Over winter break I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and Nicaragua with Vida Volunteer to provide veterinary care to underserved communities. It was an eye-opening experience that I will forever cherish and appreciate.
On the second day of the trip we split into our respective groups (veterinary, medical, and dental teams) for orientation. There were eight girls on the vet team. We discussed what was expected of us in the clinic: setting up the intake, surgery, and recovery areas, performing the patients’ physical exams, prepping them for surgery, assisting with the surgery or monitoring them while under anesthesia, and preparing them for discharge back to their owner. It was overwhelming, but I felt ready to take on the challenge.
After orientation concluded, we headed to Liberia, which was a short drive from where we would be setting up our clinic. Liberia is a beautiful city full of life and culture, and I was excited to explore this novel place. The first clinic day was in the La Cruz community, and we got right to work at 8am. After setting up the clinic and dividing into pairs, we began treating patients. We were able to put to practice all that we had learned during orientation, and we quickly adapted to the flow of the clinic and the required pace to treat all the patients we had that day.
During the two clinic days, I treated five patients, four of which needed to either be spayed or neutered. By the second day, I was confident in what I needed to do, and I was able to accomplish tasks quickly and efficiently. I was so excited to be making a difference and I was eager to help more patients in Nicaragua. After saying farewell to the wonderful veterinarian and intake technician that we worked with in Costa Rica, we had a recreational day at the Playa del Coco, or “Coconut Beach.”
We then traveled across the border into Nicaragua and met our homestay families in Masaya. We traveled to the top of the Masaya Volcano, and enjoyed what the charming city had to offer. My homestay mom owned a restaurant near the town’s park, which we enjoyed relaxing in after a long clinic day. The Nicaraguan clinic days proved to be similar to those in Costa Rica. We had two veterinarians in Nicaragua who gave us great advice and helped us through stressful or challenging situations. Over three days, I was able to treat twelve patients. For our last clinic day we were in Granada and we treated large animals. We dewormed cattle, pigs, horses, and chickens. It was a great last day.
My trip was unforgettable, and I am so grateful to the Honors Program at UD for allowing me to have this special experience. I am very proud that I was able to help pets in impoverished communities receive treatments while also being immersed in a foreign culture, and I look forward to my future career where I can do this each day!
After a multitude of unforeseen flight changes and various pieces of luggage lost, we finally approached the rural village of Aguacate, Guatemala. For years I had dreamed of visiting this far away town as my elementary school classmates and I made cards and blankets that were delivered annually by a team of equipped teachers. It was fitting that as my desire to enter the medical field became stronger, a medical clinic was slowly built in this same town. The trip finally became a reality for me thanks to the generosity of Honors Program donors and soon enough I arrived in Aguacate with a team of jet-lagged medical professionals.
It was rainy and cold as we carried bag after bag into the clinic and began to see the faces of people who would eventually make an indescribable impact on our lives. We were greeted by a room full of villagers who waited with quiet anticipation for our arrival all day. One of the village elders expressed his deepest thanks to us for being there and a line formed for each person to welcome us with a warm smile. I could not help but notice how different we seemed from these people who were dressed in vibrant colors with intricate headscarves and spoke with quiet voices.
In the midst of the small houses and dirt roads that made up Aguacate’s landscape, we began five days of treatment. Prior to the trip we prepared ourselves as best we could by learning about these Mayan descendants and how they have managed to preserve their culture despite years of persecution and struggle. It was more difficult than I imagined to overcome the language barrier. The villagers spoke a native language called Chuq that had to be translated to Spanish and then English for us to communicate with them. We slowly began to learn to rely on other forms of communication and realized that a smile or a soft nod of understanding would convey much more than any translation app.
I spent the next few days in the clinic shadowing a urologist, family practice physician, pediatrician, and physician assistant. Throughout the trip I had the opportunity to interact with patients by administering blood tests, taking blood pressure, and helping to locate the appropriate medications. One of the most meaningful part of the trip for me was when I had the chance to teach the women of the village how to use the feminine hygiene kids we brought that were provided by Days for Girls. These kits will allow the girls to reuse pads so they can continue to go to school or work while on their period which is extremely important. Another memory I will never forget was when we told a woman she was pregnant and had the chance to let her listen to her baby’s heartbeat using an ultrasound. The villagers use midwives to deliver their babies so this would be the only time in her life she had this kind of opportunity since they do not have access to this kind of technology.
The villager’s willingness to share their stories with us was inspirational. They were strong in their beliefs and persistent in their love for culture and family. I learned so much throughout this journey and discovered a true love for the medical profession. I am beyond excited to continue my journey to one day become a physician and hopefully help people just like the ones we met in Aguacate.
This winter I had the extraordinary experience of participating in a medical fellowship for nearly two weeks in Genoa, Italy. My fellowship was at the internationally acclaimed pediatric hospital Istituto Giannina Gaslini, and was facilitated by the Atlantis Project: an organization that prides itself on innovating healthcare education by providing college students the opportunity to shadow doctors worldwide. I was excited by the prospect of gaining medical knowledge while working with children and practicing my language skills.
My fellowship began in Gaslini’s neurosurgery department. Atlantis Fellows are allowed to shadow in two different departments during their time at the hospital, so I chose neurosurgery first since I hope to pursue the field in medical school. While shadowing the neurosurgeons, I made patient rounds in the morning where I saw various neurological disorders, ranging from twisted vertebrae to skull malformations. After making rounds, the surgeons explained the patients’ MRI scans to me before I accompanied them to the operating room. There, I watched various surgeries, including a head fixation and skull compression. I was awed by my experiences in the OR. I had never seen a surgery in-person prior to this, and looking at a skull and spinal cord for the first time is something I will never forget.
When I was told my second rotation would be in the oncology department, I was very excited. I am passionate about the need for more cancer research, and my time among the oncologists further heightened my interest in assisting cancer patients. I completed patient rounds with the oncologists, observed department meetings, and listened to discussions of various cancer treatment options. Because I shadowed in the long-term care unit of the department, many of the patients we saw were terminal. I expected the atmosphere to be very solemn in light of such circumstances, but the patients always expressed joy whenever the doctors entered the room. I was touched by the doctors’ empathy and their ability to brighten each patient’s day. I can only hope that one day, when I am a doctor, I can make such a positive impact in the lives of those I treat.
Outside of the hospital, the Fellows bonded over group dinners, a walking tour of the city, and a tour of Italy’s oldest chocolate factory. We were also given the weekend as free time, and I was able to further explore Italian culture by venturing to the nearby cities of Pisa and Verona.
Without the generosity of the Honors Program donors, I would not have been able to join the Atlantis Project. I would have missed out on the friendships and the medical and cultural knowledge I gained as a part of the fellowship. My time in Italy cemented my passion for medicine and my desire to positively impact the lives of those I encounter. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity, and I am excited to see its future benefits as I apply for medical school and continue to pursue a career in medicine.
As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, I have always felt a certain responsibility to the idea of remembering. The widely known idea of memorializing the Holocaust is to “never forget.” We are to never forget the victims, or the hardships, or the terrible crimes that occurred in these countries that will forever have a large, dark splotch on their history. But for me, remembering is more than just honoring my grandfather’s strength and acknowledging the horrors that he endured. Remembering is action.
This winter, I traveled to Poland and Germany for 16 days to conduct historical research on the Holocaust in order to better my abilities in writing and speaking about the tragic events. Knowing my grandfather’s story, part of my trip included retracing the steps of his specific past. This included visiting where he was born in Warsaw, Poland, and where he was imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany. In the 16 days I traveled, accompanied by my grandmother, I visited six vastly different cities with extremely rich histories, heard incredibly moving and personal stories, and spoke to some of the most interesting and smart people I have ever met.
I first visited Warsaw, a city that was 80% destroyed as a result of the Warsaw Uprising and rebuilt within the years following. I took a Jewish Heritage tour of the city, a city tour for contextual knowledge, and visited POLIN, the beautifully created Museum of the History of Polish Jews. While in Warsaw, I also met with a Polish friend of a University professor who spoke with me about the culture of Warsaw, and shared with me her experience growing up in Poland.
I traveled to Lublin to visit Majdanek, the first concentration camp to be liberated in July of 1944. We visited Krakow and Auschwitz II Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder of mankind. One can watch movies, read books, and see photos of the Holocaust, but it isn’t until you step onto the land in which these atrocities occurred that you feel this heavy sense of complete and total speechlessness. In their vast silence, there is an echo. After this tolling day (Auschwitz is so large it takes about 7.5 hours to complete the entire tour) we went to a traditional Jewish dinner at a restaurant called Klezmer Hois (a restaurant that Steven Spielberg visited whilst filming Schindler’s list!). And finally, we took a Jewish Heritage tour of Krakow in which we visited Schindler’s Factory, an uplifting story in the face of such sadness.
The most impactful part of my trip was when I traveled to Weimar and met with a young man named Laird, who works in Buchenwald. I had been emailing Laird back and forth for a month before the trip, and I was very eager to meet him in person and speak about the important and relevant history of Buchenwald. Being my grandfather’s concentration camp, this was the most important part of my trip, the place in which I hoped would bring me to a better understanding of his story. There, Laird gave us a private tour of the camp. We visited the room where thousands of objects are restored, and then we made our way to the museum. It was a Monday, a day in which normally the Buchenwald museum is closed, but Laird, so kindly, was able to open it for us and allow only us to wander around the vast museum for as long as we wished. We then went to the archives. There, many nice women helped me to translate my grandfather’s name into the original Polish spelling, and we were, astoundingly, able to find his documents. This included his prisoner card, the transport list with his name on it, and countless other documents that explained unique information that he had never seen before. All the documents were marked at the top: Pole, Jude (Polish Jew). Bringing those documents home for him was truly one of the most incredible things I have ever been able to do, and I am forever grateful to the generosity of the Honors Program for allowing me to do that.
This trip provided me with a knowledge that I am endlessly grateful to have been able to obtain. Traveling to so many places by train allowed me to meet many people of whom told me their stories in relation to the Holocaust just because they had stories to share. To learn about the way Holocaust education is conducted in Poland and Germany, to speak with those who work in memorials and camps, to have dinner with people who care to have rich conversation about a topic so sensitive and complicated was the educational experience of a lifetime. While a dark and saddening trip, it was so unbelievably interesting, exciting and special to be able to visit new countries with complex and vast histories. It showed me how much of this history is truly illustrated by the victims. Through their beautiful works of art, poems, quotes and testimonies, they write a history that reflects them, and their experiences. Again, I’d like to thank the Honors Program for providing me with this enriching experience. From this research and from the testimonies of those that I met with, I believe that I have a much better ability to write and speak about the Holocaust. From this experience, I am working to produce a larger piece of writing about both my grandfather, and the experience of being in a family affected by a tragedy so deep, so unique, and so ingrained in both culture and history.
This past July, I spent three weeks in the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador exploring marine life and later focusing on surveying humpback whale populations during their breeding season in the southern Pacific. I began my travels on three of the Galapagos Islands: Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal. There, I delved into the coastal communities and their conservation practices. During my brief visit, I gained a new consciousness of sorts. The Galapagos is the only place I have ever travelled to where the human species does not seem to be in control of the land and the sea: the animals and plants do. Yes, the dozens of tour operations and countless westernized restaurants create this surface layer of modernization and development, but the islands and surrounding coastal waters serve as the Galapagos national park and marine reserve, a preserved habitat for all the wildlife.
