In early January, a select group of Graceland students got the study abroad opportunity of a life time. They traveled to Falmouth, a small port city on the northern coast of Jamaica, to complete a three week teaching practicum or service learning project, in one of the poorest areas of the island. If Falmouth sounds familiar to you, it is home to many Olympic athletes, including two famous sprinters, world record holder Usain Bolt and former world record holder Ben Johnson. Although Falmouth is a prime destination for cruise ships and other forms of tourism, the local schools are always in need of more supplies and support. It was there, at the Falmouth All Ages School, that the Graceland group got to play, teach, and give to students of the area.
Of the 22 students lucky enough to go, 5 participated in service learning, which included cleaning, painting, and overall improving of the school’s facilities. The others did teaching practicums, which had them working daily with students, both in small groups and individually, to practice and improve their reading and math skills among other things. According to Junior Carley McClain, communicating with the children was sometimes difficult. Although English is widely spoken and taught in Jamaican schools, most students do still speak their native language of Patois as well. “It was mostly the younger children who were difficult to understand, because although they’re taught in English, they are often disciplined in Patois,” McClain expressed. This language barrier proved insignificant, though, in getting to know the kids and connecting with them at both intellectual and personal levels. Along with giving their time and efforts, the Graceland group pooled together donated supplies to share with the kids, such as writing materials, art materials, and books.
It wasn’t all work and no play, however. Jamaica had a lot of experiences to offer from float trips to local flee market shopping. The group’s adventures led them floating down Martha Brae River, sunbathing on Montego Bay, and hiking Dunn’s River Fall. Along with their island tans, the students returned for spring semester with a boatload of experience to share. Carley, along with numerous others, is sad to see Winter Term go. Winter term has been such a part of the Graceland experience, and has left so many with more than just memories.