By Sydney Bucholtz
Assistant Features Editor
Whether it’s treating yourself to some stress-breakfast food and concluding that Eggs Benedict really does it for you, or happening upon a beautifully articulate French phrase that inspires you to download Duolingo and try to learn a new language, or turning the corner into an event with a club of people who you feel comfortable being yourself with, conveniently unintentional circumstances each day can, and do, inspire and teach about oneself. Vibrant, unique, colorful, exciting learning experiences are constantly unfolding even amidst the flux of school, stress, and work. One of the outlets of these potential experiences exists on the Canisius College campus: in the cumulative objectives of the school’s very own Service Learning Programs.
At times, it is difficult to distinguish between obligations and true aspirations or callings, especially with the fast-paced feeling that the college atmosphere has. Nonetheless, some of the most valuable moments in the scheme of a lifetime are those which involve instances of raw discovery. With every decision that people choose to make, a new path is being created and new discoveries of different magnitudes gain the potential to be known. These Service Immersion Programs are designed with the objective of providing a variety of gateways for students to tune in to the location that they feel most called to. After the process of applying and accepting students for the respective trips has been completed, the students can then pave their ways on these trips and engage in the true exposure of this extremely saturated, organic, spiritual experience.
The Canisius Campus Ministry office has executed a number of Service Immersion Trips, some of which have been located in Jamaica, Poland, India, Guatemala, and Kino Border. One student in particular has enjoyed personal experiences in India this past summer and is planning to make more discoveries on the Ndakinna Service Trip approaching in January. Lydia Beinhauer described her journeys through these intriguing places. “I noticed that the deadline was extended and it kinda felt like a sign,” she said. Beinhauer expressed that the deciding factor for sending in her application was the support she felt when she informed others that she was considering taking this Immersion Trip.
She soon found that she was selected to travel to India, and the group embarked over the summer. “We went to the city of Chennai in southeast India,” said Beinhauer. “We stayed at Loyola College for half of the trip, then went into a small village called [Kuppaya Nallur]. When we were in the city, we went to the worship places of different religions including Hindu temples, Jain temples and Sikh temples. We also heard from a series of lecturers about the oppression that the Dalit (untouchable) people face from the caste system.”
Beinhauer shared that their mission in India was to learn about the Dalit people, and she also spoke about her most memorable personal experience: visiting the orphanage. “It had to be 100 degrees outside that day,” she said, “but the kids wanted piggyback rides and they wanted us to race them and be very active with them. All of us exerted every last bit of energy that we had to be with them as much as we possibly could. They made it so easy to work so hard.”
She will be experiencing the upcoming Winter Service Week trip, and will specifically travel to Ndakinna this winter. “I am excited to learn all about Native American culture and to learn about the struggles that they have gone through,” said Beinhauer. “My advice for people going on a trip would be to rely on your team. You will be exhausted, you will be sad and homesick. But you have an amazing team to help get you through it and they will if you let them.”
In the midst of the fascinating growth for those in participation of the trip to India, another trip across the globe was also in session: Jamaica. Junior year Canisius student Jacob Ducoli commented on his experiences from the Service Immersion trip to The Griffin. “When traveling abroad, I get bored doing the basic “touristy” things,” Ducoli voiced. “I want to live amongst, interact, and immerse myself with the people and the culture of wherever I may be, not see the same things millions of other people have seen. Instagram doesn’t need another selfie of a tourist next to the Eiffel Tower. When I learned about the international Service Immersion Trips, I felt intrigued, passionate, and excited about the opportunities Campus Ministry were giving the students. I knew this was something I’ve always wanted to be a part of, and I just felt ready to apply.”
“What helped me make my decision for Team Jamaica was mainly the amount of time we’d be interacting with kids,” Ducoli continued. “I see a lot of beauty in youth, and I think that it’s important to celebrate the fact that they’ll be a part of shaping this world’s future.” Ducoli described his interactions with these children throughout the trip. “We stayed in a convent in Kingston, where we spent a couple of days working at an elementary school. We got to play with the kids and even watch the third graders practice their graduation ceremony,” he remembered. “My most memorable experience was when visiting the Marcus Garvey Elementary School, I met a boy named Antoine. He was the biggest boy in all of the classes, yet somehow connected with me, who was easily the smallest in our group, and wanted me to give him piggy back rides; plural. I spent at least half an hour with him on my back, and even though I’m abnormally weak, we stuck like glue the entire time. He told me his name was Spider-Man, but a girl ratted him out,” said Ducoli. “Before we separated at the end of my visit, he gave me a piece of styrofoam to remember him by, which of course I still have today.”