I spent my days snorkeling in various parts of the island, understanding how the marine species interact and thrive. After exploring the Galapagos, I headed to mainland Ecuador and its coast to join a biological researcher and professor named Dr. Judith Denkinger and her team with a project called CETACEA Ecuador. The field station we stayed in was located in Caimito, a village about an hour south of Atacames. In the middle of the Choco Forest, the field station sits atop a tree-covered hill and overlooks the rolling tropical landscape. The house relies on a few electric lines, water tanks for showers, and dry toilets. Its rustic style reminded me to really appreciate all the materialistic items I own at home. Every day we would have fresh bananas, papaya, and cherimoya (also known as soursop) picked from the plants around us. Some of the freshest and tastiest fruit I’ve ever had!
Although some days we could see whales breach from standing on the beach, we would go out anywhere from 3 to 12 miles off the coast to capture the whales in two ways: photo identification and hydrophone acoustic data. Whenever we saw some activity, we noted how many whales we saw, the GPS coordinates, and the type of behavior the activity may have indicated. We would boat over to the whales, snap our pictures, while also plunging our hydrophone down into the water and listening to their conversations. It was amazing to see whales breaching right next to you while also listening to their sophisticated sounds.
Acoustic signaling between whales is complex. Whales use muscular contractions to move air over internal body parts that vibrate and make sound. Check out this TED talk about why whales sing (https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-do-whales-sing-stephanie-sardelis). Whale songs are variable and can be repeated for hours. Males are the only ones that sing these repeated patterns and our study was looking at how these songs relate to behavior. It is believed that males use these songs to deter other males from mating with a certain female. Phrases of songs can be shared between different populations, in a phenomenon called cultural transmission. The acoustic signals, because of their unique nature, can illuminate certain features of social behavior and therefore genetic tendencies of the whales.
I learned many lessons during my research experience and travels. Most explicitly, I learned about humpback whale population dynamics and how researchers look into understanding these large marine mammals. Their breeding patterns and social interactions are really important to understand the health of the general ecosystem as well. Most importantly though, I learned most about what conducting research looks like in a developing country. The coast of Ecuador is highly undeveloped and consists of fishing villages that rely on daily catches as well as local harvests to support their small economies. Academic research in Ecuador is not widely funded like here in the U.S., and they rely on much fewer materials and resources to conduct their studies. I also learned how much the people of Ecuador live off the land and the sea. Not much on the coast is highly commercialized at all—it is raw and beautiful, and this translates into how they view wildlife and their conservation practices.
However, coastal management can be difficult. Because of the lack of development, a lack of enforcement exists. The coastal waters are part of the Galera-San Francisco Marine Reserve and therefore there are catch limits as well as restrictions to what stocks can be fished. For example, juvenile populations must be thrown back into the water and should not contribute to exploitable stock; however, when we saw the fishermen’s catch of the day come in, we would often see juvenile lobsters entangled in their nets. Lack of education about conservation practices also contributes to this potential exploitation. Community education is difficult though. As Dr. Denkinger noted, there is a slight cultural barrier between the researchers coming from Quito and the villagers who rely on the catches for income. The potential to educate the village communities is there and is something the CETACEA project is trying to encompass as part of its mission.
This trip has really solidified my passion to study coastal marine populations. I now know that I definitely want to work toward conserving coastal marine resources (organisms, water, food) and understanding coastal management practices better so that research can continue to be conducted on amazing species such as humpback whales.
¡Aprendi mucho en Ecuador y espero volver algun dia a la costa hermosa mirar las ballenas jorobadas!
This August, I had the opportunity to travel to Malawi, a country in South-East Africa, with a team of four students from Engineers Without Borders. During this trip, we worked with 2 communities—Mphero and Chilimani—to help engineer solutions to their water needs. Last year, we drilled two successful borehole wells in Mphero, a village that had never seen water inside its boundaries. We returned to Mphero to monitor this project, and were excited to find our system was still functioning and the Water Committee we formed was up to date on all their maintenance training. We also began a new partnership with Chilimani, a community forced to walk very long distances for water, so we conducted a number of assessment activities to determine how best to solve their water needs. As project manager for the team, I had spent a lot of time prepping for this trip, but nothing could have prepared me for when we landed on the ground. Malawi is known as the “Warm Heart of Africa,” and we received the warmest of welcomes when we arrived in the village- complete with singing, dancing, and chanting!
We started off greeting the chiefs and leaders of the communities who took us on a tour of the communities, stopping so we could analyze the existing water sources. The next day, we had a team of geophysicists arrive from Zambia, who we helped conduct electromagnetic and vertical electric soundings to identify potential “hotspots” for ground water. Using these techniques, we identified four potential drilling spots for our implementation next year. We also conducted household survey to allow us to better understand the culture and needs of the community. This was one of my favorite parts because we got to sit down with many community members and get to know and they welcomed us into their households. Additionally, we performed water quality testing at Chancellor College, a nearby university in Zomba. Not only was it awesome to learn some chemistry, we got to connect with students and professor who live in a completely different culture and learn from them.
While we completed a lot of work during the trip, we still had some time for fun! After many invitations, we agreed to go to the finals for the inter-village soccer league. Little did we know, that we were VIP’s for the game! They had us take a penalty kick and greet all the players to initiate the game. During half time, we got up to dance since there was music playing, and we were quickly surrounded by 1,000 pair of curious eyes. It was an incredible experience! We also go to spend one day in Liwonde National Park, where we saw hippos, zebras, and elephants- oh my!!
After spending the majority of our trip in the villages, we headed to the city of Blantyre for the last two days. Here, we met with numerous drillers, contractors, and suppliers to identify who we want to partner with to supply water to Chilimani. Over the course of two weeks, we went from being strangers in a community, to having lifelong friends there and being prepared to return and implement a solution to the community’s water problem.
In the summer of 2017, the UD Chorale, directed by UD professor Paul D. Head, embarked on an international tour consisting of various projects that took us to four countries. Following the trip, I participated in the annual Delaware Choral Academy in Aix-en-Provence, France. Over the course of the trip, I had the opportunity to collaborate and connect with numerous musicians from all over the world in various capacities. One of the most fulfilling aspects of the tour for me was the chance to see how music connects people.
Each day of the tour presented new opportunities and challenges. Although we had been intensely preparing all year, the sheer amount of music that we had to perform in the various concerts was immense. While in Jerusalem, the choir rehearsed Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, an intense and demanding choral-orchestral work, with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. After a few long days of rehearsal, we performed the work throughout Israel in beautiful concert halls filled with receptive audiences. After our final concert with the JSO, the Chorale continued to tour and give concerts throughout Israel. The country was incredibly beautiful and filled with a rich history. Having the opportunity to learn about the history of the region firsthand was eye-opening.
On the way to the choir’s next engagement in Malta, we had the opportunity to stop in Greece for just over a day. Although the time spent in Athens was short, the experience was invaluable. While in Athens, we exchanged and performed with the choir from The American College of Greece. The students were eager to meet us and immediately started to get to know us. We had the chance to compare and discuss our experiences as university students and sing songs from each of our cultures. After the initial exchange, we performed a concert together at the college’s open-air amphitheater. Despite our short stay in Athens, we learned a great deal about students much like ourselves and made lifelong connections with other musicians from across the globe.
After departing from Athens, the choir arrived in Malta for a week of collaborations and rehearsals as we prepared for our competition in Germany. We worked with a choir from Malta and we had the opportunity to perform two concerts in a beautiful church located in Victoria, Malta. Preparations for the competition were intense, and everyone came together to hold each other accountable and collectively strive to be the best that we could be.
When we arrived in Frankfurt and competed in the Mainhausen International Choral Festival, it was clear that all of our hard work and dedication had paid off. Despite not winning the competition, the electricity that we spread throughout the room was palpable. The performances were wrought with passion and emotion. I have been performing in choirs for years, but I have never felt a connection to a group of people like I did on that day. We also made friends with musicians from all over the world during the competition, bonding over our shared love of music.
The final leg of the tour was the Choral Symposium in France. We had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in French culture while studying and performing choral music from various time periods and genres. The concerts were powerful, and I had the opportunity to work with inspiring singers and faculty under the direction of Dr. Paul Head.
I received the Honor Enrichment Award to help fund my summer internship in Paris, France. I was “un stagiaire” at the Pasteur Institute, a science institute that is famous for its contributions to pathology and medicine such as the development of vaccines and the isolation of the HIV virus. While many labs at Pasteur study infectious diseases, I worked in a bacterial morphology lab studying how bacteria maintain their rod shape through growth and division.My project was heavily based in microscopy and microbiology. To characterize the molecular system that governs bacterial cell shape, I used the techniques I acquired in BISC 411 and the lab that I work at here at UD. In the photo below I am seen admiring my efforts in molecular biology by imaging E. coli cells I genetically modified.
Located in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, eating lunch on the rooftop of my research building gave great views of Paris’s left bank with the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides and Le Panthéon in the distance. In line with French culinary excellence (and substantial French subsidies), the cafeteria at Pasteur was outstanding. For three euros one can buy a meal with a salad, a main course, a dessert, and cheese and bread, something I will miss dearly as I return to having to cook for myself.
For housing, I lived at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, which is a campus for foreign students to live while studying in Paris. With 130 nationalities represented it was a great place to meet new and interesting people from all walks of life. Each nation has a house that lodges students from that country and each dorm is built in the style of the country of origin making the Cité U a well-known site for architecture. During the weekends I spent my time exploring the city and getting to know each arrondissement as well as traveling to nearby countries. After my 11 weeks abroad I know Paris “like my pocket” as the French say and my French has improved greatly. This, in combination with the excellent science experience, made this summer a superb summer on all fronts.
When I received the news that I was able to travel to Thailand for a service trip to volunteer at an orphanage, I was ecstatic. I went into the experience hoping to be able to help these children or leave an impression on them in some way. However, by the end of my two week stay, I feel that they were the ones that changed me. Chiang Mai, Thailand, was above and beyond what I expected.
Although the breath taking sites, elaborate temples, rich culture, and delicious food were enough to make my trip amazing, volunteering at the orphanage in the town of Doi Suket was the highlight of every day.
My first day, I was slightly nervous to meet everyone. However, from the moment I arrived, I could feel the love and warm welcoming from each of the 39 children in the home. Within a few minutes, I was learning their favorite card games, playing uno, playing soccer, helping with homework and folding paper into intricate designs. In what seemed like no time at all, they screamed to me “Dinner!” and two of the girls grabbed either hand of mine, a person they just met a few hours prior, to lead me into their dining room. Saying goodbye, or “Sawasdee Ka,” was hard to do even on my first day. Some of the children at the home were orphaned and some had families in small villages far away and were sent to live there so they could get a better education. As a volunteer I was able to provide a lot of love, attention, and compassion that the two couples running the children’s home could not single handedly provide equally to every child, and in exchange they showed me love, kindness, and a new perspective on life. Living in America it is easy to forget just how fortunate we are, and our society encourages us to strive to have more and more. These children did not have much, but they were so grateful for what they did have. I saw that they were genuinely thankful when you would bring a new deck of cards or a pack of paper. I could only say a handful of Thai words, and they could only say a handful of English words, but somehow this did not matter in the slightest. Over the course of two weeks, I gained many heart warming friendships, made memories that will last me a lifetime, and learned to feel fortunate for what I have every day of my life.
On May 20th 2017, I boarded a plane to Israel to begin a nearly two month journey abroad with the UD Chorale. We worked all semester to prepare repertoire for our trip, starting with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana to be performed at concert halls across Israel with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. This was an exciting experience, as we had the opportunity to work with professional musicians and rehearse with a guest conductor to put on three incredible concerts! We also performed several concerts in beautiful venues across Israel that featured only the UD chorale doing our own repertoire from throughout the semester. It was incredible to see the audience react to our performances. I’ve never experienced such consistently excited and gracious audiences in my life!
