Monday, May 15, 2017

Day 1

It’s a bittersweet feeling I have, sitting in seat 25G, somewhere over the Atlantic. So many things have happened in such a short time that I have not allowed myself to fully process it all. So now is my chance; with nothing to do for another four hours, I’m going to sit back and let my raw thoughts guide my fingers. Buckle up, it’s time for this story to take flight.

Back in January when I was chosen for the International Service Learning Program in Croatia, my life was such a wildfire blaze with work and school that I didn’t exactly know what I had said yes to. After four and a half months of classes, planning, and orientations, now is the first chance I’ve allowed myself to pull the pin on the fire extinguisher and fire away.

The simple facts, I’m on a plane with twenty-one other University of Louisville students and five faculty members. Flying out of Louisville the day after graduation, our destination is the small town of Sisak, Croatia. Upon arriving, our group, consisting of UofL Nursing, Engineering and Communication students will be split between two local high schools. In these high schools, we will not only be teaching the local students, but engaging in a cultural learning atmosphere in which we will be learning tenfold.  We have been diligently working this semester to create lesson plans that will contribute to an open, fun, and engaging learning atmosphere abroad. Each discipline has intentionally designed these lesson plans to promote cultural development and exchange, contributing to a higher level of global understanding.

For some students, this program serves many a first for life experiences. We even have students among us that have never flown on an airplane! Though only a short 10 days, this program will be an enriching experience allowing us to become more receptive and excited about the beautiful world around us. For those that have never had the privilege of immersing ourselves in another country, this trip will serve as a strike pad for future matches of curiosity in our lives.

We are extremely excited and humbled to have been chosen for this program and to represent our remarkable University (recent alma mater for some). All our hard work this semester is comparable to tiny sparks now. This is day one, the ignition of the flame and as each day comes, it will burn brighter within our excited hearts. Watch for our next blog as we unfold our day to day experiences, but for full disclosure, you might want to grab some shades for how bright our future looks!

- Brittany Osborne

Thursday, April 13, 2017



Wow! What a busy semester it has been preparing for our upcoming trip to Botswana. It seems like just a few weeks ago we were beginning the semester and talking about our general fears and now we're suddenly about two weeks from hopping on the plane.


Our class has been a unique ISLP group since there are only six students traveling and two faculty members along with the ISLP staff members. The small number of students has its upsides and downsides as most things do. We have become close friends extremely quickly and the small number of students have allowed us to have more in depth discussions about everything ranging from culture and religion of Botswana to our travel fears. The down side to a small group is the added work for each of us to ensure we have enough lessons planned for our students in Botswana. But this has not stopped us, we are a very motivated and dedicated student group so we've all spent many hours inside and outside of class planning lessons and trying them out.


With that being said, we've finalized all our lesson plans are we're now teaching the rest of the class members so we are all able to share our knowledge with the students in Botswana. In the attached picture, Leah is teaching us how to count calories by burning food. We were all so intrigued by setting Fritos on fire and we have no doubt that the students will be equally intrigued. After we burn the food, we'll be teaching them how to weigh the items and complete math to understand how many calories are in food and what a calorie is.


In addition to the calorie counting experiment we have a few other engineering experiments we plan to take and share with the students as well. We will be completing a colloidal suspension, catapult and a rocket. In addition to the four engineering students (Leah, Meredith, Josh and Kyle) and their experiments there are two other students attending as well (Zahara and Alana). Zahara, a sports sciences major, plans to teach about planting flower and how they can help the environment as well as some yoga exercises that can be so important to living a healthy life. And Alana, an anthropology major, plans to teach the students about good dental hygiene habits as well as self-love and bullying prevention. Combining our unique majors as well as campus experiences has allowed us to create a jam packed curriculum with a variety of both fun and educational lessons for the students in Botswana to complete.


For over half of the class this trip will be our first trip abroad! I think this brings us both fear and a lot of excitement. I know for myself I've always wanted to travel the road less traveled and the thought of a trip to Africa seems like a great road to travel and experience a completely different and unique new culture. We've all been getting our immunizations and researching information on what we can expect when we arrive. I think there are some nerves for the 18-hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg but with such a fun and upbeat group I have no doubt we'll make that a fun experience too.


I’ll try to blog again before we leave on April 29th about our final preparations and hopefully we'll get some wifi in our hotel in Botswana so we can send our family and friends updates about all the fun we're having when we get there. Only 16 days and we're on a plane headed to Africa!


-          Meredith Cooksey (Chemical Engineer, Senior)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

That's a wrap! We ended the Belize 2017 program last night with a reunion. Thank you for another wonderful program!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Learning to serve Belize.

You can learn a lot about a country by its place names. There's so much about language that we take for granted, etymology being pretty close to the top of the list. A quick look over a map of Belize will reveal to you places like Orange Walk Town and Yo Creek. Double Head Cabbage and Punta Gorda and the Vaca Plateau. Lord's Bank is next to Ladyville is next to Middlesex is next to More Tomorrow. Teakettle and Crooked Tree and Bella Vista. The deliciously named Sapodilla Cayes. There's a place called Shipyard 20 miles inland (nomenclature, we discovered, owing to the fact a big Mennonite community of boat builders and sorghum farmers have staked their claim to that section of the river.)

At first glance Belize looks as though it's been rendered by a 6 year old whose palette was limited to the classic Crayola 8-pack. The land is green and the water is blue and the sky is populated with full-figured white clouds. The houses are red or yellow or orange. The roads are either black or brown depending on whether or not they've been paved. 

This is an oversimplification, of course. There are a hundred variations of shade and texture and sheen to any landscape once it becomes familiar enough. The Inuit have an infamously large vocabulary to describe types of snow, for example. It's simply a matter of knowing what you're seeing and paying close attention.

There's a pretty straightforward analogy here to how we experience new places. We tend to come in with our rough historical outlines and lists of current statistics and word of mouth preconceptions, all of which have some value but only up to a point. Even over short periods the world has a way of unraveling itself before us and revealing the myriad layers of complexity that lie beneath the surface of our biases and perceptions. There is much to recommend the combination of travel and service that we facilitate in the ISLP program, but the acknowledgment of this complexity is certainly way up there. Like so many lessons of real import, it tends to be the kind of thing that needs to be learned again and again, and in that way becomes a lifelong practice of sorts.

One of the surest ways to be reminded of just how wonderfully diverse and interesting and complicated the world is is to interact with the people that call that place home. Our clinic and our classroom have been amazing opportunities to share our skills and gifts and knowledge, but they've also been labs in which we ourselves have been tested. We've learned about one another as a group and have also been asked to reassess how much our individual worldviews have space for information that goes beyond the dangerously broad strokes of the general.

We know a lot more that we did before about two places called Dangriga ("land that is divided by a river") and Independence, much of this knowledge coming in the form of Belizean students and teachers and patients and assistants and hotel staff from both of these towns. This is perhaps the most important kind of knowing, so actual and relatable and pressing, so essential to any effort to make our world a better place.    


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Belize 2017: 32 students and 8 faculty/staff went to Belize to teach students in local schools and provided services in a dental clinic. The students and faculty were from a variety of disciplines including nursing, law, dental, communication and criminal justice. Lesson plans included crime prevention, personal safety, dental hygiene, setting and achieving goals and STD and pregnancy prevention. The group also visited the Lamanai Mayan Cultural Site,the Belize Zoo and explored South Water Caye on an island expedition.