“The Language of Medicine is Universal”

Joey Ballard ’20 spent his Spring Break in Ecuador for a Global Health Immersion trip with fellow student Joey Lenkey ’19. The two students shadowed Dr. John Myers ’74, who established an award-winning congenital heart surgery program in Guayaquil, Ecuador and leads a team of healthcare professionals on two-week missions to train Ecuadorian surgeons and perform life-saving procedures on sick children. 

Joey Ballard, Dr. Jack Myers, and Joey Lenkey

Joey Ballard, left; Dr. Jack Myers, center; and Joey Lenkey, right

What was your favorite part of your immersion experience?

My favorite part of the trip was being able to openly and honestly discuss difficult aspects of medicine with Dr. Myers. Inevitably, things will go wrong in medicine, yet we rarely take the time to explore these scenarios and how to deal with them. Spending extended time with Dr. Myers allowed us to delve into these issues and spurred significant internal reflection on my part.


What surprised you most about the experience?

The hospital we stayed at was a state-of-the-art facility, comparable to any new hospital I’ve seen in the United States. The equipment, technology, and quality of care were impressive. However, I found it difficult to reconcile this advancement with the water quality crisis in Ecuador. Even at the hospital, we were instructed to avoid drinking the tap water. This points to governmental shortcomings, but it was surprising to see such an advanced facility still lack the access to clean water.


What was the biggest lesson you learned?

I learned that the language of medicine is universal. During the trip, there was a language barrier between Dr. Myers and the fellow surgeons he worked with in Ecuador. Despite this seemingly impassable barrier, they were all united by their passion for medicine and their love for patient care. It was heartwarming to see their professional mission overcome communication challenges.


What has been your biggest takeaway?

That other cultures are beautifully complex. I immensely enjoyed feeling the immersion component of this trip – I had to speak in Spanish most times, leading to authentic and meaningful interaction with locals. While I certainly learned so much about Ecuador and its culture, I recognize that I do not and perhaps cannot fully understand it. This experience provided a glimpse into another way a life. I lack much of the context that contributes to it, which cannot be obtained in one week.


Why are immersion learning experiences important?

While Wabash is a wonderful place, our time here is limited. Immersion trips provide firsthand experiences that cannot be replicated in the classroom and serve to influence our perspectives and inform our career paths. Immersion experiences help Wabash men become better through their ability to influence our worldview and challenge us to consider what we see on these trips.

Will Amberger ’19: Common Law in London

Will Amberger '19

Will Amberger ’19

Will Amberger ’19 traveled to London over Spring Break as part of the Common Law Immersion Experience. Lead by Professors Scott Himsel and Stephen Morillo, the group’s experiences ranged from visiting historic battle sites to sitting in on a real terrorism travel in the United Kingdom Supreme Court.


What was your favorite part of your immersion experience?

My favorite part was touring the Battle of Hastings, one of the most significant battles in human history. The Battle of Hastings in 1066 set the foundation for our course and really that of modern England. It was an incredible experience to learn about the origins of Common Law and English society as we understand it today. It was also really valuable to have time to ourselves to explore and experience London as a city and culture.


What surprised you most about the experience?

The accessibility of the English Court system – we were able to explore so many different courts and observe a lot of different trials. We even had the opportunity to sit in on a hearing in the UK Supreme Court! The freedom we had to study the different courts made this a really exciting trip.


What was the biggest lesson you learned? 

The importance of embracing the subject matter directly. We read a ton of different materials leading up to our trip, but actually being in London and interacting with the history cemented my knowledge and appreciation for the course material.


The 2018 London Immersion group

What has been your biggest takeaway from the experience?

I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of English history and its influence on the United States throughout history. We were able to relate things we saw in London to our course material, and it helped me understand exactly how the United States, especially its legal system, has been influenced by England.


Why are immersion learning trips important?

Immersion trips are extremely important because they allow you to engage the class at another level. You just can’t learn or appreciate the subject in the same way if you stay in the classroom. Immersion trips are great because you can get your hands dirty and directly apply what you learn in class to real life. It’s a kind of “learning by doing” that is extraordinarily valuable.



Dan Azar ’18: Glee Club in Boston

Dan Azar '18

Dan Azar ’18

Daniel Azar ’18 spent Spring Break 2018 with the Wabash College Glee Club in Boston. The group had sang at several large performing arts venues around the area while also battling the effects of the Nor’easter snow storm, which made for some fun snowball fights with Glee Club Director Reed Spencer. 


What was your favorite part of your immersion experience?

My favorite part of this immersion experience was having the opportunity to get to know my fellow Glee Club brothers. I also enjoyed singing and performing with other schools and learning how to improve our sound as a group through masterclasses.


What surprised you most about the experience?

I was surprised by how moved so many people were by our performances and how powerful an impact our music had on others outside of the Wabash community.


What has been your biggest takeaway?

This tour truly reminded me of why I am so lucky to be a part of the Glee Club and why it is so important to our College. Singing with others provides you with a community you cannot get anywhere else. You are able to connect with your brothers in song in such a profound way and that is something I will really miss when I graduate.


Dan Azar '18 conducts

Azar conducts the Glee Club in Boston.

Why are immersion learning experiences important?

Immersion learning helps students understand why the classroom isn’t the only place for learning. It gives students the opportunity to see the significance of their influence outside of the Wabash community. It connects us with people we never thought we’d be connected with and helps us hear their perspective on the enduring questions we seek to answer as Wabash men.