Engaging Culture

Yeni Castillo '17, one of the students who studied abroad through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Civic Engagement Award. (Photo provided)

May 24, 2017

By Matt Hawkins

A new study abroad program enabled two Bradley students to explore global issues in their host communities during the Spring 2017 semester. Through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Civic Engagement Award, Michael Timm ‘17 and Yenitza Castillo ‘17 worked for nonprofits and conducted research beyond course requirements.

The award defrayed study abroad costs and allowed the students to enrich their experiences through new cross-cultural experiences. Castillo, a Spanish and psychology double major from Elgin, Illinois, volunteered for a daycare in a poor neighborhood of Granada, Spain, while Timm, a French and religious studies double major from Peoria, volunteered for an environmentalism-focused organization in Paris.

“We experienced sides of cities we may not otherwise have seen,” Castillo said. “It can be easy to stay in the center of the city and pretend you’re living in a bubble, but I learned so much more about Spanish culture and how services like the daycare can benefit a community.”

She focused on early childhood issues with an eye on a career working with children from different cultural background, especially those who are bilingual. Her internship showed her the challenges youth face as families struggle to make ends meet.  

“I realized that income disparity affects everyone in communities, especially children,” Castillo said. “Services like the daycare allow families to become more financially stable without having to worry about leaving young children at home.”

Timm devoted his semester to environmental issues. He volunteered for a nonprofit working to raise environmental concerns. Organization members filmed a documentary about issues and are showing the film in France. With Timm’s help, the film could be shown in the U.S. Additionally, Timm researched nuclear energy’s viability as an energy source until renewable resources can be better harnessed.

The semester in France pushed Timm toward career interests in international issues. Though he doesn’t have a long-term career mapped out, he is considering more cross-cultural exposure through organizations like the Peace Corps.

“It was cool to work on an issue I think is important,” Timm said. “I learned the importance of using my education for a purpose larger than me.”

Extra cultural immersion strengthened students’ understanding of the world and themselves. It provided a capstone challenge as they prepared for professional settings after graduation.

“Studying abroad was eye-opening,” Timm said. “We had to be self-reflective, willing to engage others and comfortable with changing our own views. Because of that, we can work with different people to make a difference in the world.”