NICOLE PULLEY / THE EAGLE
Earlier this month, International Student and Scholar Services hosted a trip to Lancaster, Pa., where AU students experienced the Amish culture and discovered a different way of life.
Sponsored by Road Trip USA, the day trip gave students the opportunity to interact with Amish people and learn about a culture not far from Washington, D.C. Visiting Amish markets, enjoying a scenic bus ride and eating a multi-course meal in the home of an Amish family made the journey both exciting and eye-opening for those who attended.
The idea for an annual trip to Lancaster was started more than five years ago by an AU alumni and has since gained so much popularity that it sells out every year. Christine Nichols, an international student advisor for ISSS, helped organize the event and recommended students take advantage of the cultural opportunities.
“Cultural minorities [are] what Road Trip USA is about,” Nichols said. “Students get to see cultures that they may not get to experience [otherwise].”
The Amish trip is a perfect example of this, as it encompasses religious, social and linguistic minorities.
“[The trips] look at all different aspects of multiculturalism, and international students can see what America is like beyond what they see in the movies,” Nichols said.
The two-hour bus ride to Lancaster was smattered with breathtaking scenery of rolling hills, corn fields and white picket fences — quite a change from the bustling streets of D.C.
One of the stops on the trip was a visit to an Amish home where students ate a traditional meal served by the family that lived there. The homemade feast was delicious: corn, chicken, bread with peanut butter, green beans, mashed potatoes, apple sauce, meatloaf, apple pie, carrot cake and iced tea made the menu.
The house had no electricity, so everything the Amish used to heat their homes, cook their food and milk the cows was run entirely on fossil fuels and air compressors.
Cell phones are becoming increasingly popular in the Amish community since they do not require a landline that uses electricity. Instead, many Amish charge their cell phones at work.
After the meal, the family, dressed in traditional attire, sang an Amish song.
Students were able to sample homemade Amish pretzels and purchase food which they brought back to AU at a couple of markets that were selling baked goods, bonnets, quilts and pumpkins. The most technologically advanced items in the stores were the calculators, which they used instead of a cash register.
A visit to the oldest house in Lancaster, which was much larger than the Amish house, showcased a barn that housed 42 horses and students got the opportunity to see the carriage house, which was filled with historic buggies.
Students were able to stop at a horse and buggy station, where visitors could take a ride through the streets of Lancaster. Since the Amish do not drive cars, their only means of transportation is walking, riding scooters or taking buggies. The buggies, complete with directional blinkers, share the roads with motor vehicles. It was an exciting experience as cars flew down the road past the buggies.
Road Trip USA excursions were originally exclusive to international students but have recently opened their doors to American students. Make sure to sign up as soon as possible since the opportunity for cross-cultural interactions and shared learning sells out quickly.
“It encourages interaction between international and U.S. students in a good, safe place to do it,” Nichols explained. “Some are shy, so it’s a place where they can get to know each other and build bonds that we hope grow into friendships.”
There are more upcoming events students can participate in, such as a trip to Maryland to meet the Piscataway Conoy Native American Tribe, as well as a visit to the Underground Railroad where students can learn about African American history.