Saturday, August 3, 2013

A History Major's International Experience on Campus (by Shannon Conheady)

The most common way that we, as students, learn about history is through textbooks and classrooms. It is often said that history is boring and pointless to study. As a student of history I beg to differ: history is all around us and the best way to see that is to interact with it. It happens every day; is your personal day going to make it into the books? Maybe not, but that’s no reason not to give the study of history a second thought. 

This summer I have had the opportunity to work with students from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia through the Study of United States Institutes program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. The History Department at St. Bonaventure University is hosting one of the institutes on U.S. History and Government. Twenty students are living here on campus for four weeks and have the chance to study, explore, and discover both New York State and United States history. I have also learned much about the cultures of these three countries and their unique histories. I have read about the countries in Latin America throughout my education but interacting with students who originate from these countries has been the best way to actually gain information about the local peoples. For the last three weeks, three other mentors and I have traveled with the students to a variety of locations. We returned from four days in Chicago, Il. last week and will be traveling to New York City soon. The students have participated in various classes on campus relating to the study of U.S. history and government taught by a variety of professors and staff members.

One of my favorite memories was the day we went to Darien Lake wearing the tye-dye shirts that we made the night before. We spent all day swimming, eating, and riding the rides, meeting up with different group members, and generally having a blast. Teaching twenty students how to tye-dye shirts was an adventure in itself. The sidewalk looked fantastic. This experience so far has taught me to appreciate cultures completely different and yet, sometimes very similar to my own. Though the histories of each country varies and you can certainly read about the differences in a textbook, the real way to gain perspective on these cultures and their histories is to live, as I am this summer, with their people. 

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