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Education Students Teach in Jamaica
Photo: Grace Chueng and Jamaican studentsA group of 12 University of St. Thomas students kicked off the New Year studying abroad in Jamaica on Jan. 2-12. The excursion was a part of the School of Education’s cross-cultural learning experience trip.

The students, a combination of undergraduate education and international studies majors, were accompanied by Dr. Randy Soffer, assistant professor of education and director of field experiences. They spent 10 days in Lucea, Jamaica, and lived with Jamaican families.

“The reason for doing this was to be in the community with the Jamaican residents, with the idea of immersing ourselves in the culture to better understand it, appreciate it and understand our culture,” Soffer said. “My students got to see what Jamaica has to offer and reflect on how we live and how the Jamaicans live.”

Every morning, the group began the day with a traditional Jamaican breakfast and a service-learning project. They interacted with the community through student-teaching at the local elementary school, volunteering at the infirmary or reading at the local church and library.
“During our trip, we worked with both the oldest and youngest members of the town, often times within the same day,” senior education major Dena Yanowski said. “It was like we were seeing the past 50 years of Lucea, as well as its future.”

As a part of the service-learning projects, the students brought 12 laptop computers and donated them to the local elementary school, the Lucea Primary School in Hanover, that had no technology available. The students loaded all the computers with software and taught a lesson to the kids using the laptops.

Photo: Dr Soffer and students in Jamaica“My experience with the youngest people of Jamaica instilled a new perspective in me that could not be gained in any other way,” senior education major Grace Cheung said. “We literally put ourselves beyond our comfort zones as a group and established a bond with each other and the locals that I’m sure will not soon be forgotten.” 

In the evenings, the students attended seminars on topics ranging from the education system in Jamaica to the Rastafari, an African-centered religion founded in 1930s, and Rastafarian philosophy.

Afterwards, the group had free time to further immerse themselves in the Jamaican culture. The students explored Jamaica by sightseeing, climbing mountains and visiting the Caribbean beaches.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” senior education major Vida Rahmatian said. “I’ve always wanted to go on a study abroad trip and receive credit while having fun at the same time. This was definitely the trip to experience it!”

Soffer plans on offering the study abroad trip to Jamaica again in a few years.
“Field experience is designed to provide practical application of the theories students learn in the classroom,” Soffer said. “It prepares them for student teaching and beyond.”

For more information on study abroad opportunities contact Diana Garcia. The deadline to apply for study abroad trips is Feb. 15. Upcoming trips include Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Budapest, Spain and China.

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