Study abroad in Jamaica: Shoreline to the Blue Mountains

Need a little adventure? Want to learn about a new culture? Check this out.
Shoreline Community College has offered a study abroad program to Jamaica since 2000.
According to Cory Anthony, manager SCC’s study abroad program, The participants are mixed; from full time students to working students, from Psychology majors to Nursing majors to undecided students. Most of them are 19-year-old students but last year there was a 40-year-old student who participated in the program.
Students go to Jamaica for 16 days, spending most of the time at the St. Thomas parish in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. However, they also spend a few hours in Kingston and a few days in the idyllic Strawberry Fields.
Participants will leave for Jamaica on June 5 and return to the U.S. on June 21. The deadline for the application is March 25, 2016. To join this program, participants pay a fee of $1,900. According to Anthony, the fee covers everything such as food, plane fare, lodging, but not the tuition fee of the PSYCH 295 course that students are required to enroll in as part of the trip.
“Participants can apply for study abroad scholarships as well.” Anthony said. “The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship provides a scholarship for participants of up to five thousand dollars. However, international students can’t apply for this scholarship, because this scholarship is provided for domestic students who want to study abroad but have some financial issues.”
But is it worth it to spend money to go study abroad in Jamaica for 16 days?
According to James Tjuanta, one of the participants of Jamaica 2015 study abroad program, it is. “You can learn lots of things from them that you can’t learn from school,” he said. “Since you won’t be able to use your gadgets, the only thing you can do is to build a good relationship with the community.”
Tjuanta, a second year SCC student studying psychology, was informed about this program when Bob Thompson, a psychology professor at SCC, came to his PSYCH 200 class and handed out brochures.
According to Tjuanta, prior to the trip, he and his fellow participants prepared by watching a movie about Jamaican history, reading books about Jamaican culture and reading articles about service learning and research.
Since it was their first time at the Blue Mountains, Tjuanta said they struggled to adapt. According to Tjuanta, although English is spoken in Jamaica, the accent was so thick that he needed to ask them to repeat what they said. Yet, after few days, he said the participants could communicate with the locals easily.
In this program, the participants did more than just study abroad. They got involved in the community by teaching elementary school students. Each class was taught by a pair of participants, assigned at the beginning of the trip. Tjuanta and his partner assisted the fifth and sixth grade students to prepare for math, English and science exams.
In the Blue Mountains, there are two elementary schools: one is Penlyne Castle, a 10 minute walk from the village, and the other is Minto, which requires a 45 minute walk downhill from where the students were staying. Participating students were able to choose where they wanted to teach. According to Tjuanta, he preferred to teach at Minto because the students were more talkative and asked more questions.
“There was one day when the schools are switched: participants who taught at Minto went to Penlyne Castle and vice versa. I taught at Minto, so I went to Penlyne Castle that day,” Tjuanta said. “The students in Penlyne Castle were the complete opposite. They tend to be more passive and obeyed everything you said. It’s not fun for me.”
Besides teaching, participants also researched topics related to the community. They could choose from three options: healthcare, education, and coffee farming. They did both a topical paper, which focused on interviews and field research, and a solution paper, which provided solutions to issues faced by the community. Tjuanta said he decided to focus on healthcare and education for his research.
“Since I was still a nursing major back then, I believed healthcare and education would be more suitable (for my research topic),” Tjuanta said, “I put healthcare in my topical paper and education in my solution paper.”
Being one of only two Asian people on the trip, Tjuanta had some interesting moments.
“They asked me, ‘Are you Bruce Lee? Are you Jackie Chan?’ and I was surprised,” said Tjuanta, laughing. “I remembered that the previous year, there was an international student from China who participated in this program, and she got the same question as me. She answered that she’s Jackie Chan’s daughter, so I decided to say that I’m Jackie Chan’s nephew.”
The benefit of joining this trip? “It changes my perspective,” Tjuanta said. “Since we have limited resources there, I became grateful for everything I have.”

_Adelia Sindunata

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