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Heading south for the winter

winterimWhile most of us will be returning unwanted Christmas gifts and taking advantage of post-holiday sales in early January, several Auggies will be heading south, not for the entire winter but to participate in study abroad programs and non-credit seminars. There are two “Winterim” study abroad courses–REL 480: Vocation & Christian Faith in El Salvador and AIS 305/490 Indigenous Issues in Guatemala.

This year there is also non-credit seminar on Leadership and Vocation in Mexico, designed for the students and mentors who are part of the Augsburg Scholastic Connections program. All these short-term programs are designed to give students a rich and meaningful learning experience abroad in a week to 10 days.

Cindy Peterson, the director of Augsburg’s Scholastic Connections program, is leading a seminar to Mexico titled International Perspectives on Leadership and Vocation. Five Scholastic Connections students and two mentors will live and learn at the Center for Global Education site in Cuernavaca.

The Scholastic Connections program helps students develop leadership skills and encourages them to discern their vocations through work with a mentor. Peterson said the travel seminar will expand on these objectives using Sharon Daloz Parks’ Big Questions, Worthy Dreams. “Daloz Parks posits that one of the tenets of mentoring communities is exploring the ‘other,'” Peterson said. “What better way to do that than through a cultural immersion?”

Peterson said the Center for Global Education staff in both Minneapolis and Cuernavaca helped her create an experience that will introduce students to speakers relevant to their fields of study. They will meet with small business owners, members of an NGO working on community health and development in an indigenous community, and a former president of the Community Land Council. The group will also visit a traditional clinic, a metal-works crafts co-op, and a Catholic faith-based women’s organization.

While the group will spend most of its time in Cuernavaca, they will have a one-night homestay with the indigenous community of Amatlan. Peterson said she is excited about this part of the trip and is also looking forward to spending time with a curandero (a traditional indigenous healer) and to participating in a healing ceremony at a pyramid ruins outside Mexico City.

“Doing cultural immersions makes people better people,” Peterson said. She has been to Guatemala and Namibia with other Augsburg groups and said she still feels connected to the people she traveled with and the people she met while abroad. “I’ve also learned that the world is a small place and that I have way more in common with others who are different from me than there are differences.”

Though Peterson said short-term study programs can be challenging, she encourages other faculty and staff to consider putting a seminar together. “These experiences are enlightening and transformational.”

Vocation and Christian Faith

Bev Stratton, Religion

Focuses on concept of vocation and the relationship of the Church to poverty, political oppression, and social change. Examines the ways in which Christian theology has been used to justify oppression and injustice as well as to support social justice movements.

Indigenous Issues of Central America

Elise Marubbio, American Indian Studies, Women’s Studies, English

Explores the contemporary issues faced by the Mayan peoples of Guatemala, who have survived for 3,000 years despite colonial oppression, genocidal practices, and contemporary discrimination and exploitation. The class will meet and talk with Mayan people, learning about their struggle for existence and human dignity and witnessing their enduring connection to land, language, and spirituality.

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