My Jamaican Spring Break

A young American man with autism poses with a Jamaican school girl.
Jeremiah enjoyed talking to Jamaican students about "going green."
The discovery that international exchange is not "one-size-fits-all" led Jeremiah Swisher to find a program that felt right for him.

I always thought that in order to travel to another country, I would have to live abroad for a long time, or that I would have to have a lot of friends go with me. After visiting my university's Global Center, I learned that there are many different programs to choose from. The group trip to teach in Jamaica over spring break seemed like the best fit for me because it wouldn't interrupt my schoolwork, and the idea of traveling with a group of people was much more comfortable than traveling alone.

Although I have always tried to keep my disability more hidden, I do tell people that I have autism in situations when I could experience struggles related to my disability.

For someone who has routines or likes to nail things down to a schedule, living in Jamaica can be a bit of a culture shock.

I asked someone at my university's Global Center how someone with a disability could travel if they wanted. Wouldn't there be barriers limiting them in other parts of the world? The person I spoke to explained how the Center wants to reach out to the disability community and will often seek assistance through the university's Center of Students with Disabilities and MIUSA to find solutions.

The purpose of my group's trip to Jamaica was to spread information about environmental sustainability. I felt honored to meet so many Jamaican students, and to talk to them about "going green." We shared ways to be more environmentally conscious without having to spend more money, such as conserving water or electricity, or by wasting less food. Jamaica has several rural and urban areas that need a lot of attention in terms of garbage pick-up, and there is a lack of recycling resources. We explained how trash that ends up going in the ground can affect plant growth and water streams, therefore affecting the food we eat and the water we drink.

Traveling abroad is something for everyone, and it's an important experience to have, but a person who has a disability may have unique challenges when studying abroad. For someone who has routines or likes to nail things down to a schedule, living in Jamaica can be a bit of a culture shock. I discovered that there was no such thing as being on time, and meals can last hours.

Overall, though, I had a blast when I was in Jamaica. The people there were very friendly to travelers. Besides the amazing weather, I enjoyed trying new foods, like a vanilla-flavored breakfast porridge, as well as new activities, such as snorkeling, parasailing, and driving a Jet Ski!

Besides being packed full of fun, traveling to Jamaica with my school over spring break was an opportunity to socialize with some people in my school group that I had never met before. When attending college, there are so many opportunities to meet new people, hang out, and travel, and I wouldn't want to miss out on any of them.

Jeremiah Swisher participated in this volunteer spring break when a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater pursuing a bachelor's degrees in Business Administration and Political Science. Jeremiah now works with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Author: 

Jeremiah Swisher