By Ryan Cornell
As college students flock to the beaches for spring break, some students and faculty at Shenandoah University are headed to more exotic locales.
Beginning Friday, 58 university members are traveling to Albania, Bolivia, Costa Rica, South Korea and Morocco. The travelers will return to Winchester on March 16.
The trips abroad are part of the university's Global Citizenship Project. Now in its 10th year, the project sends about 60 members from the Shenandoah University community to explore five different countries each year, free of charge.
These groups include undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff members and university trustees.
Bethany Galipeau-Konate, director of international programs at Shenandoah University, said the destinations vary each year, depending on student and faculty expertise.
This year, a student from Albania and a faculty member from South Korea will help lead the trips to their home countries.
Although itineraries differ between countries, she said students interact with the local populace and visit sites such as health care facilities, government buildings and schools.
"It's not a tour, it's meant to be a cross-cultural, people-to-people travel experience," she said. "For many students, it might be their first travel opportunity."
To be considered for the program, full-time students in good academic standing applied in early fall by writing a one-page essay explaining why they wanted the opportunity and how they saw themselves sharing what they learned. A committee of former participants chose the groups out of about 300 applicants.
Media Relations Director Emily Burner said the purpose of the trips are primarily educational.
"[It's] getting folks to visit a new destination, experience a new culture and help them gain a better global understanding to bring back to campus and benefit the whole community," she said.
Burner, who attended a trip to Peru in 2010, described it as a life-changing experience.
"To be able to travel with students I didn't know, faculty members I just knew in passing and be able to build relationships with people at the university I probably wouldn't have been able to meet otherwise was just so fulfilling" she said.
To follow along with the groups, read the blog at learning-abroad.blogspot.com
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org