Students Travel to Guatemala for a Life-Changing Experience

With more than 40 January term classes this year, Loras College students had the opportunity to travel locally, nationally and internationally. All the courses have an emphasis on experiential learning enabling students to participate in simulations, research, performances, on-site or field studies, or other hands-on activities.

“International January Term courses are designed with specific program and learning outcomes that foster student research and exploration first in the classroom and then abroad. For many students, encountering and engaging with global issues firsthand can be life-changing and it is these learning moments that I believe truly transform a student’s college education!” said study abroad assistant coordinator Abbie Wiegel.

This year, 21 students decided to be part of a life-changing experience in Guatemala for a writing class taught by associate professor of English Breyan Strickler, Ph.D. Students spent over a week in this country, part of it in the remote Mayan Village of Semachaca, where they painted and helped with other duties at a medical center. They also visited schools, and played and did crafts with children from that community.

Students also had a class portion every day where they learned about different writing techniques and wrote creative nonfiction essay forms based on primary and secondary research. They also kept a journal of their daily activities. “We wrote about our experiences in Guatemala, all the while focusing on an issue as well as service,” said Morgan Rea (’15) (Rochester, Minn.).

Activities also included a boat tour in Rio Dulce, visiting Livingston on the Caribbean, trekking up a steep, precarious hill in foot-deep mud to attend a village mass, hiking, and some other fun activities with the group. “My favorite part of the trip was the boat tour we took in Rio Dulce; it was so beautiful! Antigua was also a ton of fun; everyone was describing it as the ‘Galena of Guatemala’,” explained Molly Rea (’13) (Rochester, Minn.).

The Guatemala J-Term was definitely a lifetime experience for Morgan Rea.  “This J-term remains one of the best experiences of my life. It definitely placed me outside my comfort zone at times, but I’ve never learned more or taken such a memorable trip! I feel a small part of me remains in Guatemala. Valerie and Breyan were amazing professors as well! I definitely recommend it.”

Katie Bakkum (’13) (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) also shared her sentiments about the trip. “Guatemala was beyond words. Simply amazing.”
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