We then traveled to Malta to perform with the famous Maltese composer and conductor, Joseph Vella. We premiered two of his works, collaborating with his own professional choir and orchestra. Traveling to Malta was something I never thought I would do, and thanks to this trip I was able to experience the beautiful island of Gozo, the incredible Maltese food, and of course perform in a stunning church. After these performances, we traveled to Germany to compete in the International Mainhausen Choral Competition. We competed in two categories— classical and jazz. I can definitely say that this was one of the most musically enriching experiences of my life. We worked tirelessly to come as close to perfect on both of our sets as possible, reaching a highly refined level of musicality that was thrilling to perform. Most members of the UD Chorale had never sung jazz, and I personally never knew how difficult jazz is to sing. Mastering a new style of music that was outside of our comfort zones was an experience that I will never forget. Dr. Paul Head, the director of Chorale, believed in us and would not lower his expectations, which made us determined to rise to the challenge. We received second place awards in both categories, and I am so proud to have been a part of the experience!
The last segment of our trip took place in Aix-en-Provence, France. This was a bit different from the rest of the tour, as it was the France Symposium that occurs annually, and is open to singers from any school or state. This was exciting because after moving around so frequently, we finally were able to settle into a beautiful apartment in France, where myself and 5 other members of the UD Chorale stayed. We rehearsed every day and met UD Chorale alumni, singers from schools across the country, and former students of Dr. Head from back when he taught high school. It was incredible to make connections with all of these new people, who all became close friends so quickly. We performed in intimate churches across the south of France and went on several excursions throughout the two weeks, visiting attractions such as Cassis, the Pont du Garde, and lavender fields in the Séneque Abbey. Performing in France was a beautiful way to end this tour (although I never wanted it to actually end)! I am so grateful to Dr. Head and the Honors Department for this life changing experience. It is truly one that I will never forget!
Thanks to the Honors Enrichment Award I had the opportunity to intern at the 100th Monkey Studio in Portland, Oregon for the summer. My internship explored both art therapy and art education as potential career options, as well as developed my curatorial and fine arts skills. Over the course of the summer, I gained experience with a variety of art therapy and studio groups. From day one of my internship, I worked in sessions with Full Life, an organization that helps adults of all ages with chronic illnesses, and physical or developmental disabilities. Initially, Beth Ann, my supervisor and one of the founders of the studio, took charge of the sessions. Beth Ann is a registered Art Therapist and shared many of her techniques with me and the other interns, allowing us to successfully connect with the participants and make their experience in the studio fulfilling. Throughout the three months, Beth Ann gradually involved herself less and less so that the interns were eventually leading the sessions by themselves. I typically worked with this group twice a week which allowed me to get to know the participants and gain an understanding of how the open studio sessions affect their lives. Although it was difficult to notice while in the internship, the responsibility of leading sessions increased my confidence and ease of interacting with participants from all sessions.
Through the internship, I was exposed to a variety of clients in sessions such as Teen Art Journaling, Supported Open Studio, Mindful Creative Expression, Adult Journal Group, Exploring Transitions; Adult Insight Oriented Workshops, and Family Open Studio. The variety of these sessions introduced me to a wide range of clients that art therapists can interact with and
support. During biweekly meetings with the interns, Beth Ann shared her experiences with individual and family art therapy. Since I am not a registered art therapist, I was unable to perform any art therapy services but the shared experiences gave incredible insight into what it’s like to be an art therapist and what private art therapy sessions are like. I had the unique opportunity over the summer to participate in a studio show titled “Gender Summit”. Participants in the show were required to come to the studio to work on their pieces. During these sessions, participants shared their experiences with gender differences and talked about their gender expression. In the beginning of August, I helped prepare and set the Gender Summit show up, giving me valuable experience that most art students don’t have access to until their final year of college or after.
Outside of the internship, I took advantage of Portland’s vibrant arts community. I lived at Portland State University during my internship and had the opportunity to explore the arts of Portland every day. In my free time, I took a wheel throwing class at Georgies Ceramics & Clay studio. Currently, I am using the skills I learned in the wheel throwing class to inform my work in an independent study I am taking this semester. The class reignited my love for ceramics and opened a third possible career I wish to pursue, ceramics art and education. Although my time in Portland was at times challenging, I cannot imagine a better opportunity to explore what having a career in art therapy and/or art education is like. I wouldn’t have been able to intern at the 100th Monkey Studio if not for the Honors Enrichment Award and I am grateful to the Honors Program donors for their generosity and support.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to work alongside professionals of KaTO architecture, a nonprofit, humanitarian architect firm based out of Richmond, VA. As a member of a diverse design team, my structural engineering skills were both challenged and enriched in redesigning a school for a village in La Romana, Dominican Republic. KaTO was founded by Kyle Murphy, an ambitious and altruistic designer whose purpose in founding this organization is to use architecture as a catalyst to further education in third world nations. KaTO works with individual communities across Central and South America to provide educational opportunities in villages where such facilities are lacking. I had the opportunity to work with fellow interns and community members on redesigning FUCPE, an existing yet impoverished elementary school located in the Dominican Republic, to design an inspirational and safe elementary school and community center.
The first week of this summer was spent traveling to the Dominican Republic with the design team and meeting community members of La Romana. Here, we discussed the most important aspect of the project: the community’s vision. We talked about social, medical and political issues in the region and discussed how we could go about addressing such problems through the power of architecture. Community members discussed several problems in the area, including a lack of access to medical facilities, a poor existing school building, and an absence of pride in their village. We spent mornings talking through these issues, and afternoons brainstorming in our temporary studio. We met with local architects, artists and political figures. We discovered that the community needed more than just an amped up elementary school. So often in underprivileged environments, schooling does not extend beyond 5th grade, however administrators of FUCPE hoped to change this. As a team, we landed on the idea to not only redesign the existing elementary school, but incorporate a middle / high school, community center and clinic, all in one.
Soon after, we returned to our home base in Richmond, Virginia and started developing our design. Weeks were spent constructing physical and digital models, and piecing together parts of each interns’ designs in order to come up with a final product. Following this process came my favorite part: the structural engineering side. I worked with two fellow interns under a Walter P. Moore certified engineer in creating a structurally sound building. It was incredibly interesting being faced with unfamiliar challenges related to local environmental patterns, material availability and level of skilled labor, all of which became major concerns. My main focus throughout the course of the summer lay in the structure’s column, beam and footing design, areas of engineering that I was previously unfamiliar with. Working on a team of such motivated and inspirational designers and engineers made this summer one for the books. I look forward to revisiting La Romana, seeing the new and improved FUCPE, and most importantly, reconnecting with a group of people that I will never forget.
After an eventful Saturday and Sunday of exploring a city I will call home for the next twenty days, I woke up with excitement at 7:30am on a Monday morning, ready to start my surgical rotation for the week. We all gather into the crowded red taxi truck to get dropped off at the different hospitals we are assigned to for the week. The job consisted of observing and shadowing doctors, studying real cases, and interacting with patients. The first week took place in McCormick Hospital. During the time period of 8:30am to 4pm, my time was spent mostly in the Operating Room watching incredible procedures, or in the break room laughing and snacking with the nurses, physician assistants, and surgeons. Here is a list of surgeries we were able to observe.
During the surgical procedures, the interns and I were able to stand behind the surgeon, free to ask questions. The language barrier was eminent, however, the staff wanted us to learn as much as possible and tried hard to communicate through body language and drawing pictures.
There were many differences I observed from the OR at Christiana Hospital to the one in Chiang Mai. First, they didn’t wear closed toed shoes! The shoes worn in the operating room were open toed cushioned sandals. Another difference that was obvious was the emphasis on community. Everyday, the hospital staff breaks all together for lunch and there are no surgeries scheduled from about noon to 1:30pm. Lunch consists of papaya salad, noodles, or rice and curry. Everyone eats together, family style, and catches up with one another. This sense of community is something I observed in the upcoming week as well.
The second week, I was assigned to Maharaj Hospital to volunteer in the Rehabilitation Unit. This rotation consisted of shadowing physical therapists and occupational therapists by assisting in stretching, transporting, feeding, and cooperating with the patients. It was an inpatient setting, meaning the patients lived at the hospital for a specific period of time. Their injuries were all neurological; mostly stroke related or from a motor vehicle accident resulting in partial paralysis or total loss of function in parts of the body. Some had the ability to slowly regain function, but others were in the clinic with their families being educated on how they were going to live the rest of their lives with a disability.
This experience in the rehabilitation unit gave me a new perspective on disability as well as end of life care. It also strengthened my views on the importance of family and a support group in ones life. The therapists were extremely motivating, positive and encouraging. It was easy to tell how much they cared for their patients. My favorite part of volunteering in this unit was Friday afternoon music therapy. The patients sang, played instruments, and even danced along to Thai and American songs. It was beautiful to see the positive energy flowing through the room. I even got a chance to show off my beginner guitar skills as well. Saying goodbye to the patients and therapists was difficult for they made Anna, a fellow intern, and I feel apart of their community.
Aside from working in the hospital, afternoons consisted of visiting gorgeous Buddhist temples, taking yoga classes, and indulging in endless amounts of Pad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice. On the weekends the interns and I were able to travel. We visited a village called Pai in the mountains of northern Thailand and had the opportunity to rent motorbikes for the day… I never felt more alive. We visited an ethical elephant camp as well and gave the elephants mud baths and jumped off waterfalls.
I want to say a BIG thank you to the Honors College for providing me with this opportunity. I had an unforgettable experience that solidified my decision in wanting to become a physician and gained a more global perspective on healthcare.
In the beginning of August, I went on a four-day trip out west to the University of Colorado Boulder for the American Society of Biomechanics research conference. It was an incredible experience to able to fully explore the modern-day biomechanics field and receive valuable feedback regarding my own research.
Throughout the trip, we went to lectures on various topics. The topics I found most interesting to discuss were those on running, orthoses/exoskeletons, and prostheses. Running is of interest to me because I enjoy the activity and am always looking for ways to improve my gait mechanics and minimize metabolic energy spent. My favorite lecture in the field was regarding how humans could theoretically break the two-hour marathon mark. I also enjoyed learning about engineered external devices, particularly for stroke subjects, because I have assisted many students in my lab with data collections on computer modeled lower-limb support prototypes. Lastly, I was very surprised to realize that many others across the world were also working with subjects with transtibial amputations. It was very interesting to see that some biomechanics prioritized low metabolic rate while others felt that symmetry or other parameters were more important to prevent falls.
The particular topic that I presented on was Assessing the Validity of the G-Walk BTS® on Individuals with Unilateral Transtibial Amputations. I collected this data over the previous summer, and since then I have drafted a paper for journal submission and presented my findings twice before in a podium presentation at Center of Biomedical Engineering Research and a poster format at the conclusion of INBRE. However, both of those events were at the University of Delaware, and I was eager to see what feedback experts from around the world had for me. I was surprised at how interested others were in my topic, as I had many graduate students, professors, and industry individuals coming to ask me about my work. Most of them were happy with what I had done, given that it could potentially give quantitative values for physical therapists in the field to prescribe the correct prosthetic if the device is validated. Quantitative values of such specificity have never been able to be generated before in a quick and relatively inexpensive manner, which gave me encouragement to continue my work.
Additionally, this conference gave me a great opportunity to better explore my interests and network with likeminded peers. Being an exercise science major, I am extremely interested in mobility and metabolic work, topics that were discussed in great detail across many different topics. Furthermore, I was able to meet a medical student from the University of Washington and discuss the connections between medicine and biomechanics. This peeked my enthusiasm because I plan on attending medical school next year and would love to continue to conduct research to supplement my classroom learning.
