Ripon in Jamaica?

Students preparing for annual trip to Hagley Gap, Jamaica for research.

By Deana Johnson

Ripon students participate in a game with residents of Hagley Gap as part of the 2019 trip to Jamaica.
Photo courtesy of Ali Hamza.

For the past 13 years, Ripon College students have annually traveled to Hagley Gap, Jamaica, to do research and help serve the community through a program called the Blue Mountain Project.

This year the trip will be from May 18 through May 31. The board met and decided that the trip will be 30% cheaper than last year, and that with special grants offered, the cost will now be roughly $1,900 for students.

On this trip, students will choose a research track and conduct it in the Hagley Gap environment to see how either education, social relationships, and/or peace resolution differs in different cultures. Students taking the education route will work with Professor Jean Rigden and work in the local primary schools. Students studying social relationships will work with Professor Ellen Lee. And students studying peace resolution will work with Professor Joe Hatcher to focus on studying non-violent ways to resolve problems.

Besides doing research, students will get a chance to experience the Jamaican culture.

“We typically visit a farm run by a local business woman, visit a coffee farm, hike the Blue Mountain peak which is over 7,400 feet, visit Kingston to see the Bob Marley museum, visit the beach, engage in some sort of community service for the town of Hagley Gap, and overall participate and be involved with community activities and locals.” Lee said.

Students also get to broaden their perspectives through “getting to know a different culture, staying in a culture for an extended period of time, staying with a host family and seeing people’s home lives and what it’s like for them,” Lee said.

This allows students to “have a greater appreciation of what life is like across the world. It allows them a chance to reflect on one’s own privileges that we may take for granted in everyday life.” Lee said.

Thomas Poullette, class of 2021, who was one of five students to travel to Jamaica last year said,“ In the Hagley Gap, the locals do every-day tasks (cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc.) differently than we do here. I think that seeing how people live differently, and living like them, allows us to take a step back and evaluate our routines, habits, values, relationships, and other aspects of our lives that we don’t really think about much. In other words, living differently showed me a new perspective and this allowed me introspect; I think this is important for growth.” Poullette said.

“To any students considering going to Jamaica, do it. Whether it’s money or fear holding you back, just go for it. This year the price of the trip is significantly cheaper than last year and I still don’t regret it. I had many fears going into this trip but once we arrived in the community and met the locals and families, most of my fear washed away as all they wanted to do was make sure we felt welcomed and as comfortable as possible. You will meet amazing people with incredible stories, some of which will stay with you forever. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to have an experience like this in a million years.” said Sonja Brüggemann, class of 2022, who was one of the students to travel last year.

Students who are interested in traveling to Jamaica this year or who have questions should contact Professors Hatcher, Lee, or Rigden for help getting signed up and put on the right track to making it a reality.