“Summer” is not necessarily synonymous with “relaxation” for many Mercerians. Whether traveling the world, working at camp or impacting a community through Mercer on Mission, Mercerian summers are full of new and enriching experiences. Three Mercer students, specifically, had life-changing summers and adventures they will remember for years to come.
People from all over the world travel to China’s Wudang Daoist Traditional Internal Kungfu Academy nestled in the famous Wudang Mountain to study martial arts. This summer, Mercer sophomore Taylor Smith provided his own experiences in China among the group of people learning Daoist martial arts at the Academy.
Smith met people from Germany, New Zealand, Bosnia and the Czech Republic.
“There’s people from all over the world. And, you know, some people come there for five years, for like a full five year program where they learn everything there is to learn and then they spread the martial arts and the knowledge,” Smith said.
Smith spent most of his time training, but he did make time to visit a friend in Beijing, see Buddhist temples and climb to the summit of Wudang Mountain, which is Smith’s favorite memory of his trip to China.
Smith learned more than just martial arts during his stay. His whole view of the Chinese and their culture changed.
“[Americans] just see the Chinese government and they apply that to the Chinese people, which couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said Smith.
Smith said the Chinese are incredibly thankful for what they have, whether it be a little or a lot.
“I think it was a lot of just a coming-of-age sort of experience,” Smith said, explaining that he was in a foreign country by himself. He didn’t speak any Chinese. He said, “I learned to not, like you know, always assume the worst of any people.”
The experience even changed Smith’s career path, as he decided to become an engineering major rather than pre-med after returning to the U.S.
Senior Becca Cassady traveled around the Southeastern United States with Winshape Camps for Communities. After a little over one week of training, Cassady and her fellow staff members visited eight cities in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
“I believe it was June 4 was the first day of camp, and my team started off in Blackshear, Ga. and we did day camps for kids,” Cassady said.
Cassady taught net games such as volleyball to third and fourth grade boys and girls, and she played keyboard for the camp band.
The group stayed in one city for a week, and then traveled to the next, teaching kids about Jesus, the Gospel and what those two things have meant in staff members’ lives.
“We had over 100 salvations, which is very cool,” said Cassady.
The city that sticks out the most in Cassady’s mind is West Bradenton, Fla. Cassady said that although West Bradenton is a broken community, the kids had such joy when they came to camp, and valued what each staff member had to teach.
“I made a lot of sweet friendships with some of the kids there,” Cassady said.
The days were long and tiring for Cassady and her 22 other team members, but the nine-week experience was worthwhile. It is something Cassady hopes to do again in the future.
At the end of May, over 20 Mercer students went to Vietnam for Mercer on Mission. It was junior Evan Manning’s first Mercer on Mission trip, as well as his first trip to Vietnam.
The group fit prostheses onto those who suffered lost limbs due to underground mines from the Vietnam War.
“We fit 206 patients while we were there, and we used probably 240 prostheses to make that happen. Some patients were missing all or part of both legs, and other times we had to chop prosthetics in half to make bigger ones,” said Manning.
Before leaving for the trip, the students took two weeks of classes where they learned about the prostheses, and about anatomy, vietnamese and common clinical illnesses.
Aside from fitting prostheses, the group of Mercer students also visited an orphanage and worked in an orthopedic clinic.
“We diagnosed common orthopedic illnesses like sciatica, herniated disk, that kind of thing,” Manning said.
Manning went on the Vietnam trip due to his interest in medical work and because he wanted to help people by using the skills he is learning in college. It was difficult and taxing: The students worked 13 hour days, but it was also extremely rewarding for Manning.
He said, “Looking back on that trip, that was one of the most productive times I’ve ever had in my life.”
Manning learned a lot about anatomy, but more than that, he learned that the impact of a war can be seen for decades after its conclusion. “I learned that if I’m going to do medical mission work, a large part of it needs to be relief for wars like [the Vietnam War] just because of the impact they have,” said Manning.
Manning and the rest of the team returned at the end of June, after three and a half weeks of work.
For Smith, Cassady and Manning, summer was a time to enrich their college learning experience, rather than take a break from it all, which is something Mercerians are known for doing well.