GO Experience Inspires Student’s Career Path
Published on June 13, 2014
Trip to Philippines Opens Psychology Major's Eyes
Samantha Culin graduated from Susquehanna University in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and religious studies. Prior to her Global Opportunities (GO) trip to the Philippines in the summer of 2013 though, Culin, from Wilmington, Del., was undecided about which track her career would take. And it distressed her.
That’s where the GO program came in. Its purpose is to give students cross-cultural experiences that help them develop a better understanding about the world and themselves. Culin’s two weeks on Filipino soil helped her think differently about her life path. And that’s where she found her calling.
The Susquehanna students and faculty on the two-week trip helped to build a house for a family with eight children, so Culin really got to know the children and their neighbors. More importantly, she saw the struggles they endured and how they still managed to persevere.
“Going to the Philippines opened my eyes to the painful reality of our world,” she said. “There are people who don’t have things I never thought I wouldn’t have, like shoes. So going there really helped keep life in perspective.”
A Personal Connection
After a week working on the house, the group from Susquehanna went to Manila to help at a shelter for children who had been abused and abandoned. That’s when it clicked for Culin and she knew what she was meant to do.
“I grew so attached to them,” she said. “I just love people, and spending time with them. I feel like social work is a good way to do that and really connect with people on a deeper level to empower them to be the best they can be. In reality, no one is better than anyone else. I learned more from them than they learned from me.”
Around a sharing circle which included the group from Susquehanna, the Filipino kids formally introduced themselves and mentioned what they wanted to be when they grew up. Then the Susquehanna students took their turn. That’s when Culin revealed she would be applying for a graduate school program in social work. The kids, who had already begun calling her big sister in Tagalog (a dialect of Filipino), exploded in cheers. She’s since been accepted to West Chester University in its Master of Social Work program and will soon enroll.
“The kids there all know what that means and have been the beneficiaries of the care of social workers at the shelter,” said Jeff Mann, program director of the GO Philippines trip and associate professor of religious studies at Susquehanna. “Sam has even stayed in touch with a social worker at the shelter, who has become something of a role model to her.”
Basketball: An International Language
Culin also learned valuable lessons about communicating across cultures. “Basketball was a good way to connect because of the language barrier,” she said. “A lot of the kids knew enough English to get by and they knew more English than we knew Tagalog. In basketball, you don’t really need to talk, you just need to move your arms. It was cool to break the language barrier that way.”
She also expects her faith to bridge gaps in the future, no matter what religion someone believes in. “Knowing how to connect with people who are of different faiths than me will help in the long run. Religion is important to a lot of people and knowing how to connect with someone on that deeper level and knowing a little bit about their religious beliefs will help me connect with them, which I think is ultimately the most important thing.”