Travis Tamerius, Eric Dunn, Katie Minnis, Bryn Hudson, Paul Clervi and Michelle Proffitt.