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World Scholars learn real life lessons

March 20th, 2007

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Alex Marti, far right in orange, was one of UofL’s first World Scholars.

Several University of Louisville students are learning from experience what they could not learn from a book or in a classroom.

As participants in the new World Scholars program, they are venturing beyond their comfort zones to immerse themselves in another language and culture.

Funded by the College of Arts and Sciences, the program provides undergraduates with up to $5000 to help fund a semester or year of study someplace where the principal language is not English.

So far, two students have traveled to other countries for a semester. Four others will begin their educational adventures over the next year.

The World Scholars program is designed to give students a global perspective and also to move them to action, said Greg Hutcheson, a Spanish language professor who heads the program.

Although individual goals vary, World Scholars usually seek fluency in another language, a better understanding of another culture and personal growth.

That was the case for 2006-07 World Scholars Alex Martí and Errol Wint.

Martí studied last semester at the University of Salamanca (Spain).

“I was hoping to make a drastic change in my life,” he said, and the several months he spent in his father’s homeland provided him the opportunity. “I gained a lot personally from this trip.”

A biology major who planned a medical career, Martí said he returned to Louisville convinced of his career choice, but also wanting to enjoy life rather than just going through steps.

The experience, he added, allowed him to decide what really is important in life.

Wint is spending this semester studying at the Latin American University of Science and Technology in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The Pan-African Studies and Spanish major said he already has learned valuable lessons.

“I have learned that you have to make yourself uncomfortable,” he said, explaining that he has distanced himself from Americans who speak English most of the time and sought native Spanish speakers for conversation, even when he has feared they would not be able to understand each other.

“There have been some uncomfortable moments, but … I can feel the improvements in my Spanish. I can feel the differences in my thinking and I can feel my growth as a man,” he said.

Besides taking four classes, Wint has taught English to Nicaraguan immigrants and worked with underprivileged children in a primary school.

“I have seen things here that will make one cry for joy, and cry with grief,” he said, “but I feel it is necessary for the development of one’s self to know what is out there, to see that the world does not stop at the borders of the United States.”

The World Scholars program has “in a way exceeded our expectations by producing students who are not only invested in the international experience, but also committed to community service,” Hutcheson said.

Martí plans to volunteer as a translator at University Hospital during the coming academic year.

The 2007-08 World Scholars cohort will have four members, three of which have been selected. They are:

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