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University News

Winter Break in Peru: GCU Students Volunteer Abroad

Peru Volunteer Abroad Students

During the weeks of Winter Break, most students return home after a stressful semester or work in order to earn some extra cash. One group of GCU students, however, received the opportunity of a lifetime—to go beyond campus and travel outside of the United States.

In January 2019, students traveled abroad during their Winter Break. They were able to volunteer in Cuzco, Peru, and to share the Mercy core values across the globe. Students who majored in nursing and social work volunteered in the community and saw the sights of the country.

The trip, which was led by GCU nursing faculty member Maureen Bailey, Ph.D., and Global Education Director Laura Grodewald, was a meaningful experience.

“Study abroad provides students with a transformative educational experience that helps them grow personally and develop intercultural skills and understanding,” said Ms. Grodewald. “On this particular service learning trip, students gained a deep appreciation and understanding of how a large majority of the world lives, and they returned home with a new appreciation for the resources and daily lifestyle they have.”

A Meaningful Volunteer Abroad Experience

Nursing students like Baily Yanci volunteered to help the residents in the area in order to give them the health care that they needed, as they do not have access to the kind of health care that Americans have on a daily basis.

“In the United States, we have complete access,” said Baily. “But in Peru, when you are sick, you can’t just go the doctor. You just ride it out, and wait for a clinic to come.”

Elizabeth Antonowicz, a social work major at GCU, not only got to use her knowledge of social work on the trip, but also contributed to the GCU Global Education Blog, where she wrote about her experience abroad. She mentions how water is preserved and even shut off in different parts of the city at different times, something completely unheard of here in the United States.

“Every day the water is shut off in sections of the town at different times to conserve what they have,” Elizabeth wrote in her blog post.  “It often happens that we either rush to take showers before dinner, or we wait until the morning for the water to come back on.”

The students were able to volunteer for five days and provide medical care to the locals. Along the way, these students, like Nicole Kozikowski, learned how to adapt in life in Peru and bond with the residents of the country.

“I definitely gained more experience because of the volunteer work,” said Nicole. “I got to use my skills, and it made me a stronger nursing student.”

“Even though the students only volunteered for five days, they were all personally and deeply affected from the experiences and people they met,” said Ms. Grodewald.  “During one of the days volunteering, I observed two students, who knew almost no Spanish at the beginning of the trip, assessing patients for a doctor and preparing prescriptions written in Spanish.”

An Unforgettable Time in Peru

Students were also able to see the sights of Peru. They tried the food, learned the customs and culture, and even explored Machu Picchu, an ancient city located in the mountains. It was a highlight for many students on the trip.

“It was amazing to see everything intact,” said Baily.” “It is so well preserved and completely untouched.”

Peru isn’t the only trip GCU students get to experience. Early 2019 global trips have included faculty-led experiences in Taiwan, a trip run by exercise science faculty members Drs. Vincent Chen and  Michael Wortley. Students also recently visited Madrid, Spain, where Spanish professor Dr. Jaime Rivera and art faculty member Amy Faris led a trip during Spring Break.

Students will also be studying and volunteering abroad during the summer and fall in Italy, Ecuador, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Uganda, and Spain.

Story contributed by GCU digital communication major Dennis Gribben ’19; photo courtesy of GCU student and volunteer abroad participant Elizabeth Antonowicz.


Interested in learning more about global education at Georgian Court? Join our Global Lions Club on Facebook (Georgian Court University: Global Lions) or follow us on Instagram @gcu_global to see updates on global events on campus. Stay up to date with our student and faculty members’ world travels at https://study-abroad-blog.georgian.edu/.

All students wishing to get involved are welcome to contact Laura Grodewald at ude.naigroeg@dlawedorgl.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,200 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 14 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by Money.com and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at HazletGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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