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Program enables students to confront societal issues in international settings

| Friday, September 29, 2017

The goal of the International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP) is for students to become aware of complex social issues that will help them discern their responsibility as global citizens in our world, director of international engagement at the Center for Social Concerns Rachel Tomas Morgan said.

ISSLP is a community-based learning abroad program Tomas Morgan designed, implemented and directs, according to the Center for Social Concerns website. The program has averaged 300 applications annually and has 64 positions available to freshman, sophomores and juniors, Tomas Morgan said.

“Students encounter day-to-day realities facing local communities in international settings,” she said in an email. “We have some amazing sites of deep learning and cultural immersion.  I encourage students to come to an ISSLP Information Session and to come by Geddes Hall to review binders full of information from past participants so as to discern which sites are the best fit for their own particular interests, skills and experiences.”

Students participating in an ISSLP in Buenos Aires, Argentina engage with the local community in a schoolyard game.Photo courtesy of Lindsey Whalen
Students participating in an ISSLP in Buenos Aires, Argentina engage with the local community in a schoolyard game.


Online applications close on Oct. 29, and site committees review these applications throughout the month of November. Students are then invited to interviews for positions, and confirmations of participation are due by Dec. 27.

“While it is a competitive process, we encourage all students — frosh, sophomores and juniors — who can see themselves living and working in community with communities to apply,” Morgan said.

Senior Molly Knapp spent 10 weeks in Trujillo, Honduras for her ISSLP during the summer after her sophomore year. Knapp worked at a Catholic children’s home as a special education, English and math teacher for elementary and middle school kids.

“Some of my favorite memories would definitely be in the classroom,” Knapp said. “It was always awesome when I was teaching a difficult math concept and to finally see the light go on in one of the kid’s eyes who had been struggling for a while.”

Prior to her ISSLP experience, Knapp had also completed a Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP) — another Center for Social Concerns program — in Minneapolis at a community center for the Latino population working specifically with senior citizens. Additionally, Knapp said she has always had a desire to work with kids, being the oldest of four kids herself.

“I applied to do an ISSLP partly because of my experience with the SSLP,” she said. “I just found so much joy in working with both kids and senior citizens, and really wanted to expand my horizons by learning more about the world and how to become a global citizen by connecting with other populations.”

Although she is still trying to discern what her future path will be, Knapp said she will hopefully be involved with international human rights law, which relates directly to her ISSLP.

“I worked with a lot of kids whose parents had been members of the international drug trade, and that is an issue that I have been studying in my classes, and is something that I’m very interested in continuing to learn about and hopefully tackle in a career in policy and legislation in the future,” Knapp said.

Knapp said she went down to Honduras with one other Notre Dame student, but at the site there were two long-term volunteers who were Notre Dame graduates. Having that connection and being able to talk about their Notre Dame experiences helped make the transition to living abroad easier, she said.

As for who should apply, Knapp said although each site has a different level of spirituality attached to it and that the sites are not identical in terms of experiences, the students who apply should all share a particular attribute.

“I would say that this program would be good for anyone who is willing to step outside of their comfort zone and to really form relationships with a wide variety of people in different circumstances,” Knapp said.

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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

Contact Selena