The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

March 28, 2012

William Penn students reflect on Rwanda trip

OSKALOOSA — It was an experience they won’t ever forget.

On Monday evening, members of a small group of people from William Penn University reflected on their recent trip to Rwanda and Tanzania. The Penn students and others on the trip recalled adapting to the culture, learning about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and some of the fun they had outside the U.S.

Penn President Dr. Ann Fields said the group’s time at the Genocide Memorial in Rwanda included outdoor gardens and stories of those who experienced the genocide. For some, the most difficult portion of the memorial was the section dedicated to children, which includes photos of some of the children killed in the genocide.

“You go from one to the next and you’re thinking, ‘that could be my child. That could be my grandchild,’” said Linda Wyllie.

Matt Lucas, also on the trip, agreed with Wyllie.

“It gave you a story,” said Lucas. “You got to know them.”

Karolyn Wojtowicz, graduate assistant for international programs with William Penn University, said the group’s itinerary led them to INATEK, a college in Rwanda. The group was able to meet with the president of the college and had an opportunity to hear a lecture on the 1994 genocide from an INATEK professor, as well.

Wojtowicz said one of the highlights of her experience at INATEK was when they met representatives from the student government.

“It really gave all of us the opportunity to really talk, student to student, about some of the issues we face with teachers who give you a grade you don’t like to how you plan events at the school,” said Wojtowicz.

Fields noted that the students at INATEK have been learning English for the past three years and that some of them were more comfortable with passing written notes to the Penn students in order to “break the ice.”

The Penn students also visited two elementary schools in Rwanda and saw that there were a lot of young people eager to learn, said Fields.

Despite the cultural differences between the Penn students and their African counterparts, those who went on the educational trip found that they all enjoyed American music and use cell phones on a regular basis. Penn student Melisa Wink said that she believes Americans do more texting than Rwandans.

While in Rwanda, trip members stayed at the St. Joseph Center. Wojtowicz said it was a bit of a “culture shock” to some because of the lack of amenities like hot showers.

“By American standards, this was kind of roughing it for a place indoors,” said Wojtowicz.

The educational trip concluded with safaris in the African nation of Tanzania. Fields said the group visited two state parks. These parks included a whole host of free-roaming animals including elephants, impalas and lions.

At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Fields and  Wojtowicz will give a Chautauqua presentation in the Chief Mahaska Room in the Dana Atkins Memorial Union. The presentation will feature members of the group sharing highlights of the recent study abroad trip.

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