ISLP makes first trip to Botswana
Back in January, Leslie Conner didn't know much about Botswana.
"I could point it out on a map," said Conner, a Georgetown, Ky., sophomore at the University of Louisville.
Her knowledge of the country has been a complete turnaround since then. Conner is one of 21 students participating in the International Service Learning Program trip to Botswana. The students have spent the last semester learning about the country in southern Africa and preparing presentations to teach high school students in that nation.
They and a team of UofL faculty and staff left Louisville April 28 for the 10-day service trip.
Conner and the other students were eager for the opportunity to serve, teach and be taught.
"I think I'll learn more from them than they will from me," she said.
The International Service Learning Program for years has offered students a unique way to blend service, education and the opportunity to travel abroad. This is the first time participants have traveled to Botswana. Past trips have taken students to Belize and the Philippines.
"If we're truly going to be an international service learning program, we have to look at going more places," said Tom Jackson, vice president of student affairs. "Beginning a trip to Africa was a logical choice."
As he and other organizers searched for new locations to expand the program to a continent ISLP hadn't previously visited, Botswana set itself apart, he said, because it offered a new perspective for UofL students.
The students will work in two urban high schools in Gaborone, a city of about 250,000 people.
"It'll be a unique perspective for our students to see," Jackson said. Other trips have been to more remote and less populated areas.
Trip participants come from the disciplines of: communication, education, justice administration and psychology. Teams will make presentations and lead activities for high school students on such topics as bullying, resiliency, alcohol use and abuse and persuasive speaking.
In addition to teaching at two urban high schools in Gaborone, the trip will include some cultural excursions and meetings with local officials and leaders.
Morgan Forrester, a Union, Ky., sophomore, will work as part of the psychology team that will teach students about resilience. She has never been out of the United States and said that she hopes this trip serves as a learning experience.
"I think I'll gain an appreciation of what we have, the opportunity we have in this country," Forrester said. "I really wanted to take this trip to have an opportunity to serve.
Communication faculty member Kandi Walker has gone on ISLP trips for nine years. Each trip is different, she said, and students come back with a better understanding of the world near and far.
"I hope they become better world citizens," Walker said. "This trip gives them a peek inside another culture to see how someone else lives."
The students will maintain a blog, updating it with photos and reflections about their experiences.