As the fall semester winds down for the 2016-2017 Community College Initiative (CCI) cohort, participants have been reflecting on their experiences in the United States so far. Aside from the hard work they’ve put into their college courses and volunteer activities, CCI students have also had the unique opportunity to go on engaging learning outings to U.S. landmarks to better understand U.S culture and history. We decided to round up the top three sights participants went to this fall and explain what they learned.
Disney World – A Model for Tourism and Hospitality Management
CCI students at Valencia College were able to “make their dreams come true” in September 2016 when they visited the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. The fourteen CCI participants at Valencia College visited the two most renowned theme parks in Disney: Magic Kingdom and Epcot. However, the experience was more than a simple all-day visit to a theme park. CCI students were able to learn a great deal about the fields of American history, business enterprise, tourism and hospitality management, and engineering.
First, CCI participants learned about the early challenges of America’s founding fathers during “The Hall of Presidents: A Celebration of Liberty’s Leaders.” The presentation took them through the origins of the nation, the challenges endured and accomplishments realized throughout the years, to the present day. “I felt like I took a journey through the history of American culture and society by learning about the American Presidency at the Hall of Presidents” said Maykon Menezes, an Information Technology Student from Brazil.
The students also had the opportunity to interact with cast members and discovered what makes the operations behind Disney so different. Oznur Sahin, a Culinary Arts student from Turkey, learned about a new branch of Engineering: Imagineering. When asked to describe Imagineering, Oznur shared: “It’s a mixture of creativity, science, and technology that allows Disney to bring dreams to life.”
For so many of the students, the visit to Disney was the realization of a lifelong dream they thought would never come true. At Epcot, CCI students were able to take a journey around the world in the “World Showcase” part of the park. They visited during Disney’s annual Food & Wine Festival, in which a number of exchange students come from their home nations to share their culture, native languages, and most of all, their food with Americans. Program Coordinator Ariel Hernandez said, “The opportunity not only to transport these students back to their childhood by meeting Mickey Mouse, but for them to express that Disney’s commitment and importance placed on global diversity made them feel at home, and that it made the reality they experienced better than any dream…that is real magic.”
Washington, D.C. – Immersion in U.S. Government and History
In Virginia, Northern Virginia Community College’s CCI host campuses made a couple trips to nearby Washington D.C. throughout the semester. In September, NOVA Annandale and Alexandria campuses met with Sean Sweeney, Legislative Correspondent for Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) at the Russell Senate Building before touring the U.S. Capitol building and the Library of Congress.
In December, the group returned to D.C. to tour the Holocaust Museum. While most of the students knew about the events that occurred during World War II, few had been to a museum dedicated to the Holocaust. Leoncio Ferreira da Silva Neto from Brazil said that the setup of the museum “forces you to be present in the exhibit”—a sentiment that several other CCI students agreed with.
Navy Pier– The Evolution of American Architecture and Engineering
In the busy city of Chicago, CCI students studying at College of DuPage took an architectural boat tour out of Navy Pier, a Chicago landmark along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. During the boat tour students learned about the different eras of American architecture from a unique vantage point. They also were informed about the Chicago Harbor Lock system, which ranks in the top 5 for busiest lock systems in the country, both recreationally and commercially.
The 2016-2017 CCI participants will visit more U.S. sights in the spring to continue to foster a stronger understanding and appreciation of American culture.