Many opportunities are available at Amarillo College to help local communities. Opportunities to personally help people abroad are less abundant, but still available.
The AC Presidential Scholars program provides that opportunity.
During the Christmas break, the Scholars traveled to India and Nepal.
Nineteen students, two faculty members and an administrator were able to experience the culture and hardships of those countries.
Angelica Rodarte, a biology major, said they bonded with the people living there.
“I love that we got to help them in some way,” Rodarte said.
One of the many places they visited was an ashram, a secluded residence of a religious community and its guru.
At the ashram, students assisted in a variety of chores, such as husking corn, pulling weeds or simply lifting heavy objects.
Another common feeling among the students was an emotion of gratefulness.
“I tend to take for granted the simple things that we have here, like water,” Rodarte said. “Everyone over there is so happy even though they have absolutely nothing.”
The Scholars also took note of the living conditions in India and Nepal and the hardships the people face.
“There was a stream with running water; it was completely covered in trash and filth,” business administration major Christian Filsouf said.
“A few yards down from that stream, people were collecting drinking water, doing laundry and even bathing.”
The students said they also dealt with their own difficulties along the way.
After half the scholars became ill from the food, Filsouf said he learned not to eat too much curry chicken.
Another Scholar, biology major Jenna Hooten, said they were even scared to drink bottled water.
The travelers also had to revise the way they interact with people.
Hooten explained that the female members of the group were told not to make eye contact or smile at men. Doing so can come across as flirtatious and possibly end up offending someone, they were told.
“It was hard to do since here in Texas it’s common to smile and make eye contact,” Hooten said.
In spite of their struggles, Rodarte was quick to answer when asked if the trip was worth it.
“It definitely was!” she exclaimed.
Helping the locals led to conversations, and the children would dance and entertain them.
Some, such as Filsouf, were able to quote the words of wisdom some of the travelers received from the guru of the ashram.
“Rather than worrying,” he said. “If we just make the best of today, make today the best it can be, then everything else in life will happen accordingly.”