HAYS, Kan. — A group of 13 students and two sponsors from the Fort Hays State University GoGlobal Living and Learning Community are assisting construction of new houses in Puerto Rico and exploring the history and scenery of the island.
The group is staying in Cerro Gordo, a rural seaside town where repetitive storms damaged many homes. The students learned how to mix concrete and carried 30-pound bags of cement mix to construction sites.
“The construction work they are doing is not easy,” said Dr. Richard Lisichenko, FHSU associate professor of geosciences and sponsor of the GoGlobal group.
“But they have embraced their responsibility and opened up to the good people of this community,” he said.
Local people prepare meals for the group, often involving chicken and plantains, and eat with them. While some of the students were unsure about how to interact with the community members at first, they were soon put at ease, finding the Puerto Ricans friendly and welcoming.
For many of the students, the trip is the first time they have traveled outside the continental United States. “I’ve always loved the idea of being a world traveler. I am excited to see a new culture and to try things the I wouldn’t be able to do in Kansas,” said Hannah Menhusen, Wichita freshman.
The plains of Kansas contrast starkly with the tropical beaches and rocky hills of Puerto Rico. According to Goodland junior Carly McCracken, “Puerto Rico is an island filled with startling beauty and rich history.”
During their time off, the students go on excursions to historical sites in San Juan and relax on the beach near the house they are staying in. They swim in the ocean and look for starfish and sea urchins. “I doubt the feeling of the ocean will ever become normal to all of us Kansas folks,” said McCracken.
Though the trip only lasted from May 18-25, it has made a lasting impression. “The smell of ocean carried on a refreshing breeze will forever be imprinted in my mind,” said McCracken.
To visit the trip’s blog, visit http://www.globalworkstravel.com/blog/fort-hays-state-university-puerto-rico-custom-trip-2015/.
For more information about the GoGlobal Living Learning Community, visit the webpage at www.fhsu.edu/lc/go-global/.