EXPLORaider Group Travels to Puerto Rico

March 14, 2012

Members of the University of Mount Union’s EXPLORaider program (formerly the Multicultural Retreat) experienced multiculturalism in Puerto Rico during spring break in March.

According to Fendrich Clark, assistant professor of communication and trip organizer, the annual multicultural retreat is a way to expose students to the rich cultural diversity found throughout the United States. The trip allows students and staff members to get to know one another while learning about a culturally diverse area. Previous trips have included destinations such as San Francisco, New Orleans, Phoenix, Detroit and New York City.

“The purpose of the trip is to bring faculty, students and staff together to talk about issues of diversity such as racism, sexism and gender issues,” Clark said.

For this year’s retreat, 18 students, faculty and staff members traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to learn about the U.S. territory. The theme of the trip was “Raider Conquista.”

While in Puerto Rico, students learned about the territory’s maritime history and visited the Pinones State Forest, a number of beaches, del Morro fortress, San Cristóbal and the Governor’s Mansion. They also went to Barrachina restaurant, the birthplace of the original pina colada and visited the El Yunque rain forest, where they learned about the ecology of the rain forest.

“I think it was cool how they planned things for us to do that we wouldn’t normally do on a trip,” said Mount Union senior Samantha Severo. “We did things that locals would do rather than what a tourist would do. It opened up new experiences for all of us. We had a lot of time to explore and that was also really cool because it taught us how to force ourselves to learn. None of us knew Spanish, but we figured out how to communicate with the people of Puerto Rico. It forced us to make it on our own in a good way.”

Ashley Ross, assistant director of multicultural student affairs at Mount Union, was among the staff members who went on the trip.

“I think things went really well,” Ross said. “The students enjoyed their trip and it was a very large learning curve as far as the culture and the language. The trip opened up their eyes to the fact that things are a lot different than Northeast Ohio. Not only do students have fun on the trip, they build relationships with faculty and staff and they also build cultural experiences that they may not be able to get right out of college.”

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