Published on April 2, 2013 by Dr. Betsy Rogers  

Eight Samford education students traveled to Indonesia during January to study different aspects of the country’s educational system and culture. Led by Samford's president and first lady, Drs. Andrew and Jeanna Westmoreland, the students visited universities and taught children at elementary schools.

According to the Samford students, teaching the Indonesian children was an exciting experience as they were eager to learn and listened intently. Student Carly Cate said the children were attentive, respectful and helpful to fellow classmates. Although the language barrier made communication with the children more difficult, Samford students were able to overcome this obstacle with use of educational songs, picture books and engaging activities.

Along with visiting and teaching at various village schools, the group set aside time to volunteer at an orphanage. In addition to teaching, volunteering and sightseeing, each Samford wrote a paper focusing on topics ranging from Indonesian government and education to economic and environmental issues and gender roles. They shared their research with each other, providing background information that helped everyone better understand their Indonesia experience.

The overall intent of the trip was to teach children and learn about the Indonesian culture, but Samford students returned with renewed thoughts about their own education and faith.

For Natalie Mitchell, the trip served as a reminder that going to school and receiving an education is a privilege not to be taken for granted.

For others, such as Laura Beth Rich and Cate, the trip reminded them of their religious freedom in America. They learned that in a predominantly Muslim country where where Christians are in the minority, a person must be willing to sacrifice more to follow Christ.

“The number one thing I took away was just how big and great our God is,” said Cate.

For others, the trip strengthened a passion for international teaching. Samford student Rachel Vestri said she loves traveling and learning about new places, and going to Indonesia encouraged her to continue pursuing a passion for international teaching. She said the trip inspired her to be more intentional with her actions, educational experience and life.

Dr. Betsy Rogers, chair of the teacher education department, said international travel is not only an exciting way for students to experience another culture, but also provides students opportunities to acquire new perspectives, gain self-confidence and learn to value the opportunities offered to them in America.

“This is more than just sightseeing; it can be a life-changing experience,” said Rogers.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.