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
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.