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Real side of Paradise 

bahamas

By: Paul Alberici, Lion’s Eye Editor, paa5102@psu.edu

Each fall and spring break, Brandywine gives its students the opportunity to travel around the world, study abroad and take classes in a variety
of countries.

However, this past spring break, the office of Student Affairs at Brandywine gave students a unique travel experience to Nassau, the
capitol of The Bahamas for a cultural immersion and service learning trip.

Ronika Money-Adams and Stephanie Jones, the director and associate director of Student Affairs respectively, were the ones responsible for organizing the
trip. The motives for the trip were clear as were their hopes for what the students would get out of the trip.

“When you think of The Bahamas, you think of paradise,” Jones said. “I wanted the students to see real side of it all, especially the people and the culture.
My hope was that students would see the similarities with areas in the greater Philadelphia area to areas in the international community.”

The trip was run by “Bahama Shorts,” and was organized by the founder of the company, Valdez Russell. This company’s purpose is to expose groups
to the side of The Bahamas where most people live which, for the most part, is impoverished. A group of about 10 students went on this trip, all of whom are at different points in their college careers. Some were freshman and some were seniors. Other than the planning done prior to the trip, such as a book drive to help fill their under-stocked and out-dated libraries, most of them really didn’t know what to expect before they traveled down to Nassau at the beginning
of their spring break.

“I expected to do the events we did but I did not expect it to have such an awesome effect on me. I knew I’d leave with a better view of myself
and the world but I really had no clue what I was getting into. It was such an amazing experience that absolutely surpassed all expectations in so many
ways.”

Along with students from Penn State Brandywine, a group of about the same size joined them from Penn State York, led by their Director of Student Affairs,
Patrick Tanner. This trip had two components to it; a service aspect and a cultural immersion aspect.  During the service aspect of this week long trip, the students traveled to schools to do a variety of different tasks such as reading to students, stocking the libraries with the books they brought, as well as being an aid for some of the students in the classroom.

The cultural immersion aspect of the trip consisted more of the historical side of the Bahamian people. This piece consisted of a trip around historic
Nassau, sampling a variety of different Bahamian foods, learning about different festivals and customs of the people, shadowing professionals in the
students intended majors at the technical school, and even attending a class at the College of The Bahamas.  With all of these different memorable
experiences, students had a variety of stand-out memories from the trip.

“My favorite memory about the trip was going to the elementary school and middle school and reading to the children and answering their questions,”
Brandywine sophomore Kara Lester said. “They were all bright for their age that they often had me pause to think. One question, for example,
was ‘how many people actually live in the United States?’ They were so excited to know more about our country so it was really nice to be able to answer
their questions.”

Fatima Kebe, a junior at Brandywine, really enjoyed the historic tour around Nassau.

“Most people go to Nassau for the paradise island but never see the city of Nassau or the island of New Providence,” Kebe said. “So to be able to be given the chance to see what Nassau consists of was really a highlight of trip.”

This trip was truly life changing for pretty much everyone who went and had a different impact on each of them. In a sense, this fulfilled what  Jones and Money-Adams hoped students would get out of it.

“[I was] more than pleased with the outcome,” Jones said. “He [Valdez Russell] had a very enriching itinerary that gave the students the best possible experience.”

With the positive feedback from this trip, they hope to continue this trip for other students for years to come so more people can see both
sides of paradise.

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