This fall, 19 Franklin College students traveled to Gliwice, Poland to help build a women’s shelter in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity.

Kellyanne Goldie from Garberville and her 18 classmates participated in Franklin College’s academic travel program, a hallmark of the college. This two-week travel focused on service leadership and was a truly unique and life-changing experience for Kellyanne and her classmates.

In its third installment, this academic travel explores the concept of service and its differing perspectives between cultures. “This experience allows our students to develop greater levels of self awareness, some break down their stereotypes of Eastern European countries, and some learn about how they develop in a group,” said Jacqueline Jones, coordinator of residence life and travel leader at Franklin College. “Being able to see this, to be part of it, and to be part of the reason it happened, is an amazing feeling. The moment you recognize the change, you know that something has shifted, something that will change them for the rest of their life.”

Students met with a first class officer from the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, the CEO of Vital Voices, an NGO that identifies, trains and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe. They also met with student leaders and in classes at the University of Warsaw.

The class then helped build a women’s shelter in Gliwice in cooperation with Michal Lobos, site coordinator and liaison, and his team at Habitat for Humanity in Gliwice, Poland. Additionally, they had the chance to explore and experience the culture of the cities of Warsaw and Krakow through discussions with the leaders of Habitat for Humanity and hands-on work on the construction site.

Freshman Anais Oliveras, age 15, of Noodus, Connecticut said, “This experience was definitely well worthwhile.” Oliveras recalls a particular event on the travel that gave her a better understanding of their beliefs and way of life, but also a stronger sense of empathy, “My most memorable day on travel was when I brought dinner to a homeless woman in the park on a very cold night. Seeing how happy it made her, that helped me to realize how important service is.”

Andrea Volken, age 13, a Swiss-American student from Vallice, Switzerland and Northbend, Washington remarked on the importance of interacting with the local individuals in order to fully serve the community. “I found befriending the local kids near the work site to be most fulfilling,” Volken said. “It came as a beautiful surprise that friendships like that could form without a common language. The relationships I independently established were very touching.”

While both Oliveras and Volken had never traveled to Poland before, the two expressed a desire to return to the country and participate in more community service, particularly on academic travel service trips.

The class recounted their experiences through their academic travel blog: http://tvl334.wordpress.com/

Franklin College is a private, residential, U.S. and Swiss accredited college located in Lugano, Switzerland, the principal city of Switzerland’s southernmost Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

An American liberal arts institution in an international environment, Franklin is fully accredited in the United States by the commission on higher education of the middle states association of colleges and schools, and its programs are recognized in Switzerland by the Swiss University conference. A commitment to courses of study that are international in perspective and cross-cultural in content has been the educational mission since the institution’s founding in 1969.