Monday, March 17, 2014

Elementary School in Felicity

Working in a local school is one of the unique experiences when it comes to the ISLP program. On my first trip to Croatia this was the aspect that we were expected to focus on and was the center of the curriculum. Being that the Trinidad trip was university focused I knew the experience was going to be totally different. When we began to discuss the possibility of working in a Trinidad primary school I had no idea what to expect. During our planning process this was not something that we seemed to focus on because the plans were still being put into motion. We walked up to the tiny two story school in the middle of one of the “Trini” neighborhoods with a vague plan and a few materials knowing we had no real clue what we had gotten in to.

Our presence was instantly discovered as the “Trini” students began to crowd around the doorways to study their new visitors. This is when I became excited. I do not want to make a career out of working with children but there is something about the experience that I find rewarding and enriching. The excitement in their eyes and their incredible curiosity gives me energy. When we walked into the classroom you could tell the students did not know what to expect. Awkward is probably the best way to describe how the presentation started. Nine college age students in the front of a small classroom attempting to get 17 middle school-aged students to participate in a large group discussion was just not going to work, a quick change of tactics was needed. This move was a testament to how versatile this particular group is, the transition was smooth. We all split up and took a small group of students to talk to, mine (all boys) seemed confused as to the purpose of the visit. After a slow start they began to open up, and once they did all of my excitement about the school was reaffirmed.

We discussed sports, food and just life at a basic level. I was with these kids for only a short amount of time but by the end of our conversation I had made four new friends. I saw a distinct switch in their comfort level when they began to accept me as someone they approved of; when this happened I did not want to leave. The timing of our departure was interesting because my boys wanted to spend more time with me. The bell for recess rang and the four of them remained in the room trying to convince me to come play soccer with them.

The four boys and how easily they accepted me is a memory I will keep with me because for a short period of time I got to learn and interact with individuals who, hopefully, were affected in some way by my presence there. This is what ISLP is about; it is about being able to have an impact, however small, on someone else.  

My mom is an elementary school principal in Frankfort. It meant a lot to me to be able to take a small piece of her school to this school in Trinidad. 

Drew Lail
College Student Personnel, Master's Student, 1st Year
~University of Louisville International Service Learning Program  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Experiencing the Culture

The 2014 ISLP Trinidad and Tobago trip was truly amazing! Leading up to our departure, we had several opportunities to reflect on the different events that took place each day. The moments when we were able to immerse ourselves into the culture stood out the most to me. On Tuesday, March 11th, Chandar Supersad, from the University of the West Indies (St.Augustine) took us on a tour and explained the history of the area. We visited the Temple in the Sea, saw the tallest statue of Hanuman outside of India, and even tried raw sugarcane. Everything was so colorful and beautiful!

Our next stop was to a restaurant called Fresh Foods, and Roti was on the menu. 

If you ask anyone what you should try if you visit Trinidad and Tobago, they will recommend this local item (including Doubles which we were able to try as well later on during our trip). It was delicious! It was awkward at first for us because we had to use our fingers to eat but we adapted quickly. This day was one of the many activities that exposed us to the country's culture. Overall, I had a wonderful time and created memories with everyone that will last a lifetime. Now that we are back in Louisville, I am very grateful for the experience and the people that accompanied us on the trip. A special thank you to Ms. Shirley, Ms. Pam, Alex, and Dr. Cuyjet! 

Kristia Worthy
College Student Personnel, Master's Student, 2nd Year
~University of Louisville International Service Learning Program 

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Last night I was a taught a word by a lovely lady named Sarah-Petal. The word is "tabannca" (pronounced tah-bahn-cuh). According to Sarah-Petal this is a word that Trinidadians use to describe the feeling you get after a closure in your life.  The feeling that you need to go back to it, that you won't be the same without it. A longing for that part of your life that is now finished. She explained it in the context of a romantic relationship, but it really has become the only way to explain how I feel right now sitting in the Houston airport.  


 We have arrived back in the United States after a week that I can not adequately put into words. ISLP for me started as a way to experience a new culture and to finally do something over spring break.  As an undergraduate I lived in Florida, so a week at the beach for spring break has never meant much to me. This week was so much more than I expected. I was blown away by Trinidad and Tobago. From the beautiful sunsets, to the remarkable hospitality and attention to detail, and everything in between.

It's hard to decide which thing was my favorite. I think I have changed my answer to that question more times than I can count. I feel truly honored to have been a part of Dr. Cuyjet's final ISLP trip as a professor (check out the picture of Dr. Cuyjet with the steel drum we gifted to him in honor of his last trip). I was inspired by the children we met at Felicity Presbyterian School. I feel lucky to have met the future leaders of Trinidad and Tobago through the Symposium. I have laughed harder, stayed up later, and learned more than I could have ever imagined in just seven days. 

I want to encourage anyone who is thinking of going on an ISLP trip to take advantage of it. As cheesy as this may sound, it really does change you for the better. The 13 men and women I have spent this week with are now people who I am bonded with for life. No matter where our careers take us, we will always have this experience with each other and I think that is priceless.

I have Trinidad tabannca right now, but I know that this will not be my last trip to the wonderful island. 

