If you were on campus during J-Term, you’ve probably heard people describe it as quiet, chill, boring, or weird. Students start the spring term off with a three-week intensive course. They can take up world literature, bible, a major class, or experience a different pace of life altogether through going on a cross-cultural trip.
Through cross-cultural courses, students study history, culture or engage in a different community. Messiah students who returned from the trips were able to sit back and reflect on their experience.
“While all my friends were going to countries in Europe, I wanted to go out of my comfort zone,” said Rauhut. She decided on Ghana, upon hearing that the trip would be Dr. Dzaka’s last venture. Rauhut was also excited to experience a different part of the world.
Students spent the first four days in Accra, the capital of Ghana, Elmina castle and Cape Coast, the Southern part of Ghana, learning about the culture and history. For most of the trip, students spent time in Sokode-Gbogame, a village in the southeastern part of the country. Students were able to learn more about the culture and live it out on a day-to-day basis, according to Rauhut.
The trip involved students from different majors which meant they were involved in different projects. Rauhut, as well as other students from the humanities department, worked in schools. Rauhut and a friend taught eighth grade English together. “I had never made a lesson plan, and it was my first time teaching English to non-English speakers,” said Rauhut.
For a week and a half, Messiah students spent an hour a day with their assigned host families. Besides enjoying her time with eighth graders, Rauhut appreciated the strong bond formed with her host family. “I know I will stay in touch with them for life,” said Rauhut.
Students were also able to experience bonding in the community on a meaningful level. “At my host family’s house, we would eat meals together all the time, and that’s the time we got to experiment and ask them questions about their culture and talk with them. I wish eating together was more of a thing in America,” said Rauhut.
On the other hand, there were Messiah students who chose to learn about the implications of community outreach and the local church in sunny Southern California. Senior Susanne Hart was interested in volunteering with the homeless community. “The reason I chose it was based on the city I come from where there’s not quite as much homelessness [as in California] but there’s still a lot of it,” said Hart.
Messiah students spent time in the Dream Center elementary school in downtown LA, as well as two different non-profits in Big Bear. They worked with a food truck and handed out food donations. Hart recalls an occasion after handing out food in MacArthur Park when students prayed for locals. “Their main goal is to meet the needs, then to meet their prayer needs,” said Hart. According to Hart, the program teaches students that it is easier to connect with people after they have been given food.
During Hart’s time in the Dream Center, she was surprised by the response of
the community to their volunteering. “One thing that surprised me was how willing the people we were serving were to help us,” she said. Hart was inspired on the second day when students were bagging food and the recipients started helping them bag the food.
Cross-cultural experiences are always new, unexpected and unforgettable. Being in a different place and community enables one to embrace new experiences and perhaps become a new version of yourself. “You never know until you try,” said Rauhut. Cross-cultural experiences can also mean going through a different phase of life than you’re used to. “You can’t fully comprehend it until you’re in the middle of it and you’re seeing it,” said Hart.