Title: AU students prepare to serve the world
From tending to dying people in Calcutta to studying genteel literature in the stately halls of England's academia, students participating in the Tri-S program at Anderson University will be immersed in varied cultures this summer. Tri-S is a program through which AU students travel abroad to either study culture or perform a service such as building churches or helping the poor.
"It is not uncommon for people to have a life-changing experience while on Tri-S trips," said Willie Kant, director of international education.
Countries to which they travel, usually for 14 days, range from Mexico and Costa Rica to Hong Kong and Spain. Tri-S groups, led by Anderson University faculty and volunteers, take excursions once every semester. Roughly 450 students travel each year.
Prices of the trips range from a $95 trip to Mexico via van to a little under $3,000.
Cost is reasonable, because the students and leaders stay with host families or in modest accommodations while oversees.
"Which also helps when dealing with cultural issues," Kant said of staying with families. "The people we stay with have been in the country for at least 15 years so they can tell us where to go, where not to go, and answer any questions the students may have."
This is an important factor when traveling to some of the more impoverished countries, such as Costa Rica, where two American students were killed last year.
Kant said the incident is cause for mild concern, but asserted that if rudimentary safety measures are followed, Costa Rica can be an extremely safe country.
"At Tri-S our first priority is for the students' safety and health," he said. "We would never take them to a country we didn't feel was safe. Costa Rica has been the most stable country for the past two and a half years.
Stephanie Kline, who will travel to Costa Rica with Tri-S this summer, agrees with Kant and said she feels very safe traveling to the Central American country.
"Those students were in the wrong part of the country to be traveling alone," Kline said. "I made the decision to go to Costa Rica before that happened, but that incident has not made me scared to go. Not at all."
While in Costa Rica, Kline and several other volunteers will help repair a church.
Fluent in Spanish, Kline was an exchange student in Equador her junior year of high school. Interested in South America, she plans on working through an international relief program when she graduates.
Kevin Smith, a pre-med student at AU, will travel to Calcutta, India, with Tri-S this summer to work with the Sisters of Charity -- the order founded by the late Mother Teresa.
"It's a little scary," he said. "I'm getting all of these shots and it makes me think; there are diseases over there that I could get -- leprosy, tuberculosis -- I'll be working with sick people, so, you don't know."
Despite the limited risk of becoming ill -- no one in Tri-S has ever contracted a life-threatening illness as a result of travel -- Smith does not have any second thoughts about the trip.
"It is one thing to talk about service to God, to say you want to serve him," Smith said. "But it's about having faith enough to step out and do it."
Most Tri-S participants will leave in the first week of May and return toward the end of the month.
----Keri S. McGrath is a features reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.