Students study immigration and diversity abroad

June 14, 2016
Hayley Pollei and Kelsey Bigelow working with their PACCE project partners at Huntingtower Academy

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Thirteen students from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville recently traveled to England and Scotland to study issues of immigration and diversity during a short-term, education abroad experience titled, “A Tale of Four Cities: Diversity and Immigration in Schools.” Nine of the students were from the School of Education and four were from other disciplines.

Dr. Lindsay Hollingsworth and Dr. Jennifer Collins, both assistant professors in the School of Education at UW-Platteville, led the trip. Students earned three credits for the course.

Hollingsworth, Collins and the students traveled to the United Kingdom, where they were based out of Harlaxton Manor, located in the rural setting of Lincolnshire County, England. From there, they visited and explored Edinburgh, Scotland as well as four cities in England – Grantham, Leicester, Lincoln and London. The program also included lectures led by British faculty, cultural experiences and a project in which students collaborated on digital artifacts that will be shared between schools in Platteville and in England. The project was sponsored by UW-Platteville’s Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement.

The group visited two schools: Huntingtower in Grantham, England, a rural community; and Spinney Hill in Leicester, England, a more urban community that is currently the only city in England in which more than 50 percent of the population is non-white.

Huntingtower serves 380 children whose families have moved to the area for jobs and affordable housing. Ninety-four of the children speak English as an additional language, and 49 percent of the 94 speak Polish. Spinney Hill serves 600 children representing a variety of languages, cultures and religions. Seventy percent of the students are Muslim, 15 percent are Sikh and 10 percent are Hindu.

At the schools, students observed and examined issues of immigration and diversity through the lens of the school systems and began to develop an understanding of the impact immigration and an increasingly diverse population can have on schools.

When the group arrived at Spinney Hill Primary School in Leicester, the head teacher asked them to follow him to the gym. As they walked through the doors, all 650 students greeted them. The Year 6 students then performed a 20-minute presentation that explained how diverse and interesting Leicester was and educated the audience with facts about Wisconsin. At lunch, they had a homemade Indian feast made by a few of the teachers. “This is my seventh short-term study abroad and I can attest that this was the most touching and welcoming experience I have been part of,” said Collins.

“I learned so much about both schools in England from this experience,” said Hayley Pollei, a senior elementary education major from Verona, Wisconsin. “I learned the most from the teachers at Spinney Hill Primary School in Leicester. They celebrate differences and because of that, all of the students are so incredibly passionate about acceptance and tolerance of all races, religions, etc. I’ve never seen a group of children so passionate about something like that. It was incredible.”

“I learned that every student has a different story that they want to tell, no matter where they are from,” said Hanna Fleming, a senior elementary education major from South Beloit, Illinois. “Involving students in a project like this is a perfect opportunity for them to get involved and be a part of something big.”

"These experiences play a big role in expanding students’ worldviews and preparing them to live and work in an increasingly diverse society.”

                    – Dr. Lindsay Hollingsworth


Both Hollingsworth and Collins said they hoped participants took away both cultural and academic experiences from the trip that will fuel a desire for future travel.

“UW-Platteville had a banner year for short-term study abroad programs,” said Hollingsworth. “Many students across the campus engaged in experiences abroad and were able to experience people, culture and lands that are different from their own. These experiences play a big role in expanding students’ worldviews and preparing them to live and work in an increasingly diverse society.”

“Study abroad is such a great opportunity for our students to get out and have a taste of the world,” said Collins. “Traveling helps students understand that those differences are not good or bad, they are just ‘different.’ Hopefully, those realizations come back with them and can broaden their understandings of the folks in their own neighborhoods. UW-Platteville students are incredible ambassadors for our school. Like it or not, we were ‘The United States’ to everyone we met in the UK, especially to the students in the two schools. Some students tend to shrug off that unsought responsibility, but our group tended to relish it and leave a positive impression everywhere we went.”

Collins said that as an educator running a short-term education abroad experience focused on education, her hope was that the school visits would have some kind of impact on the UW-Platteville students. “The visits to the schools were in stiff competition with living in a castle, exploring Edinburgh and London sites such as Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. However, when asked what the best part of the trip was – every one of the students mentioned the school visit in Leicester.”

Students who participated in the short-term, education abroad experience included Pollei, Fleming, Kelsey Bigelow, Megan Kleist, Robyn Maxey, Amanda Mueller, Tammy Mumm, Paula Pittz, Zachary Wedige, Lindsey Lambert, Clara Martin, Mikayla Hambley and Ryan Weier.

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities, and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. This short-term education abroad experience aligns with the priorities of providing an outstanding education and fostering a community of achievement and respect.

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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