Family studies student bridges gap between childcare and sustainability during her India study abroad

Ella Klute, a Family Studies major expecting to graduate in fall 2024, recently participated in the Sustainability in India study abroad program. Klute loves to travel and had been looking for a unique study abroad experience. When she learned about the opportunity, she was interested in the interdisciplinary nature of the program and was excited about the prospect of returning to a different region of India. Klute travelled to the northern region of India in 2018 with PeaceJam, an organization that focuses on community service locally and globally. PeaceJam taught her that young people can make a positive difference in the world and is a big part of who she is today.

Family studies student Ella Klute teaching children at Parikrma school.

At first, she was a little overwhelmed, but over the course of the trip she began to make the connections between family studies and the experiences she was having. “I had very little background before the trip of sustainability or business, and those are the main focuses of the trip. After the first few days, when there was a lot of new information and I felt a little lost, I started to be able to understand the concepts better and apply them to my major,” Klute explained.

When they visited Prikrma, a school for children from the slums, things began to really fall into place. The people from the school talked about how they take a holistic look at the child by making sure that their educational, nutritional, healthcare, and family care needs are fulfilled. “They know that for their kids to succeed they need to look at what affects the child outside the walls of the classroom. The fact that the school focuses on multiple issues that affect students to prevent them from slipping through the cracks and they work with the families reminds me of Family Studies. In Family Studies, we learn to take a preventative approach and learn that families and children are impacted by the larger systems that surround them,” she shared. “I really appreciated that they look at different barriers as to why as child might not be successful and change them. One of the things that stuck with me from the school is that they want their kids to be happy as opposed to just getting good grades, and all the students there were so happy!”

Group photo of WMU students who participated in the Sustainability in India study abroad.

Kluk also learned about what businesses can do through Corporate Social Responsibility to promote sustainability and about sustainable development goals and enjoyed meeting new people on the trip, seeing new sights, and eating great food. “I would definitely recommend this trip to others! I went on this trip not knowing anyone, which is not normal for me, but I met a lot of great people and found the trip to be so worthwhile,” said Klute.

At this time, Klute isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do after graduation. “I really like my major. It is very broad, and I can do a lot with it, so I am trying to figure out what my particular thing is.” What she does know is that she loves to travel and is considering doing the Peace Corps so she can continue to make a difference and see the world. 

Sustainability in India is an interdisciplinary program offered in part by the College of Education and Human Development and provides three credit hours in the field of business that count towards Western Essential Studies. The trip takes place during the fall semester and lasts about two weeks. For more information about this study abroad program, please visit the Sustainability in India study abroad program webpage.

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