By Alysha Kahn, Journalism senior

First year graduate student Shareen Dookie said it was the “most interesting” Spring Break she had ever had.

She and 14 of her classmates spent eight days in Guatemala shooting short documentaries about local health and social issues.

“Learning about another culture, meeting new people, and seeing a different way of life in only one week can be overwhelming, but this experience was more fun and interesting than anything I’ve ever done on Spring Break,” said Dookie.

The study abroad program is part of the Master of Fine Arts in Motion Pictures offered by the School of Communication.

“The goal of this trip is get our students comfortable working in new environments,” said Professor Ed Talavera, chair of the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media.

All of the graduate students who participated on the trip were part of Talavera’s narrative production class.

The students were split into three film crews, each tackling a different issue. One group explored the challenges of running Hospitalito Atitlan, one of the one of the only emergency health facilities available in the remote region of Guatemala the students traveled to.

Another team document the work of Pueblo a Pueblo, a nonprofit that works specifically with coffee growing communities to improve health, education and food security. The last crew tackled the dangers of cook stoves, which can lead to pollution and health problems.

“It made me more conscious of having to deal with situations that I’m not as comfortable with, which those situations always make you a better filmmaker,” said Ronnie Khalil, one of the first-year graduate students who participated in the program.

Now with Spring Break over, the students are hard at work editing their documentaries. The short films will be showcased on an interactive website that will launch by the end of April.