Group learns of history, culture, and the American Dream

Vanderbilt University’s Humphrey Fellows Visit Dollywood’s Festival of Nations (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A group of Humphrey Fellows from Vanderbilt University spent the weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains and Dollywood to learn about the culture and history of the area.

The group from 9 different countries around the world, learned more than just a history lesson. Many of them say it was about the life lessons they'll take back home with them.

While they've heard of Dolly Parton, riding a roller coaster or getting to see her coat of many colors Parton sung about, would have been something they'd never do, if not for the Humphrey Fellow program.

"The learn the great work of Miss Dolly Parton, for the state of Tennessee, also and how she supports education and the community," said Nancy Dickson, Director of the Humphrey Fellowship Program at Vanderbilt University.

Ten Humphrey Fellows, educational leaders from developing countries and emerging democracies around the world, travel from Vanderbilt to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a camping trip which provides an opportunity to explore the area. The experience culminates with a visit to Dollywood’s Festival of Nations on Sunday, a much-anticipated stop for the Fellows according to Drew Webster, Associate Director of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program.

"As cultural exchange is a key component of our Fellows' year at Vanderbilt,” said Drew Webster, Associate Director of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program. “We would be remiss if we did not visit Dollywood, which is not just a cultural touchstone for Tennessee and the Southeast, but indeed is an international destination. We hope our Fellows' presence will highlight Dollywood's international profile to all visitors to the park. Our Fellows have been excited about this visit for months."

Roseline Sherman, from Liberia, wanted to experience a roller coaster. Her reaction going on was
"I am excited and afraid! It should be amazing!"

Coming off the roller coaster with a smile she said, "I never had such feeling before. I'm dizzy."

Dr. Aamaal Ali, In Maldives, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, said her mission was to find out more about the woman she's heard singing on the radio and what's behind her music and poetry.

"They mean so much to so many people. Regardless of where you are. How many people have sung that Jolene song and meant every word of it," said Ali.

The students will take what they've learned back to their home and share with their students.

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