Wednesday, May 4, 2022
A Message from Wendy Givoglu, Outgoing Interim President, East and Winter Park Campuses
In March, Valencia College marked its eighth reciprocal study abroad trip with students from Koning Willem I College (KWIC) in s’-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, led by Professor of Speech Suzette Ashton. This year, the trip included two service-learning projects and a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the School for Public Safety, including a hands-on virtual shooting range experience.
Students had an opportunity to experience the tactical simulator that trains police officers with simulated firearms for the emotional realities of real-life, use-of-force situations.
“This was the first time I held and shot a gun,” a KWIC student commented. “I had less than a second to react. Being a police officer is more difficult than it seems, and I have a greater appreciation for them. I wouldn’t have this same feeling if I hadn’t experienced the tactical simulator.”
Kudos to Executive Dean of the School of Public Safety Jeff Goltz and Director of the Criminal Justice Institute Rob Pigman for their assistance in organizing this experience. In addition, Orange County Sheriff’s Office Lead Tactical Simulator Trainer Yuri Melich provided the students with an informative session on safety and gun culture in the United States.
The trip also consisted of dinner with College President Kathleen Plinske on the Winter Park Campus and two service-learning opportunities, including a trip to the Marine Discovery Center. Students spent part of the day learning about the biodiversity of marine and plant life in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon. They also clocked in volunteer hours at IDignity, a local organization that helps disadvantaged people in Central Florida obtain personal identification such as birth certificates, Florida ID cards and social security cards.
“I learned a lot of things during my visit to Valencia College, but the one thing that stuck with me the most was volunteering at IDignity,” another KWIC student said. “I really felt like I made a difference, and it was fascinating to hear the clients’ struggles with obtaining identification. I hope I can come back to Orlando and volunteer there again.”
It was a busy week full of wonderful opportunities to learn about culture from a truly interpersonal experience.
“The people here are very close; I felt a real sense of community during my visit to the USA,” an additional student shared. “I saw this at the College, at the church we attended, at the skatepark, in the images at the Pulse Memorial and even on the streets of Orlando.”
Suzette hopes to visit KWIC with a group of students next summer, pending pandemic restrictions.