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Dozens of Connecticut College students travel across the globe during spring break

Rita Holak ´10 (left) poses with members of  the College's chapter of Habitat for Humanity during last year's build.
Rita Holak ´10 (left) poses with members of the College's chapter of Habitat for Humanity during last year's build.

During the next two weeks, dozens of Connecticut College students will travel to various locations around the world, including Uganda, Bolivia, Japan, Louisiana and Alabama, to take advantage of exciting academic opportunities and to give back to deserving communities.

Three groups of students will spend spring break traveling with professors to enhance their coursework. Government Professor Alex Hybel, Art History Professor Joe Alchermes and Japanese Professor Hisae Kobayashi are leading educational trips to Bolivia, Italy and Japan, respectively, as a part of the College's Traveling Research and Immersion Program (TRIP).

Students in Alchermes' "Medieval Architecture" class will have the opportunity to retrace the footsteps of medieval pilgrims through Tuscany, Kobayashi's "Intermediate Japanese" students will practice their Japanese with native speakers and Hybel is taking 15 students enrolled in his "Democracy in Latin America" course to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to get a firsthand look at the state of affairs in the country.

"Bolivia has been experiencing a dramatic political, economic and social transformation - one that has generated substantial controversy both here in the United States and throughout Latin America," Hybel said. "Our intent is to interview political, labor and business leaders who oppose and support President Evo Morales."

Hybel's personal connections in Santa Cruz will give his students access to these leaders. Through their interviews, the students will be able to analyze Morales' presidency. Santa Cruz has been particularly affected by the recent nationalization of Bolivia's oil and natural gas fields, most of which are located in the Santa Cruz region.

While their classmates are learning to speak Japanese and recreating medieval Tuscany, nearly two dozen students will be mastering the art of carpentry. Members of the College's chapter of Habitat for Humanity are fundraising for and participating in two builds - one in Alabama and one in Pennsylvania.

"I love the idea of building a house with a deserving family, not for them," Rita Holak '10, who will travel to Alabama, making this her third Habitat trip, said. "It is also a neat way to make new friends, and I always seem to leave with a greater sense of awareness of what is actually going on in the world and have an increased sense of thankfulness."

Katie Muldoon '09, the education outreach and communications coordinator for the College's Office of Volunteers for Community Service, has also organized a goodwill trip. She will travel with 10 environmentally minded students to New Orleans to help reconstruct City Park's botanical gardens.

"Our intention is to positively impact both society and the planet," Muldoon said. "People are beginning to move back to New Orleans and revitalize the city. It is important to maintain and enhance public spaces to create community and attract more people back to New Orleans."

Half way across the globe, Stefanie Hinman '10 will also be bettering a community.

Hinman will travel to Kaberamaido, Uganda, with Sarah Asayo, the founder of Asayo's Wish, an organization that helps Northern Ugandan communities become self-sufficient. Hinman, who is a certified American Heart Association Basic Life Support instructor, and her group will give basic medical care to the 200 orphans at the Asayo's Wish orphanage. Hinman will also donate medical supplies to the Elizabeth Durante Medical Clinic, a clinic that memorializes Elizabeth Durante '10, a Connecticut College student who initiated a similar trip to Uganda with Hinman last spring but was killed in a car crash en route to the airport.

For more information about the Elizabeth Durante Medical Clinic, Asayo's Wish or Habitat for Humanity, contact Stefanie Hinman '10 at (Elizabeth Durante Medical Clinic and the Asayo's Wish) or Rita Holak '10 at (Habitat for Humanity).

-Caroline Gransee '09

March 11, 2010