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Global Experience Program offers a close look at Jamaican culture

March 31, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Area residents interested in community service are invited to join students at the University of Illinois at Springfield for an up-close look at “Jamaican Society,” one of UIS’ Global Experience Programs. Participants will spend three weeks – May 16 through June 6 – in Treasure Beach on the island’s southern coast, exploring a side of Jamaican life that tourists rarely see as they work with teachers, organizers, and citizens to serve community needs. Those who enroll in the course SOA 474 Jamaican Society can also earn four hours of credit.

The group will be led by Jan Droegkamp, professor of Liberal Studies/Individual Option at UIS, whose 32 years of experience in international education includes two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica. Droegkamp has never lost her love for the island and has visited Treasure Beach three times before.

“The Jamaican people are wonderful,” said Droegkamp. “They’re warm, friendly, and open. I enjoy the music, the culture…and the beach is a big draw for me, too.”

She noted that participants in this trip will choose an organization to work with for the entire three weeks. “It could be a school, a women’s organization, the neighborhood watch, some non-profit group. Participants will work side-by-side with their Jamaican counterparts.”

She explained that members of the group will either live with a local family or in a guest house. “This course is a chance to become part of a local family, to meet with fellow students and Jamaicans to discuss what we’re learning, spend free time exploring the island, and get to know Jamaican culture and people,” she said.

A highlight of the trip will occur over the American Memorial Day weekend -- which corresponds with the Jamaican Labor Day Weekend -- when the Calabash Literary Festival, the only festival of its kind in the entire Caribbean, will take place. “Artists, writers, and musicians from all over the Caribbean will come to Treasure Beach,” said Droegkamp. “About 1,000 people are expected to attend, and we’re invited. In fact, it’s possible that some of our group could help with the festival.”

Droegkamp said that students in UIS’ Teacher Education Program may be able to use this experience to meet a state certification requirement for a non-Western course. TEP students may also meet their observation requirements through their work with Jamaican teachers and students. Future plans include ideas for an exchange with a teacher training college in Jamaica, possible practice teaching opportunities, and an expanded experience on the island. 

Estimated cost for the trip is $1,200 to $1,700 (includes airfare; does not include UIS tuition). Deadline to sign up is April 15.

Other summer opportunities in the Global Experience Program range from Chinese ceramic art to excavating prehistoric sites in Germany.  Most of the programs are also open to the public and to students from other universities. Application deadlines and costs vary by program. To receive academic credit from UIS, regular tuition and fees and registration deadlines also apply.

For more information, call UIS’ Office of International Affairs at 206-6678 or go to www.uis.edu/internationalaffairs/studyabroad.htm.

    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 40 degree programs – 20 bachelor’s, 19 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.
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