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International summer learning programs to offer virtual options this summer

| Monday, September 28, 2020

This summer Notre Dame’s International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP) will plan to hold both in-person and virtual programs in light of the pandemic.

The ISSLP program sent their first students abroad in the summer of 1998 at a time when there were very few options available to travel to “less traveled countries,“ ISSLP director Rachel Tomas Morgan said.

“A lot of our study abroad was in Europe, and study abroad options were pretty much a semester or year long at that time,” Tomas Morgan said. “And so the Center for Social Concerns, and director Fr. Dan McNeil at the time and myself saw opportunity for the summer months to give Notre Dame students the opportunity to experience the rest of the world.“

ISSLP’s are run through the Center for Social Concerns (CSC), and students traditionally apply each year to conduct a summer of service abroad in a number of countries around the world.

The program usually looks to focus it’s resources and attention on countries with emerging economies, Tomas Morgan said.

This past March the program was forced to suspend all of the outbound international trips in response to the global pandemic, but some of the programs were able to move to a virtual platform.

The CSC is currently exploring the possibility of an ISSLP learning-living community for this coming summer. For those students who only have a virtual option, they may be given option to live with other students also working on virtual projects. This way, students can build a community environment while carrying out their online projects independently, Tomas Morgan said.

“It would allow us to invite faculty to come and provide lectures and workshops, allow us to do additional skills training and ideally have excursions and field trips in South Bend, and in the local region with an aim to explore global issues localized,” Tomas Morgan said.

She said the CSC is still hoping some students will be able to experience a summer abroad.

“We hope that we’ll be able to send some students to some countries. I know we will not be able to send all students to all our countries,” Tomas Morgan said. “Our ISSLP site directory that is online will specify which sites are only in person, which sites are only virtual and which sites can accommodate both.”

The ISSLP programs begin with a one credit theology class participating students are required to take during the spring semester before departing campus to go abroad. The course is followed by an eight to ten week service learning immersion in a developing country through which a student will receive another three credits of theology. The program provides funds for airfare, room and board and a $1,000 travel award.

Senior Ellis Riojas went on an ISSLP two summer’s ago to Kitete, Tanzania. There, he worked with kids and young adults who were either attempting to finish high school again or were attending a trade school.

Editor’s Note: Riojas is a graphics designer for The Observer.

Riojas said he enjoyed his program in Kitete, tutoring the students and playing games with them. However, Riojas also mentioned how challenges were inevitable.

”Some things are going to go poorly, and that can really shake you up,” he said.

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About Dane Sherman

Dane Sherman is a first year Philosophy major from Seattle, Washington.

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