Albany State University students are going global this summer through study abroad opportunities offered by the ASU Office International Education. ASU students will encounter rich, international experiences in the world’s most vibrant countries. Throughout the semester, students and faculty members will blog about their travel experiences. This is a series of blog posts about Trinidad and Tobago. The Trinidad and Tobago study abroad opportunity is led by Dr. Irma J. Gibson, associate professor in the ASU Department of Social Work. Global service learning experiences, cultural lectures by partner university professors and a variety of tours, social outings and excursions are integrated into the curriculum to ensure students’ academic success.
Hello, my name is Asia Clemmons. I am a 21-year-old student at Albany State University, and I am studying social work. It has always been my passion to travel and study abroad, but I never knew that I would end up in Trinidad and Tobago. Today, here I am. I would like to give a special thank you to Dr. Irma Gibson for pushing me to have faith. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have made the “jump.” I would also like to give a special thanks to the Gilman Scholarship Program. I am beyond proud of myself and couldn’t thank Gilman and Dr. Gibson enough. While in Trinidad, I am tasked to complete service learning at an agency of my choice. We were given three options and brief descriptions of their work, and I chose St. Dominic’s Children Home.
St. Dominic’s Children Home
This agency houses and cares for children from age five to 6 and up to age 18. These individuals have been abused or neglected in some way and had no secure placement. It started in 1871, known as “Belmont Orphanage. St. Dominic’s believes “it takes a village to raise a child.” The campus is so beautiful. There is housing for males only. Some of the boys have their own rooms because of traumas they’ve faced. Other rooms have two beds in each. The facility is operated by nuns. On campus, some of the children are home schooled. Not only are they taught academics, they are taught to cook and farm also. One of the employees mentioned that school isn’t for everyone, but that they still must prepare the students for income. They were so respectful and pure. We all had an opportunity to visit the three service learning agencies. Additionally, every day we will either be on the University of West Indies’ campus or interning at our service learning agency.
One of my most memorable moments happened during orientation at the Families in Action Agency, which addresses addiction. The Addiction department speaks for itself. The gentleman over this department was AMAZING. He is a recovering addict of 35 years. He said that he wanted to continue this program until the day he is laid to rest. He mentioned his love for educating addicts and staying with them on their journey. His favorite part is letting them know they are not alone because HE has been there. This gentleman said something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
“The song you keep singing, is MY song…..I wrote those lyrics.”
What he meant was when his clients defend their issues and tell their “sob” stories, it’s not that he isn’t empathizing but he doesn’t show pity. He believes it’s not an excuse, and yes it may take some time, but don’t use a story as a crutch. It made me think, when children believe that just because they didn’t grow up with a mother or father that they were set up for failure. That’s NO excuse. So what? My father nor my mother raised me and my future is in my hands. I am in another country embracing culture and attending the University of West Indies. Anything is possible with hard work and perseverance!
Greeting and salutations! My name is Tamia Hurst, and I am a rising junior currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in social work the “Unsinkable” Albany State University. Since I was a little girl, I have always had big dreams of traveling the world. In the eighth grade, I learned about study abroad, and I planned to take advantage of the beautiful twin-island of Trinidad and Tobago. opportunity in the future. Thanks to my parents and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, I was finally granted the opportunity. I am pleased to share my global experience with you from the
While studying abroad in Trinidad and Tobago, we were given the opportunity to complete service learning at an agency of our choice. I chose an agency called Families in Action. During my service learning experience, I was given the opportunity to talk to students at local elementary schools about my high school experience and encourage them as they make the transition from primary school (elementary- middle school) to secondary school (high school). I found it very cool to make an impact on lives in a totally different country. If they don’t remember anything else about me, they will remember the “little gal with the pretty little American accent,” (as they called me) encouraging them and saying that there is nothing to be afraid of and to never give up; the sky is the limit.
One experience that I really enjoyed so far was learning to play happy birthday on the steelpan in Dr. Matthew’s class. The Steelpan is a musical instrument that originated from Trinidad and Tobago between the 1880s- and 1937. Because I have always had a special love for music, learning to play the steelpan was pretty easy to me. It was all about memorization and balancing the straight sticks between my fingers.
Overall, I encourage everyone to study abroad. I am very blessed to have been granted the opportunity. It provides the opportunity to touch a life outside of your country.
Greetings from the Caribbean islands! My name is Sharmaine Mathis, and I’m a 23-year-old, first generation, African-American, undergraduate student. I am a senior psychology major. I was raised by a single mother, living in project apartments in a small rural town called Cuthbert, Georgia with little hope of ever acquiring substantial wealth, success, knowledge or adventure in my hometown. I, however, naturally inherited a strong sense of intrinsic motivation, which has guided me toward a very rare opportunity to study abroad in Trinidad and Tobago!
Trinidadians have a history of taking what they are given, which sometimes isn’t very much or something from the earth, and making the best of it. They even started their own economy using the fields rich with fruits and vegetables. These people are not dependents! Nothing was ever just handed to them, and I admire them so much for that.
A small zip lining trip is what allowed me to reflect on not just nature itself, but the nature of this country. We, the U.S., might be technologically advanced, but I’m a bit afraid of what would happen if all of that was taken away. We would definitely have to get the Trinidadians on the phone to help us, and I would be delighted to make the first call! Until then, I hope you’re having as much fun as I am. Although this study abroad endeavor entails a lot of hard work, there is a lesson to be learned and a teaching moment in every experience!
I am Cindreka D. Marshall, a Ph.D. student at Clark Atlanta University. I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. I have been practicing a little over 14 years in the field of social work. My specialty is medical social work.
