Students looking to make a global impact have the unique opportunity to work in Greece this summer, assisting refugee camps. Study abroad programs typically have a focus on gaining credits, but this student lead program is looking beyond that.
“We are trying to establish this program so that it’s not just a study abroad program, it’s a student led initiative to establish a human aid network the reaches beyond Western,” third year Global and International studies major Marisa Weller said.
Weller has helped develop the program.
“We were running into a lot of new issues, since the idea itself is so new. But luckily, the school has been taking each swing and going with it,” Weller said.
This program is different in that instead of being faculty run, it is lead by fellow students.
“We also want it to be sustainable, not just a one time thing,” Weller said.
Before the start of the program, participants have classes leading up to it that focus on humanitarian aid, crisis situations and problem solving. Students can earn one to three credits depending on the length they choose, but that's not the main focus.
“We want to have a positive impact not just on the campus we will be working with, but Western as a whole too,” Weller said.
Alexis Lenderman, a senior in entrepreneurship and global and international studies who has completed six study abroad programs, is working with Weller in the development of the new program.
“This idea isn't brand new, there has been something like it done with Engineers Without Borders I think. But that was a one time thing. We want this to repeat, expand and result in going to different countries,” Lenderman said. “Once we secure grant funding, we can hopefully get more for the future.”
While study abroad programs have the trip itself and a possible essay upon return, Lenderman says this program has more to it. Along with the classes taken before leaving, there will also be ethics training and cultural sensitivity training that will assist students after their return.
“We want students to know what to expect when working with refugees. We’re making sure they are competent,” Lenderman said. “Also, we are developing it so that it can be a capstone and used as its honors thesis.”
The exact cost is undetermined, but it’ll be between 3 and 7 thousand dollars depending on the length of time a student chooses to stay. Lenderman says not to let money be a factor in deciding to go.
“We will fundraiser, campaign, anything. We don't want finances to be a barrier,” she said. “The students we really want to come, may not have the financial resources to do this."