Issue 359: 11 / 15 / 2010

Southwest International Studies Students Explore Antigua

A view of the dockyard ...

A view of the dockyard bay in front of  the Casalida Villia where the Southwest Study Abroad group lodged.

Antigua, an island in the West Indies Caribbean region, was one of the destinations explored by students in Southwest's International Studies program this past summer. *Antigua means "ancient" in Spanish – a name given by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville Cathedral, Santa Maria de la Antigua—St. Mary the Ancient. It is also known as Wadadli, from the original Amerindian inhabitants, and means approximately "our own."

Antigua was selected as a study abroad destination because it is comparable to the United States in terms of diversity, culture, economics, and politics, said Southwest Associate Professor MaLinda Wade, who was also a faculty adviser and instructor during the travels. “It is so comparable yet entirely so different, the culture and the nature of the people,” Wade explained. “The [political science] students were totally shocked when they got off the plane and saw for themselves how the two cultures compare; which was one of the many purposes of the study abroad trip.” The goal was to expose the students to a foreign culture and environment and have them analyze the economical and political aspects with regard to the U.S.

The students were enrolled in Diversity of Socio-Politics. “The class itself teaches and exposes students to different ideas and ways of thinking, being and experiencing things, ... just something as simple as the difference in food, diet, educational systems, and social systems,”  Wade said. Varying in age, race and gender, the students, according to Wade, had the preconceived notion that they were going to an island where the majority of the residents, of African descent, do things just like Americans because they look like many of the students themselves and the people they see at home. “African descent does not mean dark in hue or in color," Wade clarified. She pointed out that the island is populated by people of African (including white), Dutch, Germans Portuguese, Italians and Spanish descent with the average person speaking as many as three languages. “The students were totally stunned and shocked to find that things were totally different," she said.

How different? One of their tour guides and cab driver, Mr. Bailey, as they called him, accompanied by his assistant, “owned half of the island.” Wade said he showed them the compound, comprising about 240 acres, in which he lived. Bailey created and funded a school, equivalent to our middle schools, and the girls' home that the group visited for a service learning project. Once the students recovered from the realization that this man they thought to be “just a cabbie,” was a rich philanthropist, they soon also realized they had committed what the class called a violation – an assumption and a bias. Each day they went on different excursions. Afterwards, the students wrote and reflected on the events as, Wade led lectures on assumptions and bias, racism and sexism.

The economy was totally different from that in the U.S. A lot of the goods are imported. “A small water melon ranged from six to eight dollars in cost,” Wade said. It is an agrarian economy and many of the people rise early to harvest and sell fruits and vegetables. Pineapple is their major commodity and with Antigua being a tropical island, tourism generates revenue year round. The general populous has training in masonry, brick laying, artistry, crafts, glass blowing, etc. Skills are passed down through generations from father to son and mother to daughter. The island, said Wade, is also big in the shipping industry and hosts an annual international sailing event.

View more photos of the International Studies Antigua Study Abroad.