Hannah Burns

Shaping Their Worldview: J-Term Trips With Impact

Globe-trotting Tommies are back on campus after an eventful January. Whether they spent their days gazing at pyramids, fighting climate change in tropical rainforests, or drilling for core samples in the desert, J-Term offered a multitude of hands-on, study abroad experiences. Meet four standout students who won’t soon forget their time away from campus:

NICOLE ADAMS '23 (operations and supply chain management, data analytics)

Study abroad location: Ghana

Nicole and her GHR Fellows colleagues from Opus College of Business took a trip to Ghana, exploring the African nation’s community-driven entrepreneurial spirit. While abroad, the cohort visited neighborhood markets, a Ghanian rainforest, and even met with Ghana’s second lady, Samira Bawumia.

How the trip shaped her worldview: This experience allowed me to understand that, despite being in completely different physical areas of the world, we all experience very similar problems. But how we deal with them is really what is different. Community building is highly important in Ghana. So it allowed for a lot of discussions about how different the business strategy was there compared to here when it comes to competitiveness and just supporting each other.

Favorite moment: My favorite part of the trip was going into a school called Soronko Academy. It was a coding school and taught technology skills to young women, so that they could use that skill set and get into an industry that had a lot of demand. I enjoyed seeing that process of addressing a need within the community and setting it up in a way to be self-sustainable.

Favorite food memory: Cocoa. We visited a cocoa farm and got to taste real cocoa, which is actually quite sweet, before it was even processed and made into chocolate.

Biggest takeaway: I’ll never forget our guide. He really took care of every student on the trip and made sure we had the best experience. He had so many connections. No matter what we needed or wanted to do, he had someone he could call. It really showed me how those interpersonal relationships are more important than ever.

JOSH MOUNSEY '23 (environmental studies, operations and supply chain management)

Study abroad location: Belize

Josh joined Campus Ministries and the Office for Service and Social Justice as part of its VISION program on service trip focused on sustainability. The team worked with the Ya’axché Conservation Trust on its reforestation efforts, planting trees and maintaining old growth.

What got Josh interested in going: This trip reflected my passion for sustainability. I want to protect the environment for present and future generations and Ya’axché is a perfect example of an organization that is doing good work and seeing real-world results.

How the trip shaped his worldview: I was born and raised on a tiny island called St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which shares a distinct relationship with Belize through the history of the Garifuna people. I felt like I was in communion with the locals, because any time the locals ask where I am from and I replied St. Vincent and the Grenadines, they have always embraced me, which epitomizes the notion that there are more things that unite us rather than divide us.

Favorite experience: We played a game of spoons after dinner and our reflections and seeing everyone there, including local Belizeans, with an abundance of smiles, enthusiasm, energy, and happiness made me very happy and created memories that will last a lifetime for me.

Favorite local dish: Coconut ice cream

HANNAH BURNS ’23 (English, history)

Study abroad location: Egypt

Hannah participated in St. Thomas’ partner program with the American University in Cairo. She took a history class on the making of the Arab world and enjoyed many day trips to experience Egyptian culture.

What got Hannah interested in going: I really liked the idea of being based out of one university. I’d done a multi-city study abroad trip last year. On this trip we were able to study together at the American University in Cairo, but also do plenty of excursions and see as much of Egypt as we could.

How the trip shaped her worldview: It was a culture shock because it’s so different than anything here. It ultimately showed me a different way of living, a different tempo of life. They call it Egyptian time, because everyone just kind of understands that everyone is going to get there when they get there. It’s a really interesting way to experience the world.

Favorite experience: The pyramids are absolutely incredible – photos don’t do them justice. They’re so ginormous, they don’t seem real. We also got to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings in Luxor and that was one of those moments I’ll never forget.

Favorite local dish: Hawawshi, fresh bread.

JOSHUA KIETZMANN (physics, geology)

Study abroad location: Southeast Nevada

Joshua took part in a St. Thomas course titled Regional Geology and Field Methods in southwestern U.S. The class visited several study areas about an hour east of Las Vegas, including Zion National Park, getting their hands dirty while mapping out the terrain and trying out different field research methods.

How the trip shaped his worldview: I had never been to the southwest U.S., so it was incredibly cool to be there and have our entire group out in the desert. We got to experience a new place with a group of people who we came to know really well. We’re now a very tight-knit bunch.

Favorite experience: While we were there, we were camping for pretty much two weeks straight. It wasn’t like being on campus where you go to class, and then you leave. For this course we were hands-on every day from when we woke up to when we went to sleep.

Favorite meal: We cooked for our class in assigned food groups. Every night a group of three of us, we’d be in charge of putting out breakfast and cooking dinner for the evening. My favorite team meal was probably cooking brats.

Biggest takeaway: I’ll always remember how we persevered as a group throughout the trip. It’s a high-intensity course and mentally you’re being strained, while also being strained physically because you’re walking around the whole day. It was a good confidence boost knowing that we could persevere and get through that strenuous environment.