Students give up Thanksgiving with their families for studying, service learning in Chile

Maxim Maximov, instructor of modern languages.
Maxim Maximov, instructor of modern languages.

FHSU University Relations and Marketing

HAYS, Kan. — Three students and one instructor from Fort Hays State University are flying to Chile over fall break to study sustainability, green energy, mythology, agritourism, biodiversity and rural elementary education.

Maxim Maximov, an instructor of modern languages, is coordinating the study-abroad program to Chiloé, Chile, for the second time. This program is the only faculty-led Department of Modern Languages program this semester.

“It is both service learning and academic learning,” said Maximov. “Students receive course credit through the department.”

The FHSU group will spend two days doing a service-learning project at Escuela Rural Punta Chilen, a rural grade school of about 12 students in grades first through sixth.

“The grade school is upgrading to a new building, so there are projects we will help with. They asked us to help paint and build new benches,” said Maximov.

The three FHSU students, McLaine Whalen, a senior technology studies major from Omaha, Shaelin Sweet, a sophomore history major from Salina, and Sophia Young, a senior communication studies major from Lenexa, are putting together an educational presentation about Kansas for the children and preparing hands-on activities.

While visiting the grade school, the FHSU group will also meet with Chilean native and FHSU graduate Max Alonso. Alonso holds the current shot put record for FHSU men’s track and field and is a Chilean national discus thrower.

“We haven’t left yet and I’ve already learned so much about Chile and the island of Chiloe from our meetings,” said Young. “I’ve been assigned to do research on sustainability and farming in Chile, and it has enlightened me on a lot of political and social issues that are going on in other countries.”

Young has a 1-year-old son, Theodore, who has family in Chile.

“The main reason I applied for this program was because my son’s father and grandparents were born in Chile,” she said. “I want to teach Theodore about his family heritage. I don’t want to guess, I want to teach him authentically and eventually take him to Chile myself.”

“Learning happens before, during and after the program,” said Maximov.

Maximov encourages his students to make the most of the program by designing a project that relates to their study.

“For example, one of the students is a construction management major and if he decides he wants to see construction sites in Chile, I am willing to make arrangements to try and make that happen,” he said.

The FHSU group will depart from the Wichita airport on Wednesday, Nov. 18, and arrive in Santiago on Thursday for a short layover before flying to Puerto Montt, Chile. From there they will take a ferry to the island of Chiloé where they will spend 10 nights at hostels, farms, and cabins.

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