Taking the Bite out of Minnesota Winters

Friday, November 19, 2010

Outdoor Endeavors takes the stance that there is more to an international education than what is taught in the classroom.

The program, which offers a variety of outdoor trips and workshops to help students discover their outdoor skills, led a crew of 14 international students on an ice-fishing expedition in January. The trip was designed as an opportunity for the students to experience something uniquely Minnesotan.

Ivan Bartha, coordinator of experiential programs, came up with the idea in 2006 while running an ice-fishing trip for the University of Minnesota. Nearly all of the participants were international students.

Bartha saw something promising in the expressions of students who participated in the trip, which inspired him to repeat it.

The Center for Student Organizations and Leadership Development (CSOLD) shared Bartha’s enthusiasm for the idea and gave Outdoor Endeavors a mini grant which allowed them to give 14 international students an education in Minnesota culture.

Ted Sherarts, faculty emeritus who taught in St. Cloud State’s art department for 43 years, has participated in several excursions organized by Outdoor Endeavors including the international student ice-fishing trip. Sherarts sees the value in giving international students experiences that are unique to the area.

“Programs like this give international students a breathing experience of Minnesota lore,” said Sherarts, who Bartha refers to as the program’s “adoptive grandpa.”

The international students received the full experience of drilling holes, sitting in the cold and patiently waiting for fish.

Pyseth Seng, Cambodia, went on the trip to learn more about Minnesota recreation.

“I don’t know many things about Minnesota,” said Seng. “I thought it would be interesting to see what it was like to go ice fishing.”

Evan Parkhouse, who assisted in running the excursion, said that all of the participants enjoyed the novelty of being on a frozen lake.

“They took pictures of everything,” said Parkhouse. “Everyone had a really good time, even though we didn’t catch a lot of fish.”

But when the students did catch fish, everyone teemed with excitement.

“It was so exciting when I caught a fish,” said Seng. “It helped me understand why people sit in the cold all day and wait for fish.”

“The glee on their faces was unmistakable,” said Sherarts. “Everyone posed for pictures with the fish, not just the person who caught it.”

International Student Adviser Molly Hoffman believes experiences like this are vital to receiving an international education. This trip gave students the opportunity to show their families pictures and tell them stories about something they could not experience in their home countries.

“Not offering activities like this causes students to miss out on a lot of what Minnesota and St. Cloud have to offer,” said Hoffman, drawing from her own study abroad experience. “It’s the
things you can’t do elsewhere that are the most memorable.”

- Lindsay Scherer

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