Camp makes a world of difference

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UNK’s World Leaders Camp introduces incoming freshmen to study-abroad opportunities – and to salsa, polka and chopsticks.

The chopsticks gave her cramps.

“I’m not too good at it,” UNK freshman Paige Phillips said during a break from a hands-on lesson.

She laughed.

“I’ve never had to eat with chopsticks before.”

Paige was one of 16 incoming UNK freshmen who traveled to campus this past July for the World Leaders Camp, a five-day, all-expense-paid cultural experience aimed at making freshmen aware of study-abroad opportunities to pursue in college.

Paige came from Hemingford, Neb., a tiny farm town in the Panhandle.

It’s a great place to grow up, she said. Everyone knows everyone. Her high school class had only 22 kids.

But coming from such a tiny town, she said, fueled her desire to travel the world.

“I just feel like I’ve been locked in this little bubble for my whole life, because we don’t really travel,” she said. “And I just want to see the world.”

Now in its third year, the World Leaders Camp is free to participants. It includes an overnight fieldtrip. This year, in Omaha, they toured El Museo Latino Museum and ate at Nettie’s Mexican Restaurant. In Wilber, they immersed themselves in Czech culture and history.

They learned to salsa and polka. They learned to make kolaches. They heard UNK professors and other experts talk about other cultures.

On Day 4 – Asia Day – the students tried Chinese calligraphy and the chopsticks. They heard a panel of UNK students who’d already gone abroad talk about their experiences.

Paige wants to go to Europe. She wants to go to Brazil. She wants to go everywhere.

The camp, she said, changed the way she viewed other cultures.

“It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “And it’s really cool that this school can do something like this just for the students and let them have these opportunities and let a little girl from a tiny town in Nebraska meet some people and just dream – that’s a big part of this.

“They’re opening the door for us to just dream about where we can go and what we can see.”

The World Leaders Camp was funded through a grant from the University of Nebraska Foundation. The camp is one of two study-abroad Freshman Initiative Programs at UNK that the grant funds. The other – called Spring Break in Vancouver, B.C. – is a writing contest that sends 12 winners on an all-expense paid trip to Vancouver over spring break.

The number of study-abroad students at UNK has increased almost 79 percent since UNK started the Freshman Initiative Programs, said Ann Marie Park, the Study Abroad & Exchange Program coordinator at UNK.

That would not have happened, she said, without that donor support through the foundation.

“When our students come back in my office (after studying abroad), I see a total change,” she says. “They are so adult. They are so mature.  They are so confident.

“It’s just incredible.”

Global Engagement is one of the priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska, now in its final year. Since the campaign began in 2005, the University of Nebraska has raised more than $6 million for its global engagement efforts, including programs like the World Leaders Camp.

If you’d like to help expand the global horizons of students like Paige Phillips, please give online or contact the foundation at 800-432-3216

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