Aside from the conference itself, it was incredible to take in the rocky mountain views during our walk to and from the conference each day. The University of Colorado had a beautiful campus and the food in the area was exceptional. I cannot thank the University of Delaware Honors Program enough for this unique experience that I would not have been able to attend without them. I look forward to sharing what I learned during the conference in my research and classes for my final year of undergraduate.
My trip to San Francisco for the International Meeting For Autism Research (IMFAR) was an awesome, interesting and very informative experience to say the least. I attended this conference to present my research and senior thesis on “Differences in fNIRS-Based Cortical Activation During Interpersonal Synchrony Tasks Between Children with and without Autism”, and also to learn about all of the other research being done around the world on Autism.
To start the trip our flight was delayed for about three hours and we had to transfer to a different plane. This was a problem because originally I was supposed to have three hours at the hotel before I would present my research poster. By the time I arrived at the Marriot Marquis I had to run to check in and get changed in order to present my poster. I was worried enough as it was presenting for the first time in front of professionals who would actually know what I was talking about, but adding the stress of getting there on time made it even more memorable (nothing ever goes as planned). Lesson #1 I learned on the trip for future reference: don’t travel by plane on the same day you’re supposed to present. Not all was bad though since we got to talk to other passengers who were attending the conference, some who held high positions in organization around the country.
The presentation itself went well. Our research is one of the first using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) on individuals with Autism so there were a lot of researchers coming up to me asking questions about fNIRS as they were about to start studies using it. Ours was one of the only posters thus year but I bet next year that number will exponentially increase. The next day I presented with other people from my lab that went to the conference and looked around at other posters. It baffled me how much research on autism was being conducted around the world and how much it varied. I learned so much talking to others about their posters and met a lot of people from all over the world from Israel, Germany, China, England, and from other schools. ~Mike Hoffman
This past weekend was one I will remember for a very long time. For months, my lab had prepared to travel to the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in San Francisco to share the research we have been working on over the past year. Despite some unexpected delays, we made it to San Francisco on Thursday with enough time for my lab mate Mike Hoffman to present for the last thirty minutes of his session. He successfully shared his poster, and we were able to meet notable researchers in the field. It was an exhausting first day, but I was excited to present my research the following day and continue to take advantage of everything the conference had to offer.
The posters from my lab group were the only ones with research involving functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), and conference attendees were very excited to learn about our work. Many people even asked for suggestions on how they can implement fNIRS in their own labs. It was amazing to share my research and the progress I have made after many months of hard work. I especially enjoyed being able to interact with some of the top researchers, and it was an incredible to discuss my work with authors who I actually cited in my thesis. Although I was nervous to present in front of so many people, I am now more confident in my presentation skills as I move on to graduate school.
To make the most of our time in San Francisco, we woke up early on Friday to explore the city before the conference. We walked across the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, and took a ferry back to San Francisco, enjoying views of the bridge and Alcatraz along the way. The walk was tiring (we walked all 1.7 miles!), but definitely worth it. After an exciting morning, I headed back to the conference to present my poster. ~Susanna Trost
The trip wasn’t all business though. In our short time there we woke up really early in order to walk the Golden Gate Bridge, which was an amazing view that I will never forget.
After that we took a ferry past Alcatraz and ended up on pier 39. Pier 39 was packed with people with shops and places to eat, but the best part was all the sea lions that were just chilling on docks by the pier. They would push each other off and were never quiet.
Following the conclusion of the conference on our last day we went to the San Francisco Giants baseball game in which the game took 5 ½ hours going into the 17th inning, but we left after the 9th because we had an early flight the next day.
Overall I had a great experience my first time on the west coast and made plenty of connection. I learned so much more about Autism and the future direction the field is heading. ~Mike Hoffman
“Same Story” Different Countries is a multidisciplinary project that incorporates literary and historical research, music, poetry and dance. With a focus on issues of oppression, resilience, resistance and liberation, the production reveals themes that resonate with individuals and groups in the United States, South Africa and beyond. The production has a goal of raising awareness of the history of racism, while prompting the audiences to focus on the healing needed to move forward into a unified future. I attended the “Same Story” Different Countries (SSDC) trip as a dancer. From this journey, I gained a new world perspective and a new appreciation for art as a means of facilitating discussion.
I began the journey with little experience traveling outside the United States. Through this experience, I gained a desire to immerse myself in different cultures and to see the world. In South Africa, I met some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever encountered. On the first Sunday, we performed our production at the Holy Cross Anglican Church in Soweto, ZA. Immediately upon entering the church, congregation members welcomed us with warm smiles and hugs. We were immersed into the church service and following our performance, we were invited to sing and dance with the incredible church choir. I was amazed by their gratitude and willingness to talk about their own racial struggles, connecting them to our production. After the service, a teacher during the time of the Soweto Uprising shared her story, along with our choreographer’s father, who fled the country and became a professor in the United States.
Following this incredible experience, each time we performed I learned something new about South African culture. The students at the schools that we performed at were so excited to meet us and often started conversations in regards to racial tensions they experienced. At many of the schools, students volunteered songs, spoken poetry, music, or dance expressing racial conflict. I was amazed at the openness of the students and their appreciation for our work. Along with learning valuable lessons from the performances, I was able to learn a lot from interacting with assorted South Africans, including our drivers, people on the street, fellow dancers at the companies we visited, etc.. I was amazed at the quantity of languages known by each person, preserving the culture of the many different communities.
Along with learning so much about the culture and societal struggles, I really enjoyed learning about the medical care. At the Apartheid Museum, I learned that during the period of apartheid, black Africans feared hospitals and clinics and often compared them to prisons. White doctors treated most Africans and were often overworked and unable to attend to all the patients. Although the medical system had improved following the abolishment of apartheid, medical care remains an issue in South Africa. We were able to visit ADAPT (Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training), a nonprofit organization combatting gender based violence in South Africa. They offered crisis counseling, criminal justice system assistance, youth and school programs, community trainings, and some medical care including primary care, emergency treatment, and selective surgeries. The medical care portion was small and roughly 20 people stood in line in receive treatment when we visited. The director said that they lacked enough physicians and medical supplies in order to serve the population. As a student currently applying to medical school, I was struck by a desire to help.
In the future, I hope to continue to travel and experience new cultures. In particular, I hope to return to South Africa to provide medical care to patients in need. This trip has helped me to become more aware of the large disparity between social classes and continued racial tension occurring around the world, pushing me to go out into my community and advocate for the need to help each other and fully embrace diversity and difference in all capacities of our lives. I look forward to continuing to discover new ways to help, returning to the United States with a new desire to serve others. As stated in the Apartheid Museum, “Humanity was born in Africa. All people, ultimately, are African”. Following this journey, I am truly proud to have a piece of this beautiful continent in me.
For two weeks in the Winter of 2016, I traveled to Beijing, China, to investigate the environmental pollution and how it is being dealt with. Beijing has been suffering greatly from air pollution and soil pollution as well. I was able to directly observe how this has effected the city, how people are dealing with it, and discuss the topic with top experts and scientists in the area. In the beginning of my trip, I met with the director of the Research Center of Corporate Social Responsibility – China Academy of Social Sciences (CSR-CASS). This group of people working for CSR-CASS helps develop the theory of China CSR, promote social responsibility, and also has a role in assessing companies in China. The Research Center’s assessment of companies can be found in the books they publish. The Blue Book and White Book of CSR report and record the progress and characteristics of social responsibility in China. During these days, I also visited Beihai and Jingshan parks. Because of the air pollution, many people including myself wore masks which have filters. The weather was also very hazy. Some locals were upset by this haze, because when viewing the Forbidden City from the top of Jingshan Park, one can usually see the entire city. However, because of the air pollution not much could be seen.
Also in my trip, I had the opportunity to visit many different science laboratories. Some were university laboratories, and some were government and some private. Because energy sources like coal is worsening environmental problems in Beijing, new energy sources are developed. For example, at the Chine Academy of Science’s Institute of Microbiology, many research groups are engineering bacteria to create biofuels. I was able to visit some of these laboratories which do this, and learn about their projects. The ideas revolving around environmental sustainability have influenced students in high school as well. Here are some pictures from a fashion show at LuHe high school in Beijing. The students only used recycled products to create their outfits and dresses. The student with the long black dress made hers from trash bags. Others used theirs from old curtains or toilet paper even.
Most people can only notice the air pollution as a problem in Beijing. It is talked about on the news there, the weather is often foggy, and people are wearing masks. However, most people do not know all the problems caused by pollution. There is also a big issue which I was able to discuss with Dr. Wang Xiao Guang, the Beijing Rongzhi Corporate Social Responsibility Institute Director, which is the soil pollution. As director of the Rongzhi corporate social responsibility institute, Dr. Wang works with many private companies to help them create a plan to get a better environmental impact score from China’s CSR. Important technologies which companies will need to utilize in the future to help the environment include soil cleaning technology. Much of the land in Beijing is polluted and this a major health hazard, and it also affects commercial real estate greatly. I also met with Professor Sun Jirong at the Beijing Business Incubation Park. At this incubation park, the professor and his staff works with graduate students from various Beijing Universities, to help start their businesses. Their future assessments by the China CSR is one thing they can help them with as well.
Many people I met used London’s issues during the industrial revolution as an example of what China faces now. They say London took 50 years to clean their country and so China will take this amount of time. Some say 15-20 years because we have better technology today than in the past, and some say 50-80 years because the problem is worse in China. However, it also depends on what the definition of “clean” is, and what state the environment is in after this amount of time. I believe if people are aware of the problem and continue to care, the environment in Beijing can improve quickly. I enjoyed my trip greatly, and hope to return soon to an improved China.
The day after finals I was on a plane destined for Aalborg, Denmark. On my third plane ride, a Danish woman asked where I was headed and I quickly replied “Aalborg” with a beaming face. With a look of disgust she replied, “Oh God,why?” At this unsettling response, I explained that I would be spending the next month working on a swine farm. Like most people, she looked at me as if I was slightly unstable. That is the look I got from most people when I explained my holiday plans. After all, I was leaving my home for the holidays to work on a pig farm. I hadn’t met my employers and only exchanged two emails with them. Yet, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to learn and see a foreign country. I had no idea what was in store, and I couldn’t wait to get there.
I could never have prepared myself for what the month had in store for me. I arrived in Aalborg and was greeted by the Lunds, a family I befriended during my previous summer in Iceland. We drove home and got settled. Two days later I was driving through the dark Danish winter to Egelund svinefarm to start working. That Monday I changed into the overalls and gray sweatshirt I would wear everyday for the next month. And in I went. My first thought: “how do I breathe in here!?” My eyes watered in my first lap through the stables past 2,300 pigs. I met the three boars, 100 poults, 600 sows, and 1600 piglets. I was thrown right in on the first day. I gave sows and piglets vaccines, painkillers, and vitamins. I castrated piglets and sorted through teams. That week I artificially inseminated sows and poults. Within a week I had already seen nearly everything that went on at Egelund.
Yet, every week brought new adventure. One week I shadowed a swine veterinarian and saw other swine operations. In conversation with Erik Staun, the owner of Egelund, I learned the logistics and costs of managing a swine farm. From discussion with Erik and the swine veterinarian, as well as seeing other farms, I quickly realized that I was working at one of the best swine farms in the world. Erik upholds a high standard of welfare for his pigs and ensures he is always providing his animals with the best care available.