Mandy Parente
College Student Personnel, Master's Student, 1st Year
~University of Louisville International Service Learning Program 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Work & Play

On Wednesday, March 12th, we were able to have a mix of business and fun!  It was a great way to prepare for the symposium the next day. Many of us began the day by spending the morning sleeping in, lying by the pool, or shopping and experiencing downtown Port of Spain.

We went to NAPA, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) complex where the symposium will be held.  Some presenters from UTT and the University of the West Indies (UWI) were able to come and work with some of us on the presentations for tomorrow, and all groups were able to put last minute touches on their presentations and see the location and set up for the event.

The day wouldn't be complete without more pool time and a wonderful dinner. We were also able to share our experiences from the past two action-packed days through our reflection time and record our experiences through a group interview held after dinner. This is a unique way to let us understand our own experiences and share them with others who we might not even personally know. This makes our experience here even more impactful!

 Olivia Feldkamp
College Student Personnel, Master's Student, 1st Year
~University of Louisville International Service Learning Program 

My Story

I was born and raised in Louisville and even attended a local school for my undergraduate career, and though I have loved every second of being a part of the city of Louisville, my stationary life has allowed me to get pretty comfortable in my own little box.  This trip has been important in helping me break out of that box.  As nervous as I was about the trip, I was excited about spending time in the Caribbean and getting a tan over spring break, but in the end this trip has proved to be much more than I ever could have imagined.  
I have been snorkeling, I have tasted shark, I have chewed on an actual sugar cane, I have created pottery out of clay and water and I have learned more about the culture in the last four days than I ever could have learned in a book.  I have had the opportunity to meet amazing individuals whom I never would have met if it had not been for this opportunity and I have been able to have conversations with professionals in the field that I am hoping to work in that I never would have had otherwise. 
My favorite experiences, thus far, could be narrowed down to the experience in the primary school and snorkeling in the ocean.  If you asked me last week if I would be getting in the ocean, I would have told you ‘no way’, but right there in that moment I decided I would never be able to do this at home, and I strapped on my life vest, put on a mask and jumped in.  The fish were huge and the coral was beautiful.  The water was rough but crystal clear and although I was terrified that something in the water would get me, I did it anyways and because of this, I can now say that I snorkeled in the ocean and, ultimately, no one can take that memory away from me. 
The opportunity to visit with a primary school also proved to be a memory that will not be easily forgotten.  After talking with the students about what they wanted to be when they grew up and how they planned on getting there, we began to create small talk with them.  After some encouragement we were able to get one of the young girls to sing for us after she told us that she enjoyed singing.  My jaw literally dropped when this young girl opened her mouth and began singing.  She was amazing!  Kristia and I just looked at each other in amazement and then we began singing along with her.  Not only were we able to enjoy a moment listening to such a talented girl, but we were also able to share in the moment and sing along with her.  In so many ways we were different than these children, whether we were talking about where we came from and how we talked and what we ate, but in that moment we were so similar.  I will never forget that moment and how I felt so connected to those young kids, and I will never forget the way that this trip pulled me out of my box and into the world.       

 Whitley Edwards
College Student Personnel, Master's Student, 1st Year
~University of Louisville International Service Learning Program 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

One of a Kind

On Saturday we went on a Glass Bottom Boat Tour.  At first I thought it was going to be an adventure were we just looked down through the glass to see what was under the sea.  However, when the captain introduced himself as, Captain Jack, I knew we were in for a real adventure.  We got everybody to go out on the boat, even though some of us were apprehensive at first.  Once we were out on the water in the boat, our first stop was the opportunity to go snorkeling and most of us got out in the water to experience the coral and fish.  The next stop was “The Fountain of Youth”; it was a sand bar or shallow area.  We got everybody out in the water even if they were scared. Our team encouraged and helped overcome any fears any of us had about getting in the water.  It was a true bonding experience. We came together as a team and I realized that this is the group that I will have this experience with.  Even those who have been on this trip before had a different experience.  Our team is... one of a kind.

Sara Clifton
College Student Personnel, Master's Student, 1st Year
~University of Louisville International Service Learning Program


Kayaking in Tobago

While in Tobago at the Grafton Beach Resort Hotel I had the opportunity to go kayaking off the shores of the Caribbean ocean. I had never been kayaking before, but have always wanted to try it. Although Drew and Sara had kayaked before, they were more than willing to accompany me on this adventure. The weather was beautiful and the water was so clear and blue it looked as though it belonged on a postcard. 
We started out by following the shoreline until we reached a rock point. When we rounded the bend we could see the island curve around and the mountains rising up in the distance. We decided to cut across the ocean to the other side of the beach, but kayaking requires more work than I expected. The wind created a great breeze on our faces, however, it made the ocean choppy which made it harder to paddle and keep up our momentum. In the end Sara and I decided to turn back and head towards the shore while Drew continued on to the other side of the beach. On the way back Sara and I saw flying fish jump out of the water in front of us. I had never seen flying fish up close before and it was amazing to be able to see their fins rapidly keeping them aloft. Right before we pulled up onto the beach we passed a boat that had been moored out in the ocean for Pelicans to rest and relax. I was nervous to pass by too close because I was afraid that they would attack us; they were so big! Thankfully they just ignored us and we passed by without incident. Overall it was an amazing experience and I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to experience kayaking while in Tobago.

 Sarah Exner
College Student Personnel, Master's Student, 1st Year
~University of Louisville International Service Learning Program