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By Nicole Loschke
 

Traveling to 19 different cities, three different continents, and eight different countries; living with 19 different families, working with 80 different students from around the world; and impacting numerous lives and communities, all in just six months—is an opportunity few people get.

More than 15 HPU students and two staff have been part of the Up With People, a global education program founded 40 years ago that claims, “No longer is a textbook education enough.” The six-month program recognizes the need for cultural awareness, understanding, and tolerance. Each year 80 students, representing more than 20 different countries, travel around the world doing community service projects, learning leadership skills, performing intercultural shows, and developing the cultural acceptance the organization stresses.

Tekla Weiterman, a junior, majoring in international relations, traveled with Up with People for the first time in fall 2004.

“ I met a man from the Mafia in Italy,” Weiterman said. “We talked about politics.” Weiterman listed some of her experiences: “We sang for the Pope…We were invited to a Japanese tea ceremony…We went to a concentration camp in Germany…

“ Up With People changed my life,” Weiterman said. “It’s impossible to participate in a program like this and not change.”

The program organizes two sessions a year, starting each January and July with a four-week orientation in Denver, Colorado. From there students travel for eight weeks through North America, six weeks in Europe, and four weeks in an emerging or developing country. Students stay with a different host family, in a different city, every week.

Every week consists of similar activities; however, the schedule is flexible. According to Weiterman the most important thing about the learning activities is that the learning is done by doing, not sitting in the classroom.

Most Mondays are set aside for traveling. Tuesday’s involve regional learning activities that educate students about the community they will be living in for the next week. Guest speakers from the community are brought in on Tuesdays to speak to the students about their role in the community. During Weiterman’s travel she heard a Holocaust victim speak in Germany, a bomb survivor speak in Hiroshima, a Mafia leader in Italy, and other community members such as businessmen, non-profit organization leaders, and professors.

On Wednesdays students participate in a community activity day, where they work with members of the community to improve some aspect of that city. Examples of this would be picking up trash with high school students, or volunteering at a community festival. In the afternoons students participate in regional learning activities that entail visiting an important place within the city such as Anne Frank’s house, the Red Light District in the Netherlands, or historical temples and ruins.

Thursdays and Fridays are set aside for community impact days. Students are divided into groups that perform different projects such as fence building, visiting nearby schools to teach children about stereotyping, or visiting nursing homes.

Saturday’s are dedicated to the show preparation and performance during the evening, donating all proceeds from the show to a local service or organization. To finish off the week students get an entire day devoted to spending time with host families.

Former HPU Student Life Director, Jennifer Matheson, traveled with Up With People for the first time in 1996. Up With People “takes an average student,” Matheson said, “and pulls out raw and hidden talents…They find strength and everybody’s talents and utilize them,” she added.

In the ‘70s Up With People students helped at the Munich Olympics after the murders of Israeli coaches and athletes. In the ‘80s students were in the Soviet Union, Poland, Estonia, and China witnessing the fall of the Soviet Union. In the ‘90s students performed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nations event. Recently students attended World Youth Day in Rome.
With more than 20,000 alumni, Up With People has completed more than 3,400,000 hours of community service, visited more than 3,600 communities in 38 countries, performed for more than 20 million people live, one billion televised, and at four NFL Super Bowl half-time shows.
For more information visit www.upwithpeople.org.

Photos by Tekla Weiterman


Up With People students paint fences for their community service project in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.


UWP helping out Habitat for Humanity.


Tekla Weiterman, c., shared cultures with Japenese middle school students who taught her origami.


From left to right, Tekla Weiterman, Carina Leibold, and Melanie Pain. Women in their Japanese host cities shared their kimonos with the students and taught them how to wear traditional Japanese clothing.


Up With People students doing morning stretches with pre-schoolers during the pre-school’s sports day.


Tekla Weiterman spent a day with her Italian host family in Rome to see the Pope. Host families are vital to traveling students. Most students keep in touch with their host families long after the program is over.

FAST FACTS:

• Live in 19 different cities.
• Travel to 8 different countries.
• Visit 3 different contenents.
• Program costs:
• $11,800
• Travel to Denver, Colorado
• Travel home from concluding city
• Earn 15 credits towards an HPU degree:
• COM 1000- Intro to Communication
• COM 2000- Public Speaking
• COM 3200- Interpersonal Communication
• GEOG 2000- Intro to Human Geography
• HUM 1000- Intro to Humanities
• Electives

 

 


 

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