Torrential rain did not dampen the spirits of the campus contingent as they visited Puerto Rico.
Penn State McKeesport student, staff, and faculty members who were part of the Education Abroad trip to Puerto Rico - May, 2005.
Penn State faculty, staff, and students sustained days of some of the heaviest rainfall in Puerto Rico’s history during their recent international trip to the island….and still the “weathered” travelers managed to catch all the sites, visit museums and local markets, and capture the local culture during their eight day trip.
Organized as part of its International Programs and Education Abroad program, Penn State McKeesport planned the trip under the direction of faculty members, Drs. MaryEllen Higgins and. Clifford Manlove, Assistant Professors of English, and Amy Guthrie, Instructor in French. As part of the class syllabi, students enrolled in either Literature and Empire (English 181 and 182H) or Introduction to Literature in the Americas (Comp Lit 005) were given assignments related to the Puerto Rican trip. A journal of their activities while on the island and a final exam in their selected course was also required to earn a final grade..
During the excursion, students visited San Juan, the Old World capital founded by Juan Ponce de Leon in the early 16th century. San Juan, a city of Spanish history and new construction, has the New San Juan area which consists of the hotels, casinos and modern architecture along its beaches and Old San Juan which is steeped in Old World Spanish architecture and tradition. Many of the buildings in Old San Juan are restored showing the 16th and 17th century Spanish colonial style architecture with wrought iron balconies and narrow streets paved with bluish stones.
A visit to El Morro, one of the Spanish fortresses on the island was also part of the group’s walking tour. El Morro has the distinction of being the largest fortification in the Caribbean. Perched 140 feet above the sea, the fort offers some of the island's most spectacular views. A bastion of the island’s defense since the early 16th century, El Morro is a maze of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts, ramps and sentry boxes manned with cannons. The area is designated a National Historic Landmark. El Morro is one of the first and last sites that the 28 cruise ships that make their home in Puerto Rico view as they approach or depart the island.
A guided sightseeing tour of Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city, was included in the trip's itinerary. The city, established over 300 years ago, is home to the Ponce Museum of History and the Ponce Museum of Art which houses the most extensive art collection in the Caribbean.
Aside from touring the cities of Puerto Rico, trip participants were able to tour the rain forest area of the island and view the lush greenery, tropical flowers and spectacular waterfalls of the region. Puerto Rico is home to the El Yunque Rain Forest, a 28,000 acre jungle which was given National Park status by Teddy Roosevelt. Students and faculty were able to take advantage of one of the area’s natural swimming pools.
As part of Penn State McKeesport’s foreign trips, participants are encouraged to ingrain themselves into the local culture of the areas visited. Time for trips to local eateries, markets, churches, museums, and entertainment attractions is always worked into the trip’s itinerary so that students can meet and become more comfortable with the local people, their customs and lifestyle.