Print This Post

UIndy students travel for Spring Term

Posted on 09.25.2013

While some University of Indianapolis students spent their Spring Term in the classroom here on campus, some took the opportunity to study abroad. Some traveled to Japan, and focused on peace studies and abolishing nuclear weaponry. Others traveled to Cuba and saw first-hand the effects that the U.S. embargo has had on the country. Still others, a group of nursing students, traveled around Ecuador and gave medical assistance to people who may never before have been treated.


Students who traveled to Japan visited Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Edajima Island and Nagasaki. In Kyoto, the students visited a Buddhist temple, where they learned some of the traditions of the Japanese culture.


The student group traveled to Japan. Contributed by Dr. Greta Pennell

The student group traveled to Japan. Contributed by Dr. Greta Pennell

“One of my favorite experiences was staying at Shunkoin Temple in Kyoto. Some of the things we did there were the tea ceremony and the meditation,” said junior visual communication design major Joshua McMahan. “I really liked listening to Reverend Taka talk about some philosophy on peace and living.”

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the students were able to see the different peace parks that resulted from the bombings during World War II.

“Nagasaki was quite different than Hiroshima in terms of their peace park. One of the differences was Nagasaki made a park around the hypocenter, where the bomb ignited at, and they had a little monument there. [At] Hiroshima they didn’t. The hypocenter is a couple of blocks from the park,” McMahan said. “Nagasaki had a lot of statues and figures, and a lot of them were donated from other countries to show support.”

On the trip, the students encountered some culture shock, but the differences in the cultures ended up being memorable.

“My favorite part of the trip was just going out and seeing everything, just because in the Japanese culture there are similarities, but there are a lot of differences. Just getting to see this whole other place was probably the best experience,” said sophomore archeology major Elizabeth Smith.

At the end of the trip, the students made presentations on what they had learned from the trip. McMahan’s presentation was an art piece made with chalk pastels.

“It basically reflects the whole experience—from inner peace and outer peace and a representation of it all—and it broke down the three major cities that we visited, using some of the Japanese art and some of the art Reverend Taka talked about,” McMahan said.

Smith presented an exhibit for a museum based on what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I’m in the process of writing the proposal letter to the Children’s Museum about having an exhibit that showcases what happened in Hiroshima [and Nagasaki] and how Hiroshima [and Nagasaki] adapted from what happened,” Smith said.

McMahan said that he would like to go back to Japan and become an ambassador of peace and help with the abolishment of nuclear weapons.

“One of my goals is to live and work abroad in Japan so being able to go really fueled my ambitions to go there,” McMahan said.





Students had the rare opportunity to travel to Cuba through a People to People Visa,

a special license issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The People to People Ambassador Program offers exclusive trips to Cuba for Citizen Ambassadors.

According to the program’s website, “Citizen Ambassador trips are the perfect mix of professional development, cultural exchange, and the experience of a lifetime. Our trips to Cuba offer a unique opportunity to extend professional and cultural understanding in a country whose borders are typically closed to American travelers.”

Senior biology major Connor Warren said that this program and the travel loophole allowed the group a glimpse at the other side of the Cuba debacle.

“That was the coolest part for me, this loophole that got us to Cuba. We got to peek behind the veil. It’s a place that people haven’t been [to] for 65 to 70 years, and this loophole has only been open for three years,” Warren said. “We got to go to a place that has constantly been demonized from our side. It turns out what’s down there are people just like here. The more that I travel, the more I realize [that] everywhere you go, people are exactly the same. We met new friends, we fell in love, we learned.”

As part of that learning experience, students were able to meet with people who worked within the literacy campaign, through which people of all ages taught others how to read and write.

“Here [in the U.S.] history seems way in the past. But you were actually living the history there [Cuba]. These people, who were part of these campaigns and part of their recent history were showing you it,” said senior music major Addie Ratcliff. “It wasn’t like you were learning—it was like you were experiencing.”

The People to People program asked the students to tell their interests and majors, so the trip was tailored to each individual.

“So next year, it will be an entirely different trip—maybe you’d get to talk to some of the same people, and I’m sure they have some staples they want you to go see like going down to Havana,” Warren said.

Most of the trip focused on educating the group about the impact of the embargo placed on Cuba by the United States government.

