Coming from a multilingual background, International Studies Program Director Dr. Beatrice Guenther, who is originally from Germany, grew up in Japan and teaches French, believes that international service learning is essential to understanding different cultures and enhancing linguistics.

In order to help students advance in communicating and understanding various cultures, Dr. Guenther is teaching a class new to the International Studies Department called Intro to International Service Learning (INST 3800).

In some cases, students studying abroad might experience culture shock and not fully understand what is going on and what people need. This class prepares students who are interested in providing service abroad and helps them develop communication and education skills.

“It’s one thing to go abroad and say you’re going to do community based learning, but the problem is, if you have never done it and you’re dealing with culture shock, it could be a bad experience,” Dr. Guenther said. “The last thing we want is for students to stretch themselves thin and come back and say ‘never again,’ So this class is a practice session for going abroad.”

INST 3800 is an exploration of issues surrounding globalization as related to aspects of culture, politics, history, communications and environmental and area studies.

“We are learning how to create strong connections with these partners in our community so we can get the best results and learn how to overcome complications and failures and evaluating them in context for future action and services,” sophomore Zu Forshee said.

The International Studies Department is partnering with La Conexion, a community resource for the growing Latino community in the Wood County area and Us Together, a refugee resettlement organization.

“This was a pipeline I was interested in creating,” Dr. Guenther said. “Doing international service learning ‘glocally,’ which means we are local but are reaching out to global communities. Both groups have immigrant and refugee communities that are here in Wood County so you don’t have to necessarily leave Ohio to have an International experience and provide service.”

Students are working with La Conexion’s Youth Mentoring project, helping kids with homework and practicing their English. They also create a reference booklet about social services in Wood County for low-income families.

“With Us Together, I worked on a presentation for Syrian refugees that will help them be successful in higher education and finding employment in the U.S.,” sophomore McKayla Raines said.

Being a pilot course with only nine students enrolled, it is still considered a topics course in International Studies.

The prerequisite for this class is INST 2000, but permission from the instructor will suffice.

The idea of the course was made possible through enrollment in a two-year service learning community with the Center of Community and Civic Engagement.

The class is offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:30-2:20 p.m. in Hayes Hall 126. Dr. Guenther hopes to continue the course next spring if funding is still provided by the College of Arts and Sciences.

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