Many students have traveled around the world with Anderson University’s international and cross-cultural program, Tri-S. Since its creation in 1964, more than 16,000 students have studied, served and shared in these cultural and service experiences.
This past summer several students took the opportunity to travel to an unfamiliar place to experience a new culture and face the realities of poverty, hunger and social injustice.
Serving in India
Senior Frank Ebels was one of the students who traveled to Calcutta, India, through the support of his friends, family and church. The kindness of strangers helping in many different circumstances during the trip truly affected him.
At one point Ebels was separated from the group, so he missed a turn and was quite far away from where he needed to be for lunch. As he was walking, “a man noticed that I was lost and offered to help,” said Ebels. The man was going the opposite direction, but went out of his way to help Ebels. When they arrived at the restaurant with the rest of the group, “he wished me well and went on his way. I couldn't believe his generosity; he gave what he had to give and it was just what I needed at that moment.”
Ebels group worked in Nabon Jibon, which is a home for young boys with special needs. He helped around the home doing chores and worked with the children. He was taken aback by how genuine, kind and freely loving and encouraging these children were to him.
“One child in particular, Ujwall, had cerebral palsy and was unable to communicate and could not control his legs and arms,” Ebels remembered. Although Ebels and Ujwall could not communicate verbally, “we had some of the best ‘conversations’ I have ever had in my life,” said Ebels. “We were very honest and real with each other in a way we do not act in the United States.”
Working in Costa Rica
Another Tri-S trip this summer was to Costa Rica. Sophomore Gretchen Livingston used her Spanish speaking skills to translate for her group. She communicated with people as they were planning and preparing to add on to the existing church. The work trip team primarily focused on building a Sunday school room for the children.
The team went to the church service at the end of the week after building the Sunday school room. “It was very encouraging to see how appreciative the Costa Ricans were and the relationships we had established along the way,” said Livingston.
The students built many relationships during their time in Costa Rica. Alijandra is a missionary at the Christian Center in San Juan where the team stayed during the trip. Livingston loved getting to know others who share the same love for the Lord as she does. “To hear Alijandra’s testimony and see God at work throughout the country gives me a different perspective of Christians all around the world,” said Livingston.
Learning in Ireland
While Ebels and Livingston went on service and work trips, there were other opportunities for a cultural experience offered this summer. Senior John Holden went backpacking in Ireland while hiking ten or more miles a day.
Holden felt blessed by the hospitality shown by people he met along his trip. Strangers opened their homes to the team and brought about meaningful conversations. “They didn't seem wary of us at all, or concerned about people they did not know. I greatly appreciate their generosity towards us while we were there,” said Holden.
During times of frustration, confusion and cultural differences, students felt at home as the Irish community opened their arms and treated the team not as strangers but as friends.
One night in particular, the Tri-S team was stranded in the middle of a rainstorm with no where to go and an Irish family opened their home to the group. “The family let us camp out in their backyard and invited us into their home for tea,” said Holden. “It was such a good feeling to have strangers being so kind to us even though we are foreigners.”
These students’ experiences represent only three of the 11 trips taken this summer, but many more life and perspective changing experiences occurred. Tri-S trips provide students at Anderson University the opportunity to see first hand many different cultures and ways of life.
— Lydia Smith is a senior from Indianapolis, Ind., majoring in communication arts and minoring in peace and conflict transformation. Smith is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.