Although this winter was mostly about the pigs, I spent the month immersed in Danish culture. I lived with the Lunds for three weeks, Erik Staun for four nights, and a nearby family in Nibe for two nights. This meant that I spent the holidays with three different families and I got to see how three different families lived. I learned very valuable things including the Danes love for sausage, cheese, coffee, and marzipan. Danish Christmas will forever be inseparable from a piece of chocolate covered marzipan in my mind. I spent my last three nights exploring the beautiful city of Copenhagen. The few sunny hours of the day were spent walking countless kilometers through the city admiring the architecture, people, art, and culture. On my last night in Copenhagen I thought of all the incredible people I met and I knew that this past month was an invaluable gift to me. The friendships and lessons I learned are ones that I will carry with me in my professional career and my everyday life.
During this winter session, I spent two weeks in South Africa with 23 other UD student performers, dance professors, local choreographers, artistic directors, and community supporters touring with our Same Story, Different Countries production and project. The SSDC project has been two years in the making, and it explores the past and present racial issues in the U.S. Civil Rights movement and South African Anti-Apartheid. My role in the project was twofold: I sang in the production and I taught my research-based lessons to children in schools we visited across Johannesburg and Cape Town.
We spent our first week in Johannesburg, where we dug deep into the history of Apartheid through performances at local schools, churches, and studios. We heard first-hand accounts of the devastating trials and triumphs of the black and coloured South Africans during the time of Apartheid and beyond, gaining a much deeper understanding of why we were there sharing our project. We were dancing and singing through the exact events they lived through. Our stories are the same, half way across the world. One of our most memorable performances in Johannesburg was at Holy Cross Anglican Church, which is right in Nelson
Mandela’s neighborhood in Soweto, and the massive congregation whole-heartedly embraced us. We felt like we were part of the community, even if just for a few hours, and every move we made in our performance carried so much more weight. Other standout moments in Johannesburg include visiting the deeply moving Apartheid museum, performing at the beautiful Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, and exploring the Lion & Rhino Animal Reserve.
Our second week was spent in Cape Town, and this paradise city was very different from our experience in Johannesburg. More European and less historic, Cape Town was full of adventures including the incredible views atop Table Mountain, enriching exchanges of both dance and research at the University of Cape Town, school visits to vivacious high schools, and an emotional final performance at Baxter Theater. My favorite day here was at Oaklands High School, where we first performed our show for a room teeming with hundreds of students in the morning, and then I taught my workshop to a large group of 8th grade students afterward. The students were fully engaged, willing to step outside of their comfort zone to choreograph their own short dances and learn about the topic of resilience in U.S. slavery. Then the students broke into small groups and discussed how they are resilient in their own lives. The vulnerable stories the students shared were moving and inspiring, and it was a moment where the teacher (me) was able to learn from her students.
Overall, this trip was incredibly enriching, exciting, expository, and enlightening. Not only could we share our project with a culture that can equally connect to and appreciate the stories of racial oppression and liberation, but our lives were changed in the process. It’s so important to seek to be uncomfortable in the world around you in order to understand just how privileged you may be. This was an awakening experience for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the Honors Enrichment award for being a reason this was made possible.
This winter, I traveled to Costa Rica and Nicaragua with Vida Volunteer, a nonprofit organization that sets up medical, dental, and veterinary clinics in Central America. The trip I chose was composed of pre-medical and pre-dental students. I participated in the dental program alongside ten other college students from various places across the United States. Following a day of public health orientation, we visited the community Barrio Irvin in La Cruz, Costa Rica. After becoming acquainted with our translators, we set up a nutrition workshop at Colegio Barrio Irvin, the neighborhood’s school. Working in smaller groups, we educated the local children about healthy foods, vitamins and nutrients, and the importance of a balanced diet. I was excited to practice my Spanish with all the enthusiastic children!
Our group was the first Vida trip to implement the what was known as the “Stevia Project.” Stevia is a plant that diabetic patients can use as a sugar substitute. The Vida community coordinators had identified the houses with diabetic patients prior to our arrival, so we split into groups of four people and went to these houses. Once there, we educated the patient about his or her diabetes, how to manage it, and how to propagate the stevia plant. For the remaining time in La Cruz, we visited various households to collect general health information about each family member, including vitals. After the doctor spoke with the family, we provided recommendations about diet, exercise, and health in general. During the two-day public health project, we were able to help 39 families, plus the 15 families that we helped through the Stevia project. After our work in La Cruz, we spent a day at Playa Hermosa where we enjoyed sunbathing, snorkeling, swimming, and live music.
Once we arrived in Masaya, we split into our homestay groups. I stayed with four other girls in a quaint home in Masaya with our “Mamá Chilito,” her mother, and her son Diego. They had a section at the Masaya market where they sold local art. The homestays were my favorite cultural aspect of the trip. While in Nicaragua, we visited the Apoyo Lagoon and the Masaya Volcano. The dental team was led by Nicaraguan dentists Dr. Erick Collado and Dr. Isabel Soza. They were assisted by Nicaraguan dental student Reyna Villavicencio. After an orientation day in which we familiarized ourselves with the tools, disinfection procedure, anatomy of the mouth, and common oral diseases, we were ready to set up clinics in Masaya and Granada. Due to available resources and time constraints, the clinic was able to offer extractions, fillings, cleanings, and fluoride treatments. We assisted the doctors by gathering the correct tools for each procedure, holding the tools and the spit cup, and cleaning up after the procedure was complete. After that, we provided the patient with a toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste. Then, we explained about proper brushing technique in Spanish… ¡No olvide cepillarse la lengua! (Don’t forget to brush your tongue!) Over the course of four days, we served a total of 168 patients in the dental clinic.
All in all, combined with the medical team, our group was able to help over 570 people during the public health and clinic days. I am so grateful that the Honors Program provided me with this opportunity to assist so many people, to gain shadowing and hands-on clinical experience, and to improve my Spanish. As a pre-dental student with a Spanish minor, this trip was extremely valuable to me.
This past winter, through the organization Volunteer Connections, I traveled to Quito, Ecuador to help teach English in a private school. As a Spanish major, I was earnestly looking forward to a chance to speak Spanish to native speakers for a whole week. And, as my future plans involve teaching English abroad in Spanish-speaking nations, I was even more excited to experience a teaching role in a school full of children and teachers native to Ecuador. However, this week abroad living in Ecuador also allowed me to experience the rich culture and history of Ecuador.
I lived with a host family of one single mother and her two young sons. They were extremely hospitable, warm, and welcoming. My host mother cooked breakfast and dinner for me and the other volunteers in her home every single day. Breakfast was comprised of coffee, tea, bread, butter, and jam. Dinner varied every evening, but it mostly consisted of chicken, rice, lentils or beans, and a simple salad. As my host mother did not speak any English, I loved speaking to her in Spanish in her house and throughout our meals.
Every morning, I took the bus to the private school at which I was a classroom volunteer. The school was called the Albany Private School, and it taught grades second through ninth. All of the students at this school came from the Albany Kindergarten School, where they began to learn English around the age of five. While none of the students were fluent in English in the school at which I volunteered, many of the students had a very good comprehension of the language by ninth grade. As a teaching assistant, I was paired with one teacher and followed her around to her seven different classes each day, half science and half English classes. She taught a wide range of ages, from the youngest to the oldest. In the younger classes, the children were very young and extremely rambunctious, so I mostly helped in discipline and maintaining some calm in the classroom. In the older classes, like our fifth and ninth grade English classes, I was able to take more of a leading teaching role. I helped the students with their classwork, their spelling and pronunciation of English, and taught a few grammar lessons. By the end of the week, I felt very comfortable standing in front of the class and switching between Spanish and English very fluidly in order to explain the lesson. At the end of the week, I really bonded with the fifth grade class and felt very sad to part from them. I took the cover picture with them on the last day, “Bring a Toy to School Day.”
On the weekend before I returned home from Ecuador, I was able to see a considerable amount of the culture and country of Ecuador. I explored historical district of the city as well as the rural mountains of the country. I visited Lago San Pablo and Quilotoa, a massive crater lake in the middle of an inactive volcano at an altitude of 14,000 ft. I was also given the opportunity to visit the indigenous people of Ecuador, and they graciously opened their home for us to visit. Their way of life is beautiful, and it was so amazing to meet people so happy to share their culture with strangers. My volunteer trip to Ecuador was one that I will never forget, and I am so grateful the Honors Program allowed me the opportunity to experience something so incredible.
I have been part of the “Same Story,” Different Countries project since its beginnings in the spring of 2015, when I joined as a Summer Scholar and dancer for the production. The project combines dance, music, art, poetry, and historical research to express the similarities and differences between the United States Civil Rights Movement and the South African fight against apartheid. My role included generating research for the project, focusing on women’s activism in the two countries, and acting as a dancer. Since that summer, I’ve been able to stick with the project as a “scholar/artist” as it has grown and traveled from Mitchell Hall on the University of Delaware campus to the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, to various schools and churches in the Delaware area, and now to South Africa.
When I joined the project team in 2015, going to South Africa seemed like a far off dream, but traveling through Johannesburg and Cape Town this January was well worth the wait and hours of intensive rehearsals. Continuously reworking and practicing the dances in the production was vital for making them their best for South African audiences. It felt so special to perform for these audiences, from the congregation of the Holy Cross Anglican Church in Soweto near Nelson Mandela’s former home to the students of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Preparing required a lot of adaptability, as we only had a few hours in each space to rehearse. However, at the end of each performance, the sweat and confusion seemed worth it when we received applause and kind words from audiences and would join them, sharing freedom songs from the United States and sometimes learning South African songs as well. Additionally, at some of the high schools we went to, one of the performers and fellow Honors student, Marielle Kraft, would lead a workshop for students on resilience, integrating the arts into her lesson. Helping with those workshops and interacting individually with the students was one of the highlights of my time in South Africa.
In both Johannesburg and Cape Town, the project team and I also had the chance to gain knowledge about the history and culture of South Africa. After the performance at the Holy Cross Church, for instance, we had the opportunity to speak with a woman named Ma Fikile Ncgobo, who was one of the teachers of the students involved in the 1976 Soweto Uprising. We also had the chance to go through the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and Robben Island off of Cape Town, where we received a tour from Lionel Davis, a man who served seven years in the prison because of his anti-apartheid activism. At Moving into Dance, one of the first mixed-race dance companies in South Africa, we were able to take classes in both Afrofusion and contemporary dance styles and learn how the company performs educational outreach to local communities. These experiences enriched our understanding of South Africa and of the themes we have been working to present in our production over the past two years.
As an international relations major, an English major with a concentration in Ethnic and Cultural Studies, and a dance minor, this information deepened interests that have been sparked in my studies at UD. I am encouraged to move forward in examining the possible connections between the arts, cultural exchange, and human rights work. This project has been a formative experience that I will not forget, and I am so thankful that the Honors Program has helped me gain the tools and skills necessary for this journey.
This past January I traveled with the BuildOn trek team to Mborane Sereer, Senegal, which became the most valuable, memorable experience of my life. BuildOn strives to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through education and service. In Mborane Sereer, we were assisting the community in breaking ground on a primary school that the BuildOn at UD chapter fundraised for this past year. I was honored to be a part of this trip because I believe in BuildOn’s methodology and values. As soon as we arrived in the village, the community members’ motivation and dedication to completing the school was evident. Everyone danced and sang and cheered and welcomed us with open-minds and kind hearts. At the welcoming ceremony, everyone signed the covenant which outlined expectations of the community and BuildOn moving forward with the school. Some signed by stamping fingerprints, but everyone was included which made it a really special moment for the community.
