Fourteen Union College students and two instructors heading to Africa for an educational trip didn't realize the real world experience they were about to face. 

While spending a semester in Malawi, to study global health and development, an international relief class was asked by the government to help with medical relief after the area was hit by a cyclone. 

The team from Union’s international rescue and relief program joined the disaster response in southern Malawi, one of four countries in southeastern Africa ravaged by Cyclone Idai last week.

"All of the experience the students had perfectly prepared them for when the government asked us to come help," said group coordinator Kalie Saunders. "So it was a great learning experience both academically in disaster response, and real world real life experience as well."

More than 2.6 million people live in the affected area, and flood waters have displaced more than a half million people, including 80,000 Malawians. So far, nearly 400 people have died from the disaster.