Students experience other cultures through

by Douglas Rojas

While volunteering in a school in rural India, Amy Bergholz found herself a part of the school community just like anybody else.
Bergholz would get up at 5 a.m. to pray with the students. Two hours later she would help out making breakfast, washing dishes, sweeping or doing whatever was needed to do.
“I didn’t see myself as a teacher. I felt very connected with the students,” said Bergholz, a senior majoring in English and German. She said she had no idea what to expect, but soon she realized her students were just like children everywhere.
As one of the recipients of this year’s Paulo Freire International Community Service Grant, Bergholz spent three months teaching basic English in an Indian tribal community school for girls from first through 12th grade. She and two other recipients, Avril Karam and Adam Sitze, shared their experiences Wednesday with about 10 people at Coffman Union.
Named after Brazilian teacher and author Paulo Freire, the $2,000 annual grant funds students’ research projects and community service activities abroad. The award is administered by the International Study and Travel Center and the Office for Special Learning Opportunities.
An international student from the Caribbean island of Dominica, Karam went to Senegal for six months to study the impact of colonialism in the development of this west African country.
Karam, a senior in international relations and French, visited an island off the coast of Senegal that used to be a last stop for slaves before they were sent to the United States. This visit, she said, had a profound affect on her understanding of the impact of European countries in Africa.
During his three months in South Africa, Sitze, a graduate student in cultural studies and comparative literature, studied the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The commission, established after the end of the white minority government in 1994, was in charge of investigating the atrocities committed during the apartheid regime, a system that officially segregated white and black Africans.
However, Sitze found out that good intentions sometimes can be offensive for people in another culture.
While in South Africa he witnessed a person being stabbed. Fascinated by this event, he wanted to talk about it but realized that he was doing what people sometimes do when they go abroad: focusing only on the negative aspects of developing countries such as a violence.
“People asked me, ‘Were you endangered?'” Sitze said. “No, I was in a library doing research.”
The International Study and Travel Center is taking applications for the next grant. The deadline is Feb. 12, 1999.