My host family included Tata Anna Ndong, Grandma Marie Ndieg, my host brothers Aliou Faye and Cheihk Diouf, and my roommate from BuildOn, Tali. They welcomed us into their home with open arms, and we got to learn about their culture through various activities including preparing meals, doing laundry, and attending dance ceremonies, a wrestling tournament, a mock wedding, and a gender talk. In the afternoons and at night we bonded most with our host family and their friends. We played jenga, Frisbee, and jumprope every night. The boys got creative with Jenga and taught Tali and I words in Sereer using the blocks. One night, Tata Anna let us stay up extra late, and the boys led us in some yoga and exercises. The kids’ personalities revealed themselves most during playtime, and these are the memories I treasure most.
By the last night, we had all become so close that saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The sense of friendship, love, and admiration that we had developed for each other over the last week was almost tangible in the silence as we all sat with tears welled up in our eyes. Each day the worksite began with a group circle, stretching, and words of inspiration. The
infectious smiles and incredible work ethic of all the community members motivated me to put in 100% effort all day every day. One day we even had a chant “Never give up!” I worked at the brick-making station for most of the time each day because I became friends with the crew and they would call me over after the morning circle saying, “Diib, come tap tap!” The sense of
community and togetherness in Mborane Sereer was overwhelming and truly unique. They are the most peaceful, hardworking people I have ever met, and I am honored to have had the chance to live with them and work with them for a week.
This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to speak first-hand with business incubators and entrepreneurs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Kampala, Uganda. I have been interested in economic development for several years and have been a research assistant for professors studying economic development for over a year. I have read every book and taken every class at the University of Delaware on the topic. Recently, I became excited about a new movement in economic development: business incubators. However, there have been many new and “hot” solutions to global poverty over the years and all have failed to be as transformative as originally thought to be. I was interested to see whether business incubators and their clients on the ground in Addis Ababa and Kampala were finding their services transformative.
My research partner, Eric Albers, and I went to Ethiopia first. We stayed with a wonderful woman and entrepreneur, Tigist Tagene. She owns the second-largest coffee roastery in Addis and she was able to give us insight into how differently she is treated by the government because she is a female business owner. While in Addis, we spoke to business incubators, such as RENEW, Ice Addis, and the United Nations Development Program, as well as a multitude of entrepreneurs. The biggest takeaway was how little business knowledge many entrepreneurs had before they enrolled in the incubation programs. I was impressed by the entrepreneurs ambition and commitment, as well as the variety of ventures they were involved in. I also saw that because of a lack of resources meant that only a few entrepreneurs could participate in the incubator programs that helped them succeed.
In Uganda, we saw the same patterns. Our host, the owner of a micro-finance company, explained that many people who came to him for loans did not even have a business plan. We also saw that a lack of infrastructure hurt Ugandan entrepreneurs more than Ethiopian entrepreneurs. Several business incubators told us that their most important service to business owners was providing a stable Internet connection. While in Uganda, we had the opportunity to take a couple of trips. We went to the Social Innovation Academy outside of Kampala, which takes youth aging out of orphanages and provides them with a place to live and helps them develop their own socially minded enterprise. We also went to an orphanage on the coast of Lake Victoria that is trying to become financially self-sustaining by starting agriculture projects. I was amazed by the kindness and generosity of the people involved in these organizations as well as how important entrepreneurship was to the survival of their organizations.
My trip this summer gave me insight into the personal lives and struggles of dozens of East African entrepreneurs and business incubators. As I return to my job at UD researching economic development, I feel that I have so much more knowledge of the context in which I am working. Researching anything from half a world away makes it difficult to truly understand the feelings, motivations, and difficulties of the people the research is intended to help. Thanks to the Honors Enrichment Award, I understand entrepreneurship in East Africa on a personal level and I feel more prepared and enthusiastic to begin a career in economic development. ~Anna
The research that Anna and I did in Uganda and Ethiopia was really a culmination of many projects that I have been working on for the past four years. Even from the time I was in high school, I was interested in development work. I began to read all of the research by top development economists and soon wanted to pursue my own research on a related topic. I always struggled to find a topic that I was particularly interested in, however. Then I became involved in a start-up non-profit called Lazarus Rising. Through this opportunity my team and I went through a lot of business-incubator type programs. At the same time, I started an internship at a venture capital fund in Wilmington. These two opportunities made me realize the problems that entrepreneurs are facing in the US when it comes to gaining important skills to run their business as well as finding start-up capital.
After just a small amount of research I realized that entrepreneurs in the developing world struggle even more with these problems. Furthermore, business incubators and financing intuitions were just entering the African market. Finally, I found something that I was passionate about and had the requisite knowledge to explore in more depth.
Anna and I first traveled to Ethiopia. Our primary contact was an angel investing network. This network had just started investing in Ethiopia several years ago and still had not made any exits or realized any financial returns yet. It was very interesting to see how they were planning on regaining their principal investment and excess returns in a market-place that lacked well organized stock exchanges or other private equity institutions (the two standard exit strategies in the US). We also worked with several of the businesses that this angel network had invested in. The equity investment that was made had an incredible impact on all of the portfolio companies and allowed them to scale to relatively large sizes.
We also worked with several business incubators in Ethiopia as well as the businesses that had gone through these programs. One of the coolest organizations that we worked with was the United Nations Development Program business incubator. This publicly funded incubator had trained thousands of entrepreneurs, from small shop owners to emerging tech companies.
Unfortunately, after meeting with several businesses we realized that we would not be able to get the quantitative data that I wanted from our research. Businesses in Ethiopia get suspicious when anyone comes around asking to have a look at their books. We were, however, able to collect large amounts of qualitative data and organize our findings around several coherent themes. Entrepreneurs in East Africa (and in the developing world in general) have extremely difficult times raising capital. We also found that basic business training was one of the biggest obstacles holding entrepreneurs back. Even though financing was a difficulty, many entrepreneurs were seeking finance too early and did not have specific plans for uses of funds if they were to secure them. While we knew that this was a problem before we headed to East Africa, we did not realize the depth of this issue.
By far, the highlight of this trip was visiting the Social Innovation Academy (SINA). This academy was started two years ago by a German. The intent was to give create an organization that would empower troubled youth to start their own businesses. While there, we met Congolese refugees, orphans and many other young entrepreneurs from troubled backgrounds. We interviewed all of the entrepreneurs in the program and helped several to develop their business ideas further.
Again, I cannot thank the Honors Program enough for this opportunity. This trip allowed me to combine the experience I have as a finance and economics student, my passion for international development work and also my obsession with Africa. This allowed me to tie together all of my interests and study a many topics in much more depth. ~Eric
This summer I had the opportunity to spend 2 months in Turkey from June 5th to July 31st as a conservation intern for the Gyagia project. This project is being conducted under the leadership of Boston University and supported by a consortium of other universities. The project is focused on the excavation and preservation of Kaymakçı, a mid to late Bronze Age citadel which is 4 times larger than Troy. As an art conservation major there are not many opportunities to work directly with an archaeological conservator as there are only approximately 500 working professionals worldwide. When I was given the opportunity to work with the archaeological conservator for the project I was thrilled and could not wait to leave.
When I arrived in Izmir and made my way to the small village of Tekelioglu where the project is based I was struck by how beautiful the landscape is. The first glimpse of the village I got was a small cluster of buildings surrounded by fields, tepes and a large lake. Tekelioglu turns out to be one of Turkey’s largest organic farming areas. Fresh produce such as watermelon, peaches, grapes, and figs as well as amazing local dishes were never hard to come by as the villagers were some of the most generous people I have ever meet, a trait that appears to be widespread in Turkey.
There were around 20-30 people working on the project team as different experts on areas such as small finds, pottery, and paleobotany would arrive and leave at different points during the season. Despite our fluctuating numbers it was never quiet at the compound or the “pink house” which was the main hub of activity for the project as well as where I lived. It is where the lab (a converted cow shed), the pottery barn and the depot are, but the pink house is also where everyone ate all their meals and spent most of their free time. To add to the noise were the many chickens, cows, sparrows and goats that belonged to family that owns the pink house.
From the moment I arrived in town I began to learn about the intense and never-ending jobs of an archaeological conservator who spend their time between the lab and field. My supervisor Dr. Caitlin O’Grady quickly put me and my peer Emma Prideaux to work. We learned about cleaning and stabilizing many types of material objects from pottery shards to pieces of lead wire, most of which were around 3,000 years old, as well as the importance of documentation. We also learned about the job of a conservator in the field, which is to consult with excavators on the stability of objects as well as maintaining old excavation areas that are not currently opened. This involved unwrapping, cleaning and rewrapping the areas with a geotextile fabric then covering them in rocks and dirt bags. These measures help to prevent water damage as well as plant growth. Although it does not seem to keep the animal life away as I saw many centipedes, spiders and even a few scorpions making their homes under the geotextile. All in all the conservation team ended up treating over 600 objects and rewrapping eight trenches in the two-month span, not a small feat given our small team and the extreme heat we experienced this summer.
My time in Turkey will have a lasting effect on me, the skills and experiences I obtained there are going to be useful to me for the rest of my life. The people I met and lived with there were from all over the world. The Gyagia project is doing important research with the data they are collecting on site while also working with the community. I feel honored to have been able to work with this project and it would not have been possible to do so without the support of the Honors enrichment award.
From June 16 through July 4, my daily routine consisted of the following:
From this point on, my day depends on the assignment I was given:
Week One: Governmental Hospital OB/GYN
Week Two: Private Hospital ICU, pediatric, nursery, postpartum, and dermatology
And below is from my favorite experience (which was both crazy and meaningful) in the Labor and Delivery unit.
Upon my arrival, the patient was in the latent stage of labor, dilated to about 4 centimeters. I placed my hand on her stomach to feel contractions and helped find the fetal heartbeat with a Doppler. Everything was calm. I went to lunch.
Apparently, as I was enjoying my US $0.75 Pad Thai in the cafeteria, the patient was transitioning to active labor. You will know exactly when I mean if you’ve ever seen this firsthand. She was swiftly wheeled from her room into a separate delivery room. It was time. I rushed to put on the required gown, cap, and mask, all made out of some denim-like fabric.
The doctor performed an episiotomy (cutting tissue to aid in delivery) and quickly delivered the baby – a perfect and healthy baby boy. In my denim gown, I stood speechless, a tear sliding down my cheek after witnessing such a chaotic yet beautiful moment.
Other highlights of the experience included: holding babies (some born just that day), helping to give baby baths, and feeling a “trill” in the arm of a patient on hemodialysis.
The hospital also provided me with integration into the Thai culture. I formed relationships with the staff. One day, a nurse ate lunch with me, treating me to delicious food while practicing her English.
Outside of the hospital, I explored and fell in love with Chiang Mai. I ate Pad Thai to my heart’s content. I visited more markets and temples than I can count. I cliff jumped for the first time. I played with elephants and became Facebook friends with a monk.
Each day in Chiang Mai was an adventure, and the city quickly felt like home. I am so grateful to the Honors Program for helping to fund this experience.
This summer I had the opportunity to intern for CITYarts, a non-profit organization based in New York City. While I live only 30 minutes outside of NYC, I had never had the experience of working and commuting there every day, and thanks to the Honors Enrichment Award it was finally possible!
As an Anthropology major with minors in Art History, Latin American Studies, and Public Policy, I searched far and wide for a summer internship that would encompass most, if not all, of my fields of study. Finally, I found CITYarts! Its mission is to engage youth and professional artists in the creation of public art. Through this creative process, CITYarts empowers, educates, and connects youth and children locally and around the world to become active participants in realizing their potential and transforming communities. CITYarts’ public art projects include peace murals, workshops where students can draw their own visions of peace, and a traveling exhibition of student artworks. So far, CITYarts has created peace murals in Pakistan, Israel, London, Berlin, and Harlem, with more to come soon.