This summer semester, I am attending Albany State University as a transient student. It is kind of “bitter sweet” because I am an alumna of ASU. I am also excited to experience this life changing endeavor with my Ph.D. cohort. When I started the Ph.D. program at Clark Atlanta University, my classmates and I made a promise to travel every summer after the completion of a full year. This summer is extra special because of the credits we are obtaining from the courses that we are matriculating.
Words cannot describe the experience here as a study abroad student at the University of West Indies. The culture, food, and service learning experiences are just a few of the life-changing indulgences. Having an opportunity to examine the social systems here is mind blowing. My area of study is social work, policy planning and administration. My cognate area is criminal justice. As a result, the first place that I toured was Maximum Penitentiary, which is a maximum-security prison here in Trinidad. It is much different from the US where there is a difference between the prison and jail. Here in Trinidad, the remanded are housed in the prison. Remanded are individuals who have not been to court for a hearing to determine if they are guilty or not. One example of what I would call heart breaking is a gentleman who is charged with murder and has been in prison for 10 years waiting for his “fair hearing” or trial by a jury of his peers. This would be enough to break many, but several of the prisoners there have this same story but are patiently waiting for their day in court.
Often times we, Americans, think the U.S. is the only way or the best way, but I have seen some wonderful programs in the prison system as well as the education system here that will make one think there are better ways and our way is not the only way.
My next incredible experience was the tour of the Forensic Science Center, which is also housed under the Ministry of National Security. What I witnessed will never be forgotten! Everything from the ballistic testing of firearms to the laboratory testing of illegal substances, DNA and counterfeit documents. What has truly left a heartbreaking yet indelible impression in my memory is the witnessing of an autopsy. I, Dr. Gibson and one of my cohort members witnessed an autopsy of a domestic violence female victim and, although the circumstances were heartbreaking, the teaching moment from a social work and criminal justice perspective speaks volumes about the importance of the work that we all do in these professions.
I am so thankful to Dr. Irma Gibson for allowing me and my cohort to experience this and I look forward to the remainder of the study abroad experience. Trinidad completed, next stop Haiti for the second half of my trip where I will continue my global research of aspects of criminology in the Caribbean countries.
I am completing my social work Ph.D. degree at Clark Atlanta University. In my post-secondary career, there are many ambitions I have conquered and many experiences that I never thought possible. Studying abroad is one of those experiences. Study abroad never occurred to me when considering my collegiate goals, so when the opportunity to study abroad as a transient student at Albany State University in Trinidad and Tobago was brought to me, I immediately jumped on it.
My initial thought when exiting the Piarco International Airport was, “This is paradise.” Although considered a developing country, there is much beauty to behold in Trinidad. There is also a great show of pride when speaking to the Trinidadian people. In my short stay, I have immersed myself in things as best as I could with the small time I am allowed. The food, scenery, and experience has been amazing. Even in the less developed areas, the beauty has a purity, a rawness that shows it is not calculated. There are not many words to wholly encapsulate the magnificence.
I must mention the children I encountered while in Trinidad. While working with the staff of the Families in Action, I was able to visit a primary (elementary) school in Trinidad. The children immediately flocked to me and my cohorts in a very innocent and loving way. The principal mentioned to us that the children are often clingy due to their absent parents and even traumatic backgrounds. One the facilitators we worked with told us many of the children would be lucky to complete secondary (high school) school due to lack of household income. It is heartbreaking to know that I will never see them again.
I also had the pleasure of meeting a two- year old genius. One could question how a two-year-old could possibly be a genius when most toddlers that age are not even potty-trained. Well, this young man (let’s call him Jason), can do basic addition and subtraction. HE LOVES MATH! He can count and is drawn to numbers. He can answer the question of 6 – 3=, but cannot follow most social prompts. To be clear, Jason is autistic, but he is an extremely intelligent and bright young boy. He is a child I will never forget.
In closing, my experience in Trinidad has been life-changing. It has fueled my desire to conduct research in developing countries and specifically people of African-descent. This island country has won me over completely. Trinidad has my heart forever.
Nine excited global ambassadors accompanied by me, an associate professor of social work, made history and became trailblazers as the first ASU study abroad group to include four graduate level students including three Clark Atlanta University Ph.D. students! The labor and the hard work that was expended toward planning was, at times, tedious but well worth the efforts. This year’s incredible group consists of five undergraduate students – three psychology majors and two social work majors – and four graduate social work students. This cohort consists of two first time flyers who fearlessly embraced the flight across the Atlantic. The ability to think big has led them to dream even bigger. This decision to venture outside of their comfort zone will forever change the course of their personal and professional lives. The lens through which they view the world, themselves and others will never be the same.
Since arriving, their schedule has been packed with orientations by the University of the West Indies (UWI) and exposure to educational experiences and lectures. For the next 4 weeks, the world and the culture of sweet T and T will be their classroom and you will read about, sense, feel and experience their personal transformations and exposure to this amazing twin island nation that is full of diversity and opportunities for global consciousness, civic responsibility and self-awareness. “Trinidad and Tobago comprises a unique mix of races and cultures that can be traced back to Africa, India, Europe, the Middle East and China. The influences of the native American Indians are also prominent features of local culture.
“The islands’ diversity is reflected in the different religions which also exist. Mosques, churches and Hindu temples stand peacefully side by side in Trinidad and Tobago. The largest religious groups are Christians, Hindus and Muslims. You are encouraged to follow the reflections of each student. Take advantage of this real world introduction to life in Trinidad and Tobago, “a melting pot of cultures.” This will be a true lesson in tolerance and the acceptance of differences.