Out of Their Seats, on to the Streets
Sophomores Jazzy Benson and Marie Prevost earned nine credits in the communications department last semester, but very little time was spent in the classroom.
For these Ball State students, an immersive learning program offered far more than just college credit.
Benson and Prevost competed on the Ball State debate team, coached high school students, gave workshops to elementary school students and travelled to Chennai, India for the World Universities Debating Championship.
From Dec. 26 to Jan. 4, Benson and her class travelled to Chennai, eating banana leafs with their bare hands and wearing traditional Indian dresses to the World Debate closing ceremonies.
“We got to go see a lot of Indian experiences,” Benson said. “So there were different restaurants and places we could go that wouldn’t be your basic tourist places to see.”
For Prevost, the travel portion of the trip opened her eyes to a new culture.
“We’re taught from a young age that America is kind of a different country like you go to other countries and they’re different than what you’re used to,” Prevost said.
“This just kind of put that into perspective. It’s one thing to be told something and another to experience it.”
One of those differences was the way women are respected less in India, according to Prevost.
“Girls are not respected over there at all,” Prevost said. “One of the boys in our group had to go with our couch because she’s a female and he kept saying that the entire time the doctors wouldn’t talk to her so he had to relay all of the information to her.”
Before travelling to India, Benson said the class helped coach the Muncie South Side High School debate team and lead workshops with a local elementary school to develop skills, instead of learning solely in the classroom.
“I definitely don’t think I would’ve gotten as much out of it and I don’t think I would’ve realized how valuable what I was learning was,” Benson said. “Being able to learn it then go out and apply it the next day or the next weekend definitely made it seem more real-life.”
Getting out of the classroom and putting her communications skills to the test was what Prevost said helped her develop new skills.
“I got out of the class was definitely organization,” Prevost said. “I felt like I was an organized person to begin with, but debate is just a whole new form of organizing. From how you organize your points to how you just go about saying something, it really helped me be able to stand up and go point by point in what I want to say and do it effectively”
Benson and Prevost are two of over 16,000 students who have taken part in almost 1,000 immersive learning opportunities at Ball State since 2007, according to the Ball State University website.
There are many opportunities for students to earn credit through immersive learning, and Benson said she would recommend the experience to others.
“I would give anyone that’s considering doing an immersive opportunity the advice of just going for it,” Benson said. “I would say no matter what the program is… just get out there and do it because it gives you a whole new experience that you don’t get in the classroom. “
For students considering immersive learning, Benson said local experiences are just as beneficial as international trips.
“Even if it’s something to do here in Indiana, get out there,” Benson said. “Get to know people, get to see what your field will be like and have those experiences, because they really just will enrich everything.”