My day-to-day work at CITYarts was always changing and I loved the fast-paced and multi-faceted nature of my job there. I was selected as an intern for the Pieces for Peace program, which was started after 9/11 as a way to build bridges of cultural understanding between youth from around the world. My job was to manage the on-going Pieces for Peace projects both locally and abroad, which involved sending materials to schools who were planning to host workshops, reaching out to new countries to pitch mural projects, and creating a social media campaign to showcase some of the best student artworks created in our workshops.
“What does Peace look like to you?” weekly art exhibition and social media campaign posted on the CITYarts Facebook page. Each week we posted six of the best student artworks all centered on a common theme. The goal of the campaign was to show that youth from all over the world have similar visions of peace and hope for a better future.
Throughout the summer I also had the opportunity to work on-site at several of CITYarts’ different community engagement projects, which included Stryker Park Family Day, the Martin Luther King Jr. School for Law, Advocacy, and Community Justice, and the Upper West Side Story community mural project. It was great to get out of the office and work, create, and interact with youth from the community!
Besides working on Pieces for Peace, my other big task this summer was the Moving Party Art Auction. In preparation for moving to a new office in August, CITYarts held a moving party where we served food and drinks and auctioned off various pieces of art that artists had donated over the years. Thanks to my experience working with museums through the University Museums UDocent Program and the Plastino Scholars Program I was able to assist with designing the layout of the exhibition. The moving party art auction was so much fun and we raised a lot of money for future CITYarts projects – it was great to see our hard work pay off!
Interning at CITYarts this summer was such a memorable experience. I made great friends from all over the United States and abroad, explored many new areas of New York City and worked with local youth, and learned all about various aspects of working at a non-profit such as public relations, fundraising and donor outreach, and project organization and management. After finishing my B.A. this coming spring, I hope to pursue a career doing something related to the arts, social justice, and community empowerment, and this summer definitely provided me with more experience toward reaching my future career goals. While CITYarts’ office is based in New York City, its work has an impact on a local and global level and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be involved in helping spread their values of peace, tolerance, and community empowerment this summer.
To learn more about my internship at CITYarts, check out my “Intern Spotlight” interview made by our photo/video interns — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4pfuX6TBJY
A topic that often comes up in Jewish conversations is the question of what Judaism is. In some ways, it is a religion – but that’s not all it is, because some people identify as secular Jews. In other ways, it is an ethnicity – but that’s not quite right, because Jews are of varying races and ethnicities. Some say Judaism is a nationality – though this is also debatable, because Jews are citizens of many nations. One thing, however, is certain: Judaism transcends physical geography, nationality, and ethnicity.
It was not until this summer that I realized just how true this is. I traveled to India with JDC Entwine, an organization that provides services for Jewish communities around the world and travel opportunities for American Jews to learn about these communities. India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has 4,000 Jews – to put that into perspective, there are an estimated 2,000 Jewish students here at UD.
One of the main aspects of my India trip was getting to know the local Jewish youth. We spent four days at a retreat in Goa, where we celebrated Shabbat with Jews our own age, participated in leadership development, and enjoyed the city. Many of the activities we did, such as Shabbat services and leadership programming, were very similar – if not identical – to some of the activities I participate in here at UD.
It was fascinating to see the similarities and differences in how we celebrate the same holiday, Shabbat. I attend Shabbat services and dinner every week at Hillel, so the customs and traditions I follow here are second nature to me. However, as part of the (joint Indian and American) Shabbat planning committee, I was given the opportunity to carefully deconstruct and explain our customs. I then listened with great interest to the traditions of the Indian Jewish community. We say the same prayers, though the way the prayers are chanted differ – the differences, I realized, are based heavily in tradition rooted in each country’s history of its Jewish communities. In addition to learning about how Indian Jews pray, I was given the opportunity to analyze my own religious customs and better understand why I do certain things the way I do.
We also did an identity-based activity, in which we walked around the room and found statements about Judaism that we most relate to. Not only was this program extremely introspective and forced me to understand my own beliefs, but I also saw the great diversity of beliefs within and between our two communities. Regardless of nationality, we all identified with several of the statements taped around the room. I realized that I share many core values with several of the Indian Jews and, despite our geographic distance, we are spiritually and idealistically more alike than I thought.
I came to the realization two years ago that I wish to work in the Jewish nonprofit world. This is a broad and vague statement, for the Jewish nonprofit world is just that: an entire world. My trip to India opened this world up to me and showed me that my interests – personal, religious, social, and professional – extend beyond the boundaries of my own country. Working in the Jewish nonprofit world means I get to work with people who are so similar to me and also so different, both at home and abroad. I get to learn about how my religion, history, culture, and customs affect not only myself and my immediate circle of peers, but also those all around the world. I get to meet people, question things, explore my identity, and learn about other cultures, and I could not be more excited.
This past summer, I embarked on a journey from June 22nd to July 12th, singing with the Delaware Choral Academy in Aix-en-Provence, France. This trip was directed by the University of Delaware’s very own Paul D. Head, with auditioned singing participants who were both music and non-music majors from UD and other colleges across the nation. These three weeks proved to be the experience of a lifetime: with memories, music-making, and people that I will cherish forever.
Each morning, we had 4 hours of rehearsal in the basement of the beautiful Oblats Cathedral. Our repertoire consisted of approximately 20 different pieces of both sacred and secular music in the English, French, German, Lithuanian and Latin languages. Two of our song selections were multi-movement works that we got to rehearse and perform in concert with members of a phenomenal professional French orchestra. Getting to know them and singing with them during additional evening rehearsals truly solidified the concept to me of music as a universal language.
We had various formal concerts throughout the trip, including those at the Oblats Cathedral, Église du St- Esprit, L’Abbaye de Silvacane, and the Cathédrale St.-Sauveur. We also had a few informal concerts, such as in the Notre Dame de la Garde while touring Marseilles, and in various markets throughout Aix. I particularly enjoyed these informal concerts because they recruited many audience members for our other performances. I also loved watching the reactions of people who were overcome with awe from the music as they partook in their daily activities.
Perhaps my favorite moment of the trip occurred during our concert at L’Abbaye de Silvacane, while we were singing the song, “We Shall Walk Through the Valley of Peace,” by Moses Hogan. We performed this song towards the end of the concert, and one of the student conductors conducted the piece. He had the entire choir join hands as we sang this already empowering work, and I could feel myself starting to cry as I stood, front and center, in front of a large audience. The combination of the song’s beauty, the connection I felt to my fellow singers, and the emotions experienced while watching my friend, a fellow graduating senior, conduct us put me in a place more vulnerable than I could possibly describe. As the piece concluded, I turned to look at the choir to notice that majority of the other singers were also teary-eyed. In that unfathomable moment, I realized exactly why it was that I chose music education as my major- to empower others with even a dose of the connection and emotional investment I felt to music just then.
Lastly, we ventured out on various excursions during this trip, which allowed us to further immerse ourselves in French culture, and explore the country’s wonders. In addition to places mentioned above, we also visited the cities of Paris and Arles, and the villages of Gordes, Rousillon, Cassis and Bandol, as well as the St. Remy de Provence, the Sénanque Abbey and the Châteux des Beaux. I became infatuated with the cuisine, architecture, and breathtaking landscapes on these excursions, and also befriended French citizens around my age. It was eye opening to learn how vital music and art were to French culture, and how it compared to American forms of the sorts.
I am overwhelmingly thankful that the Honors Program helped to fund these three weeks of invaluable music making, that I could share with such talented people who are as passionate about the art form as I am.
I got the opportunity to experience what the daily life of a student at Stony Brook Dental school is like. Stony Brook’s Dental school is one of the best in my home state of New York. This is a very special school in the sense that the whole class is only about 40 students. This is they type of environment I have always liked. One where you can really get to know the people around you. The program I participated in was called “Discover Dental School” and it lasted one week. The week was loaded with all kinds of hands-on activities that some 2nd year dental students don’t even get to do yet. The purpose of the program is to confirm one’s passion for the dental field. I am very appreciative that I was accepted into this program.
The first day we got to perform a pulpotomy on a child sized typodont. A typodont is a mock mouth as pictured here. A pulpotomy is similar to a root canal but specialized for a child tooth. The goal of the procedure was to clean out the decayed root of the child tooth and then fill the tooth to eliminate the decay.
One day was set aside for the participants to experience each specialty of dentistry. About an hour and a half was designated with a professor who teaches a certain specialty. The best learning experiences come from passionate teachers who care about the material, and at Stony Brook Dental, it was made clear that the faculty in this tight-knit school have these traits. The picture of the bananas was the result of the oral surgery session where we practiced performing stitches. As you can see, I have a lot to learn – my banana is the second one pictured.
On a different day we got to practice drilling out tooth decay and then filling the tooth (otherwise known as filling cavities) with composite filling. The filling is the same filling real dentists use at their practices. With this cavity, We had to use an indirect vision procedure, which means you must look at the tooth through a mirror instead of seeing the decay directly. It was more challenging to use the mirror, but with practice I can get better.
The blue coverage around the tooth is referred to as a “raincoat” because it protects the rest of the mouth from any tooth debris and it also helps isolate the teeth being worked on. Although practicing dentists are not required to use them, all students must use them during their training.
On the last day of the program I performed the best I had in the whole week there. It just goes to show the more you practice at things the better you get. The task was to prepare a tooth for a crown. The normal procedure is to drill the tooth to a certain shape so that a crown can easily fit above it. This picture shows my crown prep.
The last dinner of the program was done as a celebratory dinner at a beautiful venue.
Here we got to network with the dentists involved with Stony Brook and found that our very own UD alumni have a strong presence at the school! A few things were made clear this week with the generous professors and dental students’ help. It will be hard work getting to and through dental school but it will definitely be worth it, as most things in life are.
Many of the students had not gotten into dental school on their first try and many took gap years. I also learned that to be able to do a two-minute procedure, it takes three hours of learning. Patience will be a must. Instead of being discouraged, I saw that the students were persistent and positive about reaching their goals. A great thing is to see people who have lived through it and kept moving forward to their goals.
I really needed this experience and I am very thankful for the support that UDHP gave me and for all the kind people who reached out to me at the dental school. I hope to always try my hardest and to keep moving forward towards my goals despite my obstacles. This program has left me inspired and excited to start a new school year!
This summer I worked as a research assistant at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Germany where I studied the sustainable production of butanol in bioelectrochemical reactors. My host program was called the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and I spent a total of ten weeks experimenting with ways to have bacteria make biofuels that could be used in conventional car engines. As someone who dreams of one day implementing green energy sources on our planet, I felt so lucky to be working on such ground breaking research so early on in my life! I spent my weeks in the laboratory, assessing the production of biobutanol through week-long alcohol fermentations, and my weekends touring the Black Forest towns and Alsace-Lorraine villages that freckle the West German countryside.
My experience had two faces. On one side, I got to appreciate the history of the old world: half-timber houses and the quaint serenity of a small college town lost in a forest of pine trees. But at the same time, I got the chance to synthesize a futuristic biofuel that will make conventional gasoline products obsolete while simultaneously superseding ethanol in almost every way imaginable. My excitement thinking about all the ways that this banana-smelling alcohol could revolutionize our planet was so evident that I was selected to present my research at our summer conference in Heidelberg! This was my first time ever presenting research, let alone MY research, to anyone at all, and having the opportunity to do so awarded me a personal confidence I won’t soon forget.
My favorite part about presenting my work was clarifying how this technology could be used in the real world. I got to highlight the ways that Global Warming could be slowed, stopped, and possibly even reversed through carbon negative bioprocesses. But when I would explain my research to my peers, there was one thing that always left them star struck. It was this: a car engine can burn 100% butanol without any modifications. Given a feasible production model, we could virtually eliminate our dependence on conventional gasoline. That always made a huge splash with my audience.
