International Service Projects Influence Culture

Gabrielle Tieman | Banner | Maddie Baker, junior psychology major, helps her team build a fence for an elementary school in Twain

Students are often so focused on their own environment that they forget how many different cultures there are in the world. International Service Projects give students the opportunity to experience cultures around the world.

The main purpose of ISP trips is to serve by bringing the gospel to other regions of the world, such as Europe, South America and Africa. ISP teams serve in a variety of ways, including teaching English, running sports camps and building homes. By serving overseas, students are exposed to different cultures, values and beliefs.

Everything from music, social media, movies and even social customs can differ within countries. However, many are surprised to find there are also  similarities between cultures.

Samantha Antinucci, sophomore liberal studies major, participated in an ISP trip to Hungary. She said Hungarian and American pop culture are quite similar.

“They were seeing the new Marvel movies that had recently come out and sharing their Instagram and Snapchat accounts with me. However, the chocolate is way better here,” Antinucci said.

While each country has produced popular music of its own, many American musicians are also very well-known throughout European nations.

Bands and artists, such as the Chainsmokers, One Republic and Billie Eilish, are popular in most European countries. Although some young people in Europe do not understand the lyrics to American songs, they learn to appreciate the musicality even more.

According to ISP participants, one difference between American and European society is the value of friendship. In Europe, people take friendship very seriously. The bond of trust always goes deeper than surface and creates strong relationships. In America, it is normal for people to maintain many surface-level friendships instead of a few strong ones.

In Eastern European countries, such as Poland, people are usually more reserved and rarely display public affection. They often do not express themselves as openly as U.S. citizens do. Instead, they reserve vulnerability for more private occasions.

Christian Semon, sophomore engineering major, participated in an ISP trip to Poland. He described how people acted toward each other in public.

“When having conversations in public, Polish people appeared to be very friendly. It was hard to tell whether people were close friends or just acquaintances, which shows a lot about how they value others,” Semon said.

Experiencing a different culture can be challenging, but also extremely rewarding.

Kerri Horton, the logistics coordinator for Spiritual Life, explained the obstacles and benefits of experiencing a new culture.

“The biggest challenges on an ISP trip are homesickness, disconnecting from social media, and fear of stepping outside your comfort zone. Experiencing a new culture is all about taking a leap of faith, being courageous as God has called us to be and moving in spite of the fear that comes with new experiences and lack of comfort,” Horton said.

Students can find out more information about participating in an ISP trip this year by contacting the Mobilization team in the Spiritual Life Office.

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