WINCHESTER — A group of Shenandoah University students, faculty and staff got to learn on Wednesday where they will be traveling in March as part of the university’s Global Citizenship Project, which is in its 14th year.

During the university’s spring break, 77 participants will travel in groups for 10 days to one of seven destinations: The Azores in Portugal; Bhutan; Bosnia & Herzegovina; Cameroon; Colombia; Indonesia and Malaysia.

All expenses are paid for the participants.

A donation from benefactor Maggie Bryant made it possible to add two destinations and 22 participants this year, making this the university’s largest Global Citizenship Project since the program’s inception in 2005.

Over the years, the program has sent 928 representatives from SU to 71 destinations. The funding for the trips started with a large donation to the university. Once the funding ran out, donations continued to come in from other sources.

The purpose of the Global Citizenship Project is to inspire participants to pursue future opportunities to travel abroad.

People must apply to participate in the program. When they apply, they do not know where they will be traveling. There’s a focus on including campus members who have had little to no international travel opportunities.

Laila Schwartz, 19, an SU sophomore studying music education, learned on Wednesday that she will be going to The Azores in Portugal. It will be her first trip abroad.

“I was shaken,” she said when she learned her destination.

She quickly looked up Portugal on her smartphone and saw how beautiful it was.

First-year undergraduate dance major Allyson Trunzer, 28, will be going to Malaysia. She was born in Toronto and has done most of her traveling in North America. She’s excited about visiting Malaysia because she has a friend who is Malaysian.

“This is a really cool experience to get to know her culture firsthand,” Trunzer said. “I’m mostly looking forward to the scenery, the food and meeting the people.”

Trunzer thinks the Global Citizenship Project is a great opportunity for experiential learning.

“It’s exciting, and I think it’s an opportunity to learn in order to contribute,” she said.

Before the countries were announced, Dr. Laura Dabinett, a local ob-gyn, shared her experiences doing medical mission work in Haiti.

“The best living and the best learning comes when you walk into your fear and you live at the edge of your comfort zone,” said Dabinett, who has completed five surgical mission trips since 2014.

Not all of the medical procedures performed were successful, she said. Massive surgeries were being done without the support of a blood bank, a hospital or a specialist.

One patient died, she recounted.

“It was absolutely devastating,” Dabinett said. “Up until this time, we’d all been feeling really, really good about what we were doing, but we knew it was dangerous.”

When Dabinett had to tell the patient’s husband through translators that his wife was going to die, she was surprised by his reaction.

The patient’s husband told her it wasn’t up to her to decide who lives and dies, adding that it was his wife’s time to go and that Dabinett had done her best. His response blew Dabinett away.

“What Paul said to me in that moment taught me much about life, about love and about faith,” she said. “Probably more than any other time in my life.”

— Contact Anna Merod at amerod@winchesterstar.com

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