But when I said the words, “we could virtually eliminate our dependence…” I stopped for a moment to wonder who “our” referred to. Was it Americans? Not at this conference it wasn’t. The DAAD program recruits students from Canada, Britain, and the United States. What about English speakers? That wasn’t it either, because plenty of native Germans were there listening to my presentation and at least half of the Canadian students spoke French as their first language. After thinking about it for a while, I realized I was talking about everyone on our planet. Not only had I gotten to work on a research topic with international ripples, but I was further afforded the experience of collaborating and communicating with people from cultures different from my own. As a result, I learned a lot about my own education. For one thing, STEM major titles in other countries tend to be much more topic specific than in the US. “Thermal process engineering” is the closest thing in Germany to majoring in chemical engineering. For another thing, international internships are for many universities required and far better known than at UD. To my knowledge, I am the second UD student EVER to apply to this program. Contrast this with the 12 students just this year who were accepted from the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada. As you can see, internships like these are exceptionally rewarding and it has given me some of my life’s best memories. I would highly recommend this program to my peers for the exceptional value in what I learned, not only pertaining to science but also just in regard to becoming a more worldly individual.
This winter, I was given the chance to go to Denmark and Sweden to conduct research for my senior thesis on the European Migration Crisis and its potential effects of the Scandinavian welfare model. It was an incredible opportunity that galvanized my interest in my topic, and my love for the Scandinavian Region. I spent three weeks in Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Stockholm meeting with professors, politicians, and locals to build a better understanding of the how both countries were coping with the stresses of the increased migration.
I began my trip in Copenhagen, although in some ways it was not so much an adventure, as it was a homecoming. I stayed with my Danish family from my semester abroad the year before, and was welcomed back as a true member of the family. My conversational Danish skills improved immeasurably, and I was able to rediscover my love for the Danish culture- even if it entailed biking in a few inches of snow!
My original plan was to meet with faculty from Copenhagen University, but my Danish family suggested that I try to get in contact with members of the Danish Parliament as well. After sending a few emails, I was welcomed into Christiansborg Palace to meet with Ulla Sandbæk, a leading member of the Danish Green Party, and Niels Rohleder, the head advisor to the leader of the far left party, Enhedslisten. It was a true testament to how open the Danish democracy is.
The next stop on my journey was Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark. I had never been to Aarhus before, but its world-renowned university was enough incentive to go and explore. My time in Aarhus was capped by a panel meeting with three experts in the field of migration. During this meeting, we not only discussed their research, but they also took great time to help me refine my research question, and help in collecting my thoughts. It was a blessing now that I am in the process of writing.
I then flew from Aarhus airport (quite possibly the smallest airport I have ever seen) to Stockholm. Sweden’s immigration policy has been the diametric opposite of Denmark, and the contrast was very surprising. Sweden’s open policy is contentious, and I got the chance to see that first hand. First, I met with two members of the increasingly popular, right wing party, the Sweden Democrats, for lunch in the parliament commissary. The next day I met with two ministers from the ruling Social Democratic party. The apparent disdain that the two shared for each other was shocking, but it was exceptionally useful in understanding the reality of the immigration policy debate in Sweden.
I also got the chance to meet with Tomas Hammar, “the grandfather of Nordic Migration studies.” Although Professor Hammar has been retired for over 20 years, he invited me to his home for lunch, and it was one of the most insightful experiences I have ever had. Over Jansson’s Temptation and a pot of coffee, we talked about the developments in migration since World War II. Many of the theories we discussed have directly influenced my own research.
As I flew home, I was dumbfounded at how willing people in both countries had been to meet with me, and also how much better I understood the current situation. It was the experience of a lifetime, and I am so grateful to the Honors Program for helping to make it possible.
Thanks to the generous alumni of the Honors Program, I was fortunate enough to spend the month of January in Cape Town, South Africa working as an International Business Development Volunteer at Where Rainbows Meet (WRM). Where Rainbows Meet is a training and development center located in Vrygrond Township where their programs “provide the different groups in the community with information, education, support, and skills to take responsibility for themselves.” Vrygrond is an informal settlement situated in the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa where a large percentage of residents have HIV/AIDS and a majority of the population is unemployed. High rates of unemployment are strongly correlated with extremely high levels of alcohol and drug abuse, crime, and domestic violence. WRM aims to be the safe haven that members of the community can turn to when faced with sever social challenges.
When I arrived at the project in the beginning of January I felt entirely overwhelmed by what the month had in store. I had just traveled across the globe for over 30 hours, my internal clock was already suffering from jet lag, the dry heat and altitude were already working against me, and culture shock was unfolding. On top of my initial feelings of insecurity, my orientation at WRM was taxing. The Project Manager and Director of the foundation walked me and another volunteer through what plans they had for the upcoming year, what tasks they wanted to see accomplished, and the challenges inherent in each. Given that WRM caters to the needs of many different demographics of the community, the ideas they had in mind seemed unrealistic for such a short amount of time with minimal resources – the ongoing dilemma for many NGOs worldwide.
Despite such adversities, January was an overly rewarding yet challenging month. I was forced to take the theories and concepts taught in a classroom setting and apply them to real world scenarios. Among many other responsibilities, I developed a complete business model for Siyazenzela, a local micro-social enterprise including marketing schemes, promotional material, and financial practices. My team and I organized two large-scale awareness events designed for 700-800 people of Vrygrond Township. Furthermore, I facilitated Life Skills classes taught to adult students in the Work Readiness Program focused on preparing individuals for the job market.
It was the life skills classes and the time spent with the students of the Early Childhood Development program that taught me the most. I have been extremely fortunate through my upbringing and education to immerse myself in different cultures though opportunities such as this. The stories of the women overcoming their own personal challenges and taking steps to better their lives and the lives of their families were inspiring to say the least. The looks on the children’s faces of pure joy despite their upbringings in violent and substance abusive homes were infectious. Over the course of four weeks I was able to apply knowledge that I learned in my business classes to help create feasible plans for the training foundation.Moreover, I learned a lot fro m other volunteers about the consulting and advisory career path that I will be pursuing after graduation.
During the winter session of 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) in Nagpur, India with two of my peers for three weeks. As a group of senior chemical engineers, my peers and I were traveling to the esteemed Indian university to exchange research ideas with students and professors, share experiences regarding our student clubs and activities, discover the class structure and learning styles presented by the professors, and experience the culture and academic life of the local students. My group began the trip with a fairly determinate idea of the experiences that we would seek on the trip, but throughout the trip we found ourselves in a host of unexpected and new situations that enriched the experience and resulted in deep spiritual and moral refinement.
The learning experience for our team began with our 1000 km journey from Mumbai airport to Nagpur. The trip spanned several days and involved a host of different transportation methods including trains, busses, trucks, rickshaws, and foot. Our journey brought us from the most affluent areas of India to some of the poorest and most polluted environments in the world. We received a firsthand view of the sharp divide between the upper and lower class in the country. The growth in population and the exponential industrial development coupled with a lack of investment in proper infrastructure, waste management, and social care has resulted in a convoluted and deeply rooted network of issues with poverty, pollution, corruption, and healthcare. Experiencing these issues in our travel brought our team to redefine why we were on the trip, and allowed us to refine our goals for our time at VNIT. My peers and I concentrated our undergraduate research on the development of sustainable, bio based materials and chemicals that have a low environmental impact. Being that VNIT is a leader for engineering development in India, one of our main goals for the trip was to convey this research to the students and professors so that we could spark sustainable development in the country.
Upon arriving at the university, our team’s first goal was to immerse ourselves in the culture and day-to- day life of a VNIT student. We spent our first few days with a group of four friendly VNIT chemical engineering students. My peers and I found many similarities to the VNIT students and we immediately felt a close bond. With the local students, we attended class, hung out with friend groups, and experienced the student clubs and activities. We also had the chance to visit the local temples and areas of worship that the students frequented, along with the hangout spots, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The experiences allowed our team to bond with the local students and discover the rich local culture.
During the next couple of days at the university, my peers and I hosted a range of presentations to convey the experiences and academic pursuits that we are interested in. For our first presentation, we gave a detailed overview of the undergraduate research that we are involved in at UD. We placed an emphasis on our bio-based chemical and material research, explaining the different ways that harmful industrial processes and commercial materials can be replaced by greener processes and bio-based feedstocks. We hoped to convey this information to the professors to spawn a development in the utilization of renewable resources in India to attenuate the apparent environmental issues that the country faces. I also had the chance to convey my experiences with Engineers Without Borders, and I spoke with several students about the prospect of starting an EWB chapter at VNIT.
The three weeks that my peers and I spent at VNIT involved some of the most amazing and eye opening experiences of my life. The trip helped to enrich both my team and the people of VNIT, and will hopefully lead to a range of new programs and initiatives at both universities. Without the Honors Enrichment Award, this culturally and academically enriching experience would not have been possible. ~Dakota
To take away the most from a traveling experience it is important to enter it with no prefabricated notions. This axiom proved essential during my two weeks at the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) in Nagpur, India. Before going to India I had touched base with the director of the Chemical Engineering program at VNIT; however, for much of the stay the director was ill so a new plan was formulated with three chemical engineering students at the university that comprised of attending lectures, interacting with professors, touring the lab facilities, presenting our experiences at UD to the student body, and local excursions.
The chemical engineering program at VNIT is very new at only five years old; the chemical engineering program at Delaware recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Being able to see the contrast between the programs and observe the progress VNIT has made in only five years was amazing. The program already has over fifty students in each class and a functioning unit operations lab. This success is in part due to the students. I was inspired by their desire to learn and grow as students. India is considered a developing country in many respects, but the established educational system is vast and powerful. Through my travels in the country I noticed that even in extremely rural areas where people were of very low socioeconomic status there were still students attending school. The emphasis on educating the seventh of the world’s population that live in India is admirable.
Besides observing the substantial growth of the chemical engineering department at VNIT I was also taken aback by the beauty of the country. We were able to see everything from chaotic cities to deserts to beautiful beaches to scenic mountains. In each of these places it was guaranteed that we’d also see at least one cow which are considered sacred in India. Unfortunately, we also saw a lot of pollution. Seeing this resource-rich country plagued with poor sanitation and infrastructure reignited my passion for development work. It reminded me that a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering will give me the tools to help provide clean energy and water in communities like the ones I had the privilege of going to. India is an amazing country, with a powerful education system, and a warm, welcoming community that made my experience there unforgettable. ~Michael
As an aspiring medical student, I saw Honors Enrichment Funds as an opportunity to observe and learn about medicine in a new context, and approach it from a perspective that neither my college education nor East Coast shadowing and clinical experiences could afford me. Various experiences during my first three years at UD, including study abroad and domestic-based service trips, had fostered a growing curiosity to learn about and understand cultures different from my own. With my entrance into the medical world quickly approaching, I felt that I needed to submerge myself in an experience that would further broaden my knowledge and challenge my current perceptions of medical systems outside of the United States. Thus, I set off on a four-week trip to Ghana, where I was thrown from my comfort zone and immersed in a new culture where I was welcomed, challenged, saddened, and inspired.
I was paired with an NGO, Point Hope, which operated out of Ofaakor, a community located about two hours from the nation’s capital, Accra. Point Hope, which was actually founded just outside of Seattle, focuses primarily on children’s nutrition and education, with a special interest on refugee populations. As a democratic country with relatively low corruption and increasing levels of development and urbanization, Ghana has become home to many refugees from Liberia, Nigeria, and Togo. Point Hope had recently identified a village, Apra, where there was concern for community food security. It was my task, alongside two peer volunteers, to conduct household surveys collecting demographic information, and data on housing, water, sanitation, economic livