Alumni Spotlight: Joshua Brownstein


Joshua Brownstein is currently a computer science major at the University of Florida. He grew up in Gainesville, FL and enjoys learning about politics, playing videogames, and watching movies. He participated in Amizade's Service Learning Program in the Caribbean from March 2-7, 2014.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Amizade in Jamaica?

I knew I wanted to go on an alternative spring break trip this year. I wanted to take every opportunity I had in college to travel. Plus, my sister had gone on an alternative spring break trip a few years ago to clean up coral reefs in Key West, Florida and had a really good time.

One day I got an email from the University of Florida Hillel (Hillel is a Jewish college organization) with information that they were going on such a trip to Jamaica.

Jamaica sounded like a very nice place to visit given I have an affection for spending time at beaches. Knowing of no other trips available at the time, I went ahead and signed up.

Tell me about one person you met.

One person I met on the trip was John Matthias Brown. Everyone on the trip called him Mr. Brown. He is the director of the trips that take place in Petersfield, Jamaica.

His careers include being the head of a non-profit organization in Petersfield called The Association of Clubs and being on various school boards in the area. I got to know Mr. Brown very well because I ate and slept at his house during the trip.

While there I learned about his adventures travailing around the world, his views on religion, his views on the problems Jamaica is facing, about his family, about his garden and much more. He was a gracious host and a friendly and helpful organizer. I'm very glad I got to spend time getting to know Mr. Brown.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Taking this trip has made me more knowledgeable about the similarities and differences between living in the United States and living in Jamaica. While both peoples share similar desires in many areas, different behaviors are to be expected in the two countries.

One of the most striking differences was that Mr. Brown's dogs were not treated like family members as most pets are treated in the United States. His dogs were treated like livestock.

Neither Mr. Brown nor his wife ever petted the dogs or let them into their house. In addition, dogs are able to move freely about the streets.

Another difference I noticed was the attitude towards trash in Jamaica is very different then the attitude to trash in the United States. Here, although there is litter, most people clean up their trash and by and large the streets are kept clean. In Jamaica, litter is much more prevalent and it is more acceptable for people to throw their trash on the ground.

All this has crystallized in my mind the idea that cultures are different in different places around the world and that when I travel or talk to foreigners, I need to be aware of and respect this.