Ducoli reflected on his experiences in Jamaica. “I would love to attend another one. The experience I had while in Jamaica was by far my favorite,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about me and about living in the moment, and I’m so grateful for every factor that contributed to me being able to experience that. I’m broke at the moment, but next year’s a new adventure.”
“Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in something that seems so foreign to you,” he said, sharing the insight he attained while spending time in the group’s travels. “The beauty of life is to experience something so different from your everyday norms. Also, live in the present moment. Whether you find yourself in a different culture or are even walking through the quad to your next class, take a second, breathe, observe your surroundings, and appreciate where you are. It’s these tiny moments that make my day that much brighter.”
For approximately a week during June, students will be headed to a Service Immersion Trip in Argentina, as well as an Immersion Trip to Tanzania which will also take place from May 21 through June 10 this summer. Alice Zicari, Associate Campus Minister and leader of the trip to Argentina, discussed the process of applying for this particular journey. “We’ve had a steady group of applicants for our service-immersion experiences. The Argentina Spiritual-Immersion trip was new and advertised late this semester, so we extended the deadline to have enough applicants for the team.” Zicari also elaborated about what personally stands out to her in a student’s application. “A student who takes the time to write a thoughtful essay on the application,” she said. “For our Service-Immersion experiences, it is important students have past volunteer experience, such as volunteering through Winter Service Week. For the Argentina Spiritual-Immersion experience, we were specifically looking for students who are open to exploring their own spirituality.”
Zicari informed about how the new program being developed will place a greater emphasis on spiritual immersion, in addition to submerging in the Argentinian culture. “Argentina is part of our new program through Campus Ministry that falls under Spiritual-Immersion Experience,” Zicari began. “This trip is partnered with the Institute for the Global Study of Religion (IGSOR), which is run by Dr. Timothy Wadkins. This trip to Argentina is unique in that the students will be taking a 3-credit course in the Spring with Dr. Fernanda Astiz studying the Jesuits in Latin America through culture, the arts, and history. The students will also prepare for this experience with Campus Ministry on spiritual development through retreats, faith sharing, reading books, and spiritual direction.”
“Students who attend our Service-Immersion programs come back with a sense of what it means to be men and women for and with others,” Zicari noticed. She also advocated for students to immerse themselves, encouraging: “Apply for a Campus Ministry Service-Immersion or Spiritual-Immersion Experience before you graduate! It will challenge and change you in ways you cannot imagine! Students often tell us they wish they had done it earlier in their time at Canisius!”
Student leader for the Immersion Trip to Argentina, Emily Smith, shared about the upcoming trip with The Griffin: “[The service trip] is in early June; right now the dates are [June] 5 through 19,” Smith excitedly described. “I knew I wanted to do a service trip through Campus Ministry, and there was an India trip that I really wanted to do, and I did not realize that it’s only every other year. So I realized that India was not happening, but then I realized that Argentina was happening, which has not ever happened before, so this is the first time anyone’s ever gone to Argentina through Campus Ministry. I thought, ‘This sounds amazing!’”
Smith also described how the trip to Argentina would differ slightly from some of the other service learning trips. “It’s not a Service Immersion Trip,” she stated. “It’s a Spiritual Immersion Trip. We’re not going to do service; we’re going to discover ourselves… I’m so excited!” Smith also chose to apply for not only a place in the Argentina Immersion Trip, but also in the role of a student leader. “We’re going to visit where Pope Francis was born, and where he studied, and where he grew up. I feel really drawn to it, so I applied, and they were still looking for leaders, and I was like: ‘I’m going to do that!’”
In addition, Smith shared words of support and excitement for students with the interest of applying. “If you feel called to do something, don’t be afraid to do it just because you don’t want to fill out the application, or because you don’t think you’ll be good enough, or whatever else.” She conveyed that, although college is a busy time for young adults, it is essential to seize the opportunities at hand and potentially discover some new characteristics about our own individuality.
The Canisius Campus Ministry page describes their mission in the following manner: “The purpose of Canisius College’s Service-Immersion experiences is to increase student awareness of the world. These trips encourage students to grow in solidarity with the people of the world, especially the poor. Students will challenge themselves to live simply, to value relationships that they make, to engage their faith and spirituality and to dig for the truth behind the injustices.” Even in the presence of reasons not to put the scheduled life on pause by applying for an Immersion-Trip, it it is demonstrably evident what can be found after one decides to step away from the flux of everyday life. The pull of certain obligations is a necessary factor to the functioning of a college student, but following one’s aspirations is a necessity for that of an individual human being. Especially in the current existence of the state of the world’s operation, it is extremely vital that students ask themselves: “What do I want?,” “What do I feel?,” or “Where am I called?,” and simply go toward the direction of their honest answers, into the unknown depth of possibility and discovery that will await.