Worcester State Students Go Global at Heifer International

March 25, 2013
By: Worcester State University News

On March 20-22, 14 Worcester State University students took part in Heifer International’s Global Gateways Program at Overlook Farm in Rutland, Mass. Sponsored by WSU’s Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement, this is the second year WSU students have made the trek for Global Gateways, a program that combines farm work with educational workshops meant to give students a view of resource allocation and sustainable farming techniques.

“Students get a feel for both the differences and the interconnected between ourselves and other cultures,” said Director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement Mark Wagner. “I don’t know if it’s my luck, but this is the second year I’ve spent the time in Tibet, living like a nomadic yak herder. I love it. The time in the village teaches an appreciation for the struggles and hardships of other cultures, but also how their lives are in some ways simpler and closer to the earth than our own.”

This year’s group from WSU included students from two programs: Dr. Aldo Guevara’s class on United States-Nicaraguan history and the Community Leadership Experience at WSU (CLEWS). The group also had two international students, two seniors, and a lot of enthusiastic learners.

“It’s fun to watch the group go through anxieties and doubts and come to just enjoy an experience that takes us out of our comfort zone and into world culture,” Dr. Wagner said. “It’s not every day you have to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning and restart a fire, but looking up at the moon in the middle of a cold, spring night is a powerful experience.”

During the course of the Global Gateways program, participants begin and end the day with farm chores, and in between learn about the interconnectedness of the global food chain, and gain a deeper understanding of sustainable agriculture and life on Overlook Farm. As noted, the program also includes a night in the Global Village, in which student live the lifestyle of another culture. This year, students, chosen by lottery, lived in Tibet and in Poland, made traditional meals from locally grown foods, and did a case study of each culture. They also go to “the market,” a simulation of what it is like to buy food and supplies in an open air, chaotic marketplace. By living the rhythms, markets and cultural differences first-hand, participants deepen their understanding of our world and may come see their connection to creating change in the world.

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