BYU students travel to serve

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Sofia Broadbent, center, and other BYU interns with some friends from the refugee camp on Full Moon Day, a major buddhist holiday, in traditional Shan clothing. (Sofia Broadbent)

BYU Spanish and sociology major Erin Stocksdale’s first service trip to Paraguay was the first time she realized she was no longer a “them” — foreign and privileged — but she was part of the “us” — equal and belonging.

Stocksdale said she began traveling after her freshman year when she went to Spain on a study abroad. She said her experience was unique, but it was completely different from traveling for a cause.

“As a tourist, you are more on the periphery,” Stocksdale said. “You never really completely feel part of the culture.”

Stocksdale said though she spent almost the same amount of time in Spain as she did in Paraguay, it was the cultural immersion and impact that made her trip to Paraguay life-changing.

BYU public health major Adrian Glover traveled to Tonga to be a Humanitarian Experience for Youth counselor. Glover led high-school aged youth in community-building projects. He said relationships form differently while traveling to do good.

“I’ve developed some of my closest friendships with people I’ve met through traveling (for service), and I think you get to see places in a very different way when you’re working alongside community members and are outside of the usual tourist space,” Glover said.

BYU political science major Sofia Broadbent said her ideas on traveling have evolved throughout her life.

“I think most people’s travel interests start out as just having fun,” Broadbent said. “Having fun gives you a certain element of feeling good, but when you are actually doing service and working on projects to help people, it’s a lot more fulfilling than just helping yourself have a good time.”

Broadbent said her first humanitarian trip was to the Dominican Republic as a youth. She had family home evening in a one-room house with a single mother and her two children. Broadbent said it was in that tiny house she first observed severe poverty first-hand and decided she wanted to spend her life doing something about it.

Broadbent went to the border of Thailand and Burma to work with refugees. She said she helped refugees with English because the only way they could get out of the camp is if they improved their English and were accepted to higher education.

She said working for a cause and being with people she loved made the experience fulfilling both in travel and service.

“The more you travel and the more you do good, the more it awakens you and makes you want to do more of it,” Broadbent said. 

Glover said he has seen his travels impact himself, but he also notes seeing other BYU students traveling for a good cause has broadened his perspective.

“Sharing and talking about experiences that other people have had has opened my eyes so much to other cultures and social issues and how amazing humans and the world we live can be,” Glover said.

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