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Service Learning in China with Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University (NIU) recently announced a summer program in China that includes service-learning and study components. The program is spearheaded by Michelle Bringas, Director of the NIU Asian American Center. Students of NIU will have the opportunity to travel for a little over two weeks on the program.

The program launch follows a site visit by Bringas to Beijing and Inner Mongolia. In June, Bringas will lead a program with 15 undergraduate NIU students. Regina Curry, Center for Black Studies, and Angélica Mendoza, Latino Resource Center, will serve as co-coordinators.  This unique Study Abroad/Service Learning Experience project will be the first time at NIU that the Asian American Center, Center for Black Studies, Latino Resource Center,  Diversity & Equity, the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Study Abroad Program, and Division of International Programs are working together to create diverse and unique Study Abroad experiences to Beijing, China.

“We are looking to expand students’ global awareness and global competence. We are hoping this program will enhance students’ ability to participate in cross-cultural communication and service,” commented Bringas. “Students will be able to integrate their knowledge from current coursework or real world situation from pretrip planning sessions.”

The program is designed to have basic Chinese language instruction, leadership development and cultural exchange. An interesting part of the trip is a service learning component, where students will be volunteering at the Beijing Galaxy Bilingual Migrant Children School and other non-profit organizations. In particular, at the Beijing Galaxy Bilingual Migrant Children School, students will be interacting with children and providing relevant group activities.

“I have a personal passion and personal belief and personal philosophy to give back and be of service to people in own country, but also people abroad as well,” commented Bringas. “It’s just as important for students to experience study abroad and service in context of learning from it. As well, it’s a great intersection to go abroad and do service abroad. It’s a unique experience to observe overseas, even if for short period of time. It involves cultural acclimation, service, understanding and being sensitive to another culture while serving.”

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