Student Spotlight
A special odyssey

Students head to Greece for adventures in ‘voluntourism’

“It was amazing to see people come together for such a positive event without worrying about what else was going on in the world. To see the athletes perform and compete moved me. They wanted to win but at the same time loved to cheer on their competitors.”

That’s Trevor Johnson, a sophomore at UIndy, referring to the life-changing experience he had this summer as he traveled to Athens, Greece (where UIndy has a campus), to volunteer with the Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Trevor was among a UIndy contingent of 31—among thousands of other volunteers from around the globe—who helped the more than 7,500 Special Olympians in events such as bowling, swimming, cycling, softball, and table tennis.

“My group volunteered with the bowling venue throughout our trip,” Trevor says. “I worked a lot with the results and awards. I would take the results and line the athletes into order for the awards presentation.”

Trevor’s trip to Greece is just one of many offered every year. Each adventure begins through UIndy’s Office of Study Abroad, where the staff makes sure students like Trevor can take the plunge toward academic and personal growth. It takes only some curiosity and a bit of initiative to begin.

Props to the profs

But there are other ways to become informed about travel options with academic credit. Professors at UIndy
are encouraged to get creative in planning travel courses, and often merge their academic expertise with their own interests to create unusual learning opportunities.

For instance, Trevor’s trip was spearheaded by two profs in the Kinesiology Department, Jennifer VanSickle and Michael Diacin.

Students who travel with their professors are able to learn concepts and lessons that cannot always be taught in a classroom. Trevor found that working with his professors on the trip was a positive experience.

“The professors were absolutely outstanding towards all of us. And it was great just to be able to relax and get to know people we would have never normally met,” he says.

UIndy proudly provides hands-on learning both inside and outside of the classroom. And what better way to expand your education than experiencing another country?

Trevor had never worked with the Special Olympics before. Nor did the event tie directly into his double major in Computer Information Systems and Sports Marketing. So, how does this adventure meet the University’s academic requirements?

Air UIndy?

The answer lies with UIndy’s Spring Term, which must be completed by the end of junior year. Spring Term courses are designed to be creative, innovative, and multidisciplinary, and students often take advantage of Spring Term to merge traveling abroad with their academic studies.

It is not a requirement to travel during Spring Term, but the opportunity is often too good to pass up, because it can enhance your future in so many ways—and it’s so fun.

“There were several different Spring Term trips available in and out of the U.S.,” says Trevor. “Greece stood out to me because it was volunteering. I knew everybody going on the trip was dedicated to giving the athletes the best time we could give them.”

Trevor plans to work with the Special Olympics again in the future.

“I’m planning on continuing to help at a smaller level with Special Olympics Indiana and to volunteer whenever I can,” he says.

Have your passport ready?

Journeying to a foreign country and stepping into a different culture can be intimidating. But the opportunities available in UIndy’s Office of Study Abroad are worth a look.

“This trip was an absolutely amazing experience,” Trevor says. “It’s made me want to continue to travel and see different cultures throughout the world.”

So take the plunge, and discover the infinite possibilities that await you at UIndy!

—Elizabeth Hale ’15