Usually when you travel, you return home with more than you left with— knick-knacks from novelty shops, authentic mementos, tons of pictures, and sometimes even a suntan. More than 30 Buffalo State students returned from their January international experiences with far more.
Their suitcases may not have gotten heavier, but their minds were filled with invaluable experiences, memories, and life lessons.
Four groups of students traveled to England, China, Rwanda, and Thailand. The trips were arranged in part by the International and Exchange Programs Office.
“Even though it was difficult, my favorite part of our experience was interacting and communicating with the people of China,” said Kelly Joan Conway, a junior fashion textile technology major. “We understood each other by pointing and playing charades.”
Conway was one of 11 students who participated in a short-term study abroad experience in Beijing, China, led by Christine Lai, assistant professor of business. Students attended classes taught by Chinese faculty at the Central University of Finance and Economics, visited corporations, and explored historically significant Chinese sites during their stay.
In England, where a language barrier is much less of an issue, students were still able to appreciate a dissimilar culture. “I learned that there is a whole side of the world that is completely different from our own,” said Vincent Ruffino, a senior communication major. Ruffino and 10 other students participated in the 2011 SUNY Model European Union conference at Exeter University in January. At the conference, more than 140 students from around the world joined to simulate a European Council meeting.
Buffalo State portrayed Romania, the UK, permanent representatives (EU ambassadors) for Cyprus, and Germany (with SUNY Fredonia).
Also in January, a group of six theater students and one alumna traveled to Rwanda, where they engaged in a theatrical exchange and collaborated with Rwandan theater students. The students also went to museums, genocide memorials, hospitals, and orphanages.
“The memorials we visited made me appreciate the gift of life, the refugee camps taught me that nothing in life is guaranteed and everything must be appreciated, and the orphanages taught me that life is too short to be unhappy,” said Lewis Sepulveda, a senior theater and public communication major. “After going to Rwanda, my mind has been opened to the possibility that one person can change the world.”
A series of presentations by students sharing their transforming experiences traveling to Rwanda continues Tuesday, February 14, and Thursday, February 16, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Flexible Theatre (Donald Savage Theater Building).
In Thailand, a group of 10 students led by Kim Irvine, professor of geography and planning and director of the Center for Southeast Asia Environment and Sustainable Development, visited temples, an elephant camp, hill tribe villages, and museums in northern Thailand. Students also spent time in Bangkok, visiting landmarks and taking in Thai culture.
Enlightened, empowered, and with a fresh perspective of the world around them, each student returned to Buffalo State with much more than they had started with.
Each year, the International and Exchange Programs Office provides students with access to hundreds of international programs sponsored by Buffalo State, other SUNY institutions, and National Student Exchange campuses.