Study Abroad More Than Sites, Classes for Student
Lauren Booth (right) poses with a villager in the Dominican Republic.
April 4, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Lauren Booth, an Illinois Wesleyan sophomore, is finding her study
abroad program is about more than textbooks and tourist sites – it’s also about a
hammer and nails. Booth is part of a new kind of study abroad opportunity allowing
students to perform volunteer work in the developing nations where they study.
“I wanted to experience life in a developing country, and I knew there were volunteer
options integrated into the program,” said Booth, a Hispanic studies major, who is
currently studying in Santiago of the Dominican Republic.
Students in the program spend time with local residents. Booth, who arrived in the
Dominican Republic in January of 2007, has been in the country for four months. During
her time there, the Des Plaines, Ill., native has taught English to residents in Santiago,
traveled to a rural village to build latrines with the Peace Corps, and helped at
a local orphanage. “We painted furniture, cooked meals and played with the children,”
said Booth of her time at the orphanage. “We also had a ‘salon day’ for the kids.
It was an amazing experience.”
The goal of any study abroad program is to immerse students in the life and culture
of a different country. In developing nations such as the Dominican Republic, that
means seeing day-to-day struggles. “I learned first-hand the effects of extreme
poverty,” said Booth. “I also learned about myself, and what I am capable of doing
The volunteer experience aboard is a growing trend, says Stacey Shimizu, acting director
of Illinois Wesleyan’s International Office. “Not many programs have built in the
kind of community work Lauren is doing,” said Shimizu. “More and more study abroad
programs are offering some kinds of for-credit internships or non-credit volunteer
Illinois Wesleyan works in conjunction with international organizations to send students
abroad. Currently, 69 IWU students are traveling and studying across the globe. The
Dominican Republican program comes from an organization called the Council for International
Educational Exchange (CIEE).
“Volunteering is part of the added value of studying abroad,” said Ann Curtis, campus
relations coordinator for CIEE. “It’s another way students can be culturally immersed
in the region and connect with the community.”
Other students in the CIEE program with Booth are volunteering at hospitals and coaching
baseball or working with small businesses to become successful. “I have really learned
about the Dominican culture,” said Booth. “I probably don’t even realize yet how much
I have learned.”
Contact: Sherry Wallace, (309) 556-3792