It’s summer break and college students everywhere are looking for their ideal summer internship. But all too often, students find themselves in internships that don’t prove pertinent to their field of study.

On the contrary, the University of Notre Dame has established a summer program that allows their students to have a truly unique and immersive learning experience. Managed by Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, the International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP) is an eight-week study abroad program that gives students across a variety of majors an opportunity to examine causes of poverty and create links of solidarity across borders.

The ISSLP places students in 18 developing countries from Thailand to India to Uganda. For the last 10 years, Common Hope has been one of two Partner Organizations in Guatemala and one of 31 worldwide. At the Common Hope project site in Antigua, students have an opportunity to work in health care, housing, and/or education.

Joe says this experience has shown him what kind of doctor he hopes to be

This summer, Common Hope | Familias de Esperanza has the pleasure of hosting medical students Sonia Gonzalez and Joe Weiler. The two are working in Common Hope’s Antigua clinic and spend two days a week in the clinic in San Rafael. As undergrads, they are shadowing our medical staff, taking patients’ vital signs, and assisting staff as needed. Though the day-to-day tasks are fairly straightforward, Joe explains that what he’s learned is invaluable. “I’ve been able to learn how I hope to be as a doctor by observing how the staff here provides compassionate and effective care. Additionally, I better understand the problems that are present in the communities like poor air and water quality that ultimately lead to health care issues,” Joe says.

They have different areas of study (Sonia is pre-med and Joe is studying neuroscience), but both agree that working in clinics is giving them the experience and understanding that will help them finish their education and pursue their desired careers.

Joe and Sonia pictured with members of the Antigua clinic staff

Beyond Health Care

In addition to working in the clinics, Joe and Sonia also volunteer at youth activities on weekends. Sonia says this has really resonated with her and she values the relationships she’s built over the last two months. “I didn’t expect to bond with the kids in the afterschool program in the way that I did, and now I am going to be really sad to leave. And I love the fact that I am able to form relationships with the people I work with.”

Over the last 10 years, Common Hope has hosted 20 Notre Dame students, providing them with opportunities to work in public schools, construction, pharmacy, dentistry, and after-school programs. In return, students carry forward a deeper understanding of the complex causes of poverty and their responsibility in our global community. This exchange fulfills the educational needs of students, creates global connections, and meets the needs of local communities – making ISSLP one of the most successful and sought-after internships.

Common Hope would like to thank Notre Dame and the Center For Social Concerns for their continued partnership. And a big GRACIAS to Sonia and Joe, and all of the former Notre Dame ISSLP students. Your eagerness to learn and willingness to be of service are greatly valued!

2017: Sonia Gonzalez and Joe Weiler
2016: Brooke Gensler and Leigh Anne Tang
2015: Elizabeth Hillman and Robert Myak
2014: Kathleen Shaughnessy and Andrew Cardoza
2013: Jason Hoard and Lucy Smith
2012: Elizabeth Doan and Mariana Prado Anaya
2011: Daniel Nelson
2010: Laura Larkin and Lexie Perreras
2009: Lamarr Holland and Brianna Muller
2008: Merissa Yellman and Conrad Vinalon
2007: Sean Duffy