“It has a much bigger connotation down there. We say embargo, [and] you think we cut you off. They say ‘blockade;’ it’s more like ‘you’re barring us from the rest of the world,’” Warren said. “One of the most important parts of the trip was the spreading of information, because right now there is this extraordinary lack of information. This [trip] comes [at] a very unique time because it is still going on.”

Group members said the people they met on the trip taught them a lot about the current political views and campaigns of Cuba.

“They were communist when they were with the Soviet Union. When [the] Soviet Union fell, they became more socialist. What that boils down to is that they believe that no matter where you’re born, [or] who you are, you deserve a couple of rights, and those are health, housing and education,” Warren said. “They believe that those three things should be yours.”

The group also learned how Cuba has sustained its country while using out-of-date technology.

“Everybody has free healthcare, and they believe a lot in preventative medicine instead of after-the-fact [medicine] like we do. In America, you get sick [and] we treat it. In Cuba they’ve been treating you your entire life, so you don’t get sick, and it leads to a much healthier population,” Warren said. “They are very inventive in that field as well, like they’ve invented a new vaccine that covers three or five of our vaccines, and this is while being barred off from the world and working with 1960s technology.”



Organized through the School of Nursing and Missions Society in Greenwood, a team of nursing students from UIndy traveled to Ecuador. They set up medical clinics in rural villages while also doing some health education. The team traveled to Quito, Loja, Tutupali, Napurak, Kurintza and Yantzaza.

Junior nursing major Amberly Robertson said that the Ecuadorians were happy with the limited resources that they had.

The whole medical team that traveled to Ecuador. Photo Contributed by Julie Votaw

The whole medical team that traveled to Ecuador. Photo Contributed by Julie Votaw

“It was just really amazing, because in every village—it wasn’t just one in particular—the people were so happy and so grateful that we were there and just happy people in general even though they had nothing. But they didn’t know they didn’t have anything,” Roberts said.

Not everyone who went on the trip was from UIndy. There were other medical personnel, missionaries who live in Ecuador and a student from Tennessee. The group from UIndy built relationships with the other people and the people of Ecuador.

“When you’re with people for two and a half weeks, they become your second family,” said junior nursing major Julie Votaw. “The missionaries became my parents for two and a half weeks.”

Before going on the trip, group members did not really know each other because each person was in a different stage of the nursing program, but they soon became close through their work with the people of Ecuador.

“We had a really good group that went. Everyone got along [and] there weren’t really any cliques; we were all right there for each other cheering each other on the whole week through, and you just never wanted it to end,” Robertson said.

While working in Tutupali, the group had the chance to play with the kids of the village and teach them games such as the Hokey Pokey. In Napurak, Votaw said children came up to her and gave her coloring pages, just to thank her for being there.

“It was so humbling to know that these kids have absolutely nothing and yet they are so grateful that we’re there, that they want to give something to us to remember them by,” Votaw said.

According to Votaw, medical care in Ecuador is lacking, compared to what the United States has. Some villages, like Tutupali, had never had medical care before.

“In the capital city of Ecuador, Quito, their largest hospital can’t even perform basic routine medical procedures that we would have here,” Votaw said. “We saw people with congenital heart defects that should have been fixed when they were born, and now they are seven, eight years old living with a hole in their heart or things that would be easily treated here [in the U.S.] [that] they just don’t have access to because they have such few hospitals.”

The group received blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes donated for their trip. At the end of the trip, the group gave everything to a hospital in Yantzaza.

Votaw and Robertson want to go back to Ecuador and continue giving medical attention to the people.

“There are other places that have that need, but our hearts are really in Ecuador. I can genuinely say that half my heart is in Ecuador,” Votaw said. “The people are what make Ecuador. They are just the sweetest, kindest people, and we’re so fortunate here. Just to be able to give back and show those people love was amazing.”

Robertson said that she thought the people the group met were amazing and made an impact on her life.

“We went expecting to change those peoples’ lives with the health care, but I can honestly say for every one of us that went on the trip, [that] those people changed us,” Robertson said. “I have never met a group of people that had so much love. These people, they were so welcoming and they were just smiling and happy we were here. Not only the people in the villages that we met but the missionaries that were on the trip with us that live in Ecuador—they were just the greatest people.”


RSS Feed  Follow Us on Twitter  Facebook Profile