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Published: March 15, 2024

Spartans Spend Spring Break in Ireland, Memphis and Portland

Over spring break, many UT students took part in study abroad courses and service and cultural learning activities.

Learn more about some of the different ways Spartans chose to spend their time off.

A Brief Time Abroad

For Gisele Scimone ’24 and Christian Farrell ’25, the faculty-led course to Ireland was an ideal scenario due to the shortened time frame that they’d be abroad. 

Spartans Spend Spring Break in Ireland, Memphis and PortlandA favorite for both Scimone ’24 and Farrell ’25 was the time they spent surfing in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Scimone

Global Perspectives in Athletic Training, led by Associate Professor JC Andersen, took place over 10 days.

Scimone, a human performance major, said she thought the course sounded interesting, and because she’s graduating a year early, she couldn’t travel abroad for a full semester. Farrell, an allied health and human performance double major, said he wasn’t interested in being away an entire semester. But since the class was only 10 days long and it was in a location he always wanted to visit, he was in.

During the first half of the trip, the group went to Donegal in northwestern Ireland, where they learned the history and culture of religion in the region, learned about the Irish potato famine and the culture and history of the country itself.

A favorite for both students was surfing for their first time ever at Arranmore Island.

“It was freezing,” Scimone said, but “so much fun.”

“I was proud I got on (the surfboard) once,” Farrell said. “I got on the board a few times, and it was all downhill from there.”

Later in the trip, in Dublin, the students went to the Sports Ireland campus, which had “every sports field you could imagine,” Farrell said.

Here, they got to practice gymnastics and learn moves on the springboard and balance beam, he said.

“There were Irish gymnasts to the right, while we were falling off a board on the ground,” Farrell laughed. 

Another highlight was visiting Dublin City University, Farrell said. The students sat in on a lecture where a professor was teaching exercise physiology. They also got to participate in a VO2 Max exercise. 

Farrell spoke with a physiologist and a statistician, people in his ideal career fields.

Community Cultural Exchange

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion sent nine students with Assistant Professor Kayla Toohy and Assistant Director Anayah Walker to Memphis, Tennessee, over spring break. They went to an NBA game, volunteered at a food bank, visited two local universities and a cultural museum, and ate the best of Memphis boba and barbeque.

Dan Bhatt M.S. ’24 and the rest of the ODEI-sponsored students helped distribute books to children at the University of Memphis's library over spring break. Photo courtesy of Bhatt

Dan Bhatt, M.S. ’24, helped plan and attended the trip. For him, getting autographs from the Memphis Grizzlies, talking to professors at the University of Tennessee and attending the National Civil Rights Museum were all a part of the cultural experience that made the trip worthwhile. 

“I hail from India, and it was my first time going to a museum here in Memphis that talks about the history of another culture,” Bhatt said. 

“We chose a city like Memphis wherein we could learn cultural diversity — what are the impacts of people who stay in Memphis on the community there?”

In learning about the Memphis culture and the community that built it, the students were eager to give back. After learning about the University of Memphis’ book distribution system for children, the group asked if they could help out for a day. 

“It was very enlightening to see what the people in Memphis have to offer to children at a very young age, all the services that they offer for them to grow,” Bhatt said. 

For every spring break trip before, Bhatt said, he was only concerned about about the travel and the fun things with family and friends. On the Memphis DEI trip, he said, he was able to still have that fun and provide help to the community.

Service, Connections and Reflection

Seven members of the PEACE Volunteer Center traveled to Portland, Oregon, with a faculty leader, to focus on the issues of homelessness and hunger.

Seven members of the PEACE Volunteer Center traveled to Portland, Oregon, with a faculty leader, to focus on the issues of homelessness and hunger. Photo courtesy of Zachariah Steele ‘25

Zachariah Steele ’25, a business management major, was always interested in volunteering, as it was something his parents instilled in him from an early age. Once he entered college, he wanted to continue that and meet new people. 

As an elected member on the board of alternative breaks, he assists in planning and leading the trips.

Portland, he said, seemed a fitting place. Homelessness in Portland increased by 65% from 2015 to 2023, according to the city’s website. 

“We’re peacemakers. We help people,” Steele said.

One of his favorite service locations was the Blanchet House, where they worked serving a lunch and dinner to the homeless population.

“It was very hands-on and direct in the service we were doing,” he said. “The organization was well-organized and impressive.”

The group also visited Friends of Portland Community Gardens, where they rebuilt and revitalized a garden; the Rebuilding Center, where they worked on sorting and organizing materials; the Clackamas Service Center, making grocery bags that would be distributed in Portland; and the Oregon Food Bank, putting together bags of oats, that would go to low-income individuals or food banks in the area.

Another highlight for Steele was the post-trip reflection time.

“It helped put a new perspective on the trip, and I gained an insight into how my volunteers felt,” he said.

In his senior year, Steele plans to stay involved with PEACE. He also works with Water for Mercy, which helps build wells for people who don’t have access to clean and safe water, a position he is considering continuing after graduation.

To those who may be unsure about volunteering at a PEACE event or attending a trip, Steele says, “Give it a shot.”

“If you’re looking to do good while making meaningful connections, PEACE is the perfect fit for you,” he said.

Story by Brianna Kwasnik, Digital Content Editor/Writer and Lena Malpeli ’25

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