The really quite certain future of Study Service Term

The really quite certain future of Study Service Term

By: Reuben Ng

Just embarking on SSTA, Reuben Ng is amazed by his alien surroundings. Photo by Benjie Aguilera Brown

As both a student in the Arabic class on campus and as a resident of Howell house, I feel I am amply qualified to speak on the topics of international study and living abroad.  As such I would like to voice my humble yet clearly flawless plans for the future of the SST (Study Service Term) program.

Recently, several SST units were abruptly nixed and the rest are no doubt on their way out too.  With this in mind, we should prepare for what will come next.  Invaluable and memorable experiences are a must for this location.  It should also be close so as to cut down on travel costs.  It should not, however, be close enough that there it loses that sense of mystery and that aura of self-discovery that so defines SST.

So how close is close?  Well, walking distance is a good place to start.  And I guess I’ll just be frank.  I’ve found the ideal destination.  It is a place that as a college student I know very little about, a place with a vastly different culture, and with people quite different from what we are used to.

As you may have guessed, I have been referring to the Apartments.  This little-known domain exists on our very campus and yet is unknown to many, including some of its residents.  I have had the unforgettable opportunity to visit this place on nearly five occasions and there is little doubt in my mind that the experiences here would be highly conducive to a new Study Service Term.

I spoke with Ali Hochstetler, a student who has not only participated in SST (in Nicaragua or some such city), but also lives in the Apartments.

“The experiences I had there [Nicaragua] are definitely on par with those of the Apartments,” she said confidently, “in fact I didn’t realize SST was over for a few weeks into fall semester.”

Sights, sounds, and smells are a major aspect of SST.  Visually, the Apartments are stunning to behold. “Yeah it’s a pretty big building,” Hochstetler asserts.   The sounds too are unmistakable; “the walls are so thin you can hear literally everything going on in the rooms above you, below you, and three rooms in any direction.  It really builds community.”  And of course the smells:  “In the Apartments you smell food from all cultures being cooked: good food, bad food, and especially burned food.”

But as with any positive cross-cultural experience there are the downsides.  The hardships begin at night when the showers turn cryogenic rendering washing in any dignified manner impossible.  The burden of trash and recycling is also almost unbearable.  Refuse and recyclables must be carted off unfathomable distances to various places.  Individuals who do not live on the first floor have an additional and very serious challenge to contend with—stairs.

Despite these adversities, I have little doubt that any SST to the Apartments will be a wild success.  We here at Goshen College are highly adaptable.  At Howell house, for example, we recently stopped using an historic dish-washing sponge.  It was a sad, tattered thing, wallowing in filth and decrepitude.  Yet we at Howell persevered.  For nigh on three months, that bacteria-ridden wad limped along on its last legs until just last week it was replaced.

If we here at Howell house could endure such tribulations with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts, I am confident that success in this new SST is guaranteed.  So as you pack up your things and get ready for the strenuous voyage to the apartments, as you talk to people there in their native tongue(s), as you try their ‘food’ and listen to their music, as you climb steps and take ice-cold showers remember the Goshen College motto—Culture for Service!

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