How service learning changed Ilyssa's perspective

By Ilyssa Sherman, psychology student
Monday, January 6, 2014
Posted in: Student Perspectives
Related: Psychology,


There are so many upper level courses to choose from, and I only needed to take two, so choosing a class wasn't exactly easy. I wanted to take all of them!

I eventually chose Adult Development because it is an area that I really had no experience with, and I constantly hear about the increase in the elderly population. I had heard that there was a service learning project involved and it piqued my interest. I am not the type of student that really enjoys the typical classroom environment. I don’t mind it, but I would much rather get a hands on experience. I feel that you learn a great deal more when you get to experience a subject first hand. In no way am I an ageist, but I never really wanted to work with the elderly population. It just seemed boring, truthfully. I was so wrong.

The Adult Development course does include a lecture, but a majority of your time is spent at your service learning site. UNH has been partnered up with Birch Hill Terrace for over 10 years. Birch Hill Terrace consists of an assisted living facility, independent living facility, and retirement homes. They even have nursing beds, which are hard to come by. You get to pick an activity that you would like to do with the residents. These ranged from Wii Bowling to Travel Club. I picked arts and crafts because I wanted to do something a little more challenging.

I partnered up with another classmate, and every week we went over the independent living side to do arts and crafts projects with the residents. My partner and I planned all the projects and were reimbursed for any materials we purchased.

All the stereotypes I had made up in my mind about the elderly were completely wrong. They were so competent and great company. I had a fantastic experience with the residents. Every week they would thank us graciously for our time, and they were so appreciative. We exchanged stories and laughed most of the time. We had some really successful projects and some not so successful projects, but we always had fun.

I learned so much from the women I was fortunate enough to work with. At the end of the semester, they didn’t even want us to leave.

It was great being able to apply material from lecture to my activity. It really reinforced the content. Most classes, I cram as much as I can into a semester just to be successful. Ask me a year later, and I probably couldn’t recall much of the material.

I know that I will never forget the material I learned in Adult Development because I created a personal experience that I will always remember.

I would highly recommend this course if you appreciate any kind of hands on experience. In the end, you may end up learning a lot more than you thought you ever could.