Big Event Goes Global
A&M tradition set to travel overseas this year
Published: Sunday, January 26, 2014
Updated: Sunday, January 26, 2014 23:01
After over 30 years of impacting Bryan-College Station and the country at large, The Big Event is going global.
Three Big Events are scheduled to occur across Europe, with another one planned at Mehran University in Pakistan. These international events will join more than 90 U.S. schools in giving back to their communities during a one-day service effort.
Kevin Brooks, outreach director for The Big Event, said that while the push to start Big Events in other countries began this year, Pakistan was not initially conceived as a potential location.
“Pakistan fell into our laps,” Brooks said. “They heard that we were going abroad and they decided to jump on board. They contacted us and said, ‘We heard that you were doing this and we love the mission of The Big Event. We want to do this in Pakistan.’”
While the extension of The Big Event to such a far part of the world is exciting to everyone on The Big Event staff, Brooks said there are issues translating the message of selfless service to a different culture. Phone calls to Pakistan are expensive, reducing communication to emails that often have to be translated for both parties to understand. Additionally, because of University regulations, students at Texas A&M cannot travel to Pakistan to participate in this particular event, restricting it to students from Mehran.
“The limitation with Pakistan is that it is under a travel warning, and according to Texas A&M rules, undergraduate students are not allowed to travel to areas under travel warnings,” said Jane Flaherty, director of the Study Abroad program.
In Europe, The Big Event has partnered with Texas A&M’s Study Abroad program to help establish Big Events in Barcelona, Spain; Bonn, Germany; and Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy. Aggies currently enrolled in study abroad programs in those areas can sign up to perform community service in a process identical to that of The Big Event in College Station.
Unlike the Big Event in Pakistan, these events are not affiliated with a local university and will be available to Texas A&M students. Flaherty said she hopes they will be able to expand these service projects soon.
“We hope in the future to have students from other institutions participate as well,” Flaherty said. “In each of these locations, The Big Event is being set up by our partners who facilitate the study abroad programs. We are sharing Aggie selfless service in other communities in Europe just as we do here. In the future, we would love to see this grow.”
Flaherty said the locations for these events were chosen based on existing partnerships with Texas A&M.
“What we did was identify three places that where we thought we would be able to launch this successfully,” Flaherty said. “The reason we picked those places is because there’s an infrastructure there in each of those locations, either people who work for Texas A&M, or longtime affiliates who’ve we worked with for many years, who we knew we could ask to set up projects.”
Forty-eight students are currently signed up with the European events. The projects in Italy, Spain and College Station will take place on March 29, with Germany’s on April 9. While Mehran University had not initially planned to host The Big Event until spring 2015, it recently decided to run a trial service project later this semester.
Brooks said that the additional locations for The Big Event will further enable the people of the world to show their gratitude to each other.
“I think that saying ‘thank you’ to people is important anywhere,” Brooks said. “It’s not an idea that’s confined to College Station, or even specific to Americans. It’s something that needs to be said worldwide. I think that selfless service is a great way to say thank you, and this push is connecting people worldwide through the spirit of service.”
Jamie Cooper, sophomore agriculture and life sciences major, said she is excited that the ideals of The Big Event will now be shared internationally.
“After my experience with The Big Event, and seeing how it touched the community around us, I think that taking that same idea and impacting the world is amazing,” Cooper said. “It makes me happy that other people want help out others in this way because it allows us to broadcast the ideals that make Texas A&M special to the rest of the world.”