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Chile immersion a service adventure

While being immersed in Chile sounds like a gastronomical adventure of extreme proportions, a group of USF students and their adult leaders found a January trip to the South American country an immersion of another sort—into a vastly different culture and an environment of community service.

Ten students, Center for Service Engagement Director Katrina Boedeker and admissions counselor Julie Townsend traveled in January to the city of Valparaiso, where they lived in the local YMCA branch while engaging in a number of service projects—serving dinner for the homeless, helping out at a youth summer camp and working on a Habitat for Humanity project.

The summer camp project spanned several days, during which USF students tie-dyed T-shirts and organized a Casino Night with game booths and prizes for the children. But they also expanded their horizons culturally by touring Santiago, Valparaiso and Vina del Mar with the expert help of Townsend, the Valparaiso YMCA’s former assistant international director.

At the end of the 14-day trip, the students formed bonds and memories they will never lose. And while they began their journey to help others, they discovered through the experience that the people and places they visited also helped them—by broadening their perceptions to include realities that differ greatly from their own.

USF plans another Chile service immersion trip this year from Dec. 28 through Jan. 9, 2014. Information tables will be available in the Pope John Paul II atrium on Monday, Feb. 18 from 11 a.m.-noon, Tuesday, Feb. 19 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m and Wednesday, March 6, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Interested students can contact Boedeker or Townsend. Learn more about USF opportunities to study abroad.

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