In May, 22 students and five faculty/staff headed to Sisak, Croatia, to work with high school students as part of UofL’s International Service Learning Program. Students from the nursing, communication and engineering disciplines taught lesson plans covering packaging, hydraulics, culture exchange, societal norms, nutrition, smoking and stress.
The group also painted the exterior of a local kindergarten and explored Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes, Jasenovac Concentration Camp, Cigoc stork village, and Vinarija Florijanovic Winery.
Mechanical Engineering professor Dr. Ellen Brehob serves as the academic representative of the Speed School for Croatia, a country situated in Eastern Europe near the Adriatic Sea. With two decades of service under her belt, Brehob sees the program first and foremost as immersion in to new experiences.
“I think that Croatia is different because it’s not a third world country. They have good food, good teeth. The program is a little different. I think you go because you want to do something good. But it’s not like we’re going to give them good drinking water, it’s more a cultural exchange,” Brehob said.
The Croatian program is relatively new, having developed within approximately the last six years. A former Communist state, Croatia endured a grueling civil war in the early 1990s, from which it has since recovered. That was part of the discussion as the Croatia program developed.
“What they wanted was conflict resolution and how to keep peace, and we haven’t really met that,” Brehob said.
As part of the multi-disciplinary program, engineering students work along with communications and nursing students to help assemble a program that they can take to Croatian high school students.
“Our students get to talk with high school students (about) what it’s like to live in Croatia, what are their lives like. The Croatian students are really intrigued by Americans. They like talking to UofL students,” Brehob said.
Brehob hopes that the students walk away with a fresh perspective on the chances that they are afforded in the United States. Croatian students are often short on career options, and Brehob reports that a majority seek to move out of the country to find employment. Still, she has had a great experience in Croatia and believes that her students have benefited as well.
“I love that in Croatia, they have a real sense of family. They don’t have as much money, but they have a happy, comfortable life,” Brehob said.
The full story about Brehob’s experience is available on the J.B. Speed School of Engineering website.