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Global Student Leaders Give Service in Spain


A-State Global Student Leaders in Spain

JONESBORO – A dozen students from Arkansas State University conducted a community service project this week.  What makes their project special is the location, in Lanjaron, Spain, as a part of this year’s Global Student Leaders program.

Learning about their place in the world and gaining a sense of other cultures is the goal of the Global Student Leaders program.  Established in 2000, GSL selects and rewards outstanding A-State student leaders with the opportunity to participate in a unique study abroad program.

The 2014 edition of GSL selected as their service project the clean-up of a section of Parque Ecological near Lanjaron, Spain.

“Our service project was a very good experience, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students,” tour leader Alexis Hurdle from the student leadership center said.  “It not only exposed students to another culture and further develop their appreciation for it, but also increased their awareness of the value of giving back.”

The project to remove debris inside the Parque Ecological involved the GSL students with one of Lanjaron’s critical resources.

“Lanjaron is known for its distribution of pure mineral water from a local water source,” Hurdle said.  “Our students were involved in the service which included removing debris near the spring. This helps prevent leaves from clogging the water and ensures that the community can continue using it.”

“It was a lot of fun to give back to the community, especially considering how much they embraced the students who studied abroad there in spring,” A-State biology major Molly Reed from Paragould said.  “It was good to be part of giving showing that A-State really appreciates everything they’ve done for us. It’s nice to see that even across the ocean we can still make a difference.”

Returning to Lanjaron for the GSL program allowed Arkansas State’s Study Abroad Program to utilize connections made during previous endeavors including the Honors College class from this spring.

“The mayor of Lanjaron was very gracious in assisting Dr. Dee Dee Hudson, our chancellor’s wife, in creating this service opportunity for our students,” Hurdle added.  “He also arranged a lunch for our group after the project.”

The director of Arkansas State’s Study Abroad Program, Hudson coordinated the service project for the GSL group as well as two significant educational journeys through the same region of Spain by A-State students this year.  Along with the Honors College class, the A-State Choirs had performance tours in Spain during the Spring 2014 semester.

Hudson also joined the group during their time in Lanjaron to explain the history and background of the Andalusian region of Mediterranean Spain.

GSL exposes student leaders to diversity of cultures, languages, customs and traditions outside the United States, and provides them with the chance to experience how other countries function both politically and socially.  Through international travel, the students gain a different perspective on issues around the world as well as sharing with other cultures their own American values and traditions.

“This trip has been very rewarding and eye-opening at the same time,” communications studies major Jonathan Freeman of Paragould said.  “It’s been cool giving back to this community which has been associated with A-State – to see how their community and ours have come together. Overall, it’s been a great experience to see a whole different culture, and more importantly, to represent Arkansas State in Spain.”

Learning about everyday life in other countries is a two-way street as the GSL students also educate college-age students they meet overseas about university life in the United States.

 “This was one of those opportunities to bring the two cultures together,” Hurdle said.  “Our students met the people who normally clean the area. They were grateful for the many people there to give them a much needed break for the day. It was really rewarding for the students.”

While this year’s trip focused on Spain, in the past 14 years GSL students visited 25 different countries on five continents.

In addition to the service project in Lanjaron, the 2014 GSL group toured historic and cultural locations in Madrid, Granada, Cordoba and Malaga.  An example of the wide range of educational experiences was the diverse religious background of Cordoba where the A-State students participated in a walking tour of the Juderia, the Jewish cultural section of Cordoba dating to the eighth century; visited the Mezquita, another 8th-century relic that once was the largest mosque west of Mecca; and viewed the Catholic cathedral and Capilla Real which houses the tombs of Isabella and Ferdinand and many other members of Spain’s royal family.

To participate in the GSL program, students apply and are interviewed for selection into the GSL program.  Once chosen, these Arkansas State students participate in the Seminar in Leadership Development course which meets regularly prior to the summer trip to study the target region and to plan the service project.