Honors students make connections, build up communities on global treks

Lilly Jiroudek, a Grand Canyon University communications major, said her experience sightseeing in Munich, Germany, blew her expectations “out of the water.”

The senior, along with 45 other Honors College students, ventured to nine European countries in just 12 days this spring.

It was one of three trips Honors College students embarked on recently. They not only drank in the sights on a cultural excursion to Europe but helped communities in Baja, Mexico, on a medical mission trip and journeyed to the Talamanca Mountains of southeast Costa Rica and northern Panama for a Hike for Humanity mission-work trip, a first for the Honors College.

European Magic

The European Magic trip, an annual cultural tour hosted by Contiki, dazzles students with breathtaking views and an educational background of the sights. With so much to see in a short time, students typically spent an afternoon exploring the countries on foot, boat and bike.

Students take in the sights of Lucerne, Switzerland, on their 12-day excursion.

“It was so picturesque, and just so green. It really looked like it was straight out of a fairytale,” Jiroudek said. "I had low expectations because I didn’t know what to expect from Munich, but I was taken away because it was so beautiful."

Aside from getting lost in the beauty of Europe, experiencing all that beauty with other students made the tour even more special.

“I didn’t really know them well at the start of the trip but getting to know them in these beautiful places and having that bond is a really incredible thing.”

While some enjoyed the scenic outdoors, others appreciated the arts and and history of Europe, including Study Abroad Coordinator and European Magic trip leader Jessica Landes, who took the same trip when she was a GCU student and appreciated seeing the same sights from a new perspective.

She loved visiting castles in Italy, being awed by the White Cliffs of Dover and taking the ferry across the English Channel.

Honors students throw up the Lope sign from Europe.

Landes was especially astounded by the Concorde Obelisk from Luxor, the biggest sundial in the world. A gift from Egypt, it is the oldest monument in Paris at more than 3,000 years old, which she says is “mind-blowingly old."

A connoisseur of the French romantics, she said it was “inspiring and powerful” to be in the same places as her favorite authors.

Landes added, “A big pillar of GCU and the Honors College is global awareness and building that cultural mindset and just being able to understand that there is a much bigger world out there."

Baja, Mexico, medical mission trip

GCU nursing students operate a neighborhood clinic for a community in Baja, Mexico.

For GCU pre-med seniors Avery Carbajal and Bella Cubides, the purpose of traveling to Baja, Mexico, with the Honors College was clear.

“We come to serve, be disciples and love on the community,” said Cubides.

The medical mission trip, another excursion offered by the Honors College, is popular among nursing students.

Nursing students encourage healthy habits while interacting with children in Baja, Mexico.

“It’s an opportunity for students to get to do mission work but also learn some skills, like taking people’s pulse, taking vitals and helping people in more of a medical aspect,” said Landes.

Carbajal and Cubides participated on this trip last year and returned this year to experience it once again.

The goal is to assist communities in whatever way possible through health or community service, and it gives students a chance to improve their Spanish.

While in Baja, the group hosts a neighborhood clinic.

Throughout the week, they go house to house to speak with families and conduct health surveys. Patients provide their medical history and address their medical concerns. Physicians and nurses are on site to see the patients and can prescribe medications.

Carbajal said these services typically are offered in communities lacking health care insurance, social security and transportation.

“The communities we go to don’t have access to physicians regularly, even just for normal checkups — which we take for granted,” she said.

Students provide vaccinations and medications in Baja, Mexico.

“Especially with the kids, we show them how essential health care is. We show them that health care workers aren’t scary and that it’s important to go and be not just active when something is wrong with your health, but be proactive,” she added.

On the trip, students were able to tour a hospital in the area. This is where Carbajal witnessed her most unforgettable memory, being present for a live birth.

Being a leader for the first time, Cubides said she was able to be there for her team and push people out of their comfort zones to attempt new things so they can have the best experience.

She found that talking to patients and hearing their stories was the most rewarding of all.

“We get to hear their testimonies and see what God’s done in their life.”

GCU News staff writer Scianna Garcia can be reached at [email protected].

Related content:

GCU News: Lopes take road less traveled on mission trips

GCU News: Baja mission trip was moving for Honors students

GCU News: Honors students make memories on mission trip


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