A group of Clemson University undergraduate students and lifelong learners recently traveled to Tanzania as part of a unique study abroad program organized by the department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (PRTM) and Clemson’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).
Clemson University offers several international travel options that expand the learning environment beyond the classroom into unique, and often challenging, cultural contexts. What sets this trip apart, however, is that the students were joined by a group of OLLI members midway through their experience.
OLLI is a regional continuing education community and membership organization of more than 1,450 people that primarily serves adults age 50 and older, though adults of any age are welcome to participate. The institute offers lectures, courses, excursions and social events, as well as access to Clemson events and resources. Clemson’s OLLI is one of 123 similar organizations throughout the country, with a collective membership of more than 150,000 learners. The Tanzania study abroad trip was organized so that both groups could benefit from an intergenerationally-focused learning opportunity, and to establish stronger connections between our university students and the upstate community.
“We’re always looking for ways to enrich student learning, and partnering with OLLI accomplishes that by allowing both groups to experience Tanzania through another generation’s perspective,” says Arthur-Banning. “Students are able to learn from and network with key members of the upstate community, who also play lead roles in many upstate organizations.”
The study abroad experience is focused on service, with students volunteering with local children at schools and at a family-run orphanage in Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam before joining OLLI members for a few days to experience the country together. The combined group visited a Chagga village in Uru east at the base of Mt. Killimanjaro, where they learned about traditional food, coffee, and the process of making banana beer (called Mbege). They also taught students at the village’s primary school and went on a safari of Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater.
The group’s volunteer work in the Chagga Village benefited both groups of learners in different ways. Students gave OLLI members insight into Clemson’s study abroad programs and their focus. OLLI members were able to apply their extensive skill sets to their volunteer roles, enriching the experience for students.
“Our OLLI members are impressive, with a vast depth of knowledge and experience to share,” Vidotto says. “This program provides an excellent opportunity for our participating members and students to learn from each other and experience a different country and culture in a unique, authentic and culturally immersive way.”
Now that the trip is complete, Arthur-Banning and Vidotto are conducting an assessment to determine whether the study abroad trip met its learning objectives, and opportunities for improvement.
“We see great potential in continuing to find ways for Clemson students and the OLLI community to interact and learn from one another,” continued Vidotto. “This program is a great start, as we can now easily see how Clemson can create a model for the national OLLI network.”
Arthur-Banning also sees an ongoing opportunity for his students, now that the group is back in Clemson.
“We’ve encouraged our students to really think about how this experience has moved them to action in some way – whether it is spending more time with their family, bringing them closer to a higher being, moving them to have a more positive role in their own community or here on campus, or perhaps even to return to Africa to continue the amazing work that our institution continues to do,” says Arthur-Banning. “Whatever it is, I hope this trip does not simply become a neat experience, but that it stirs up an opportunity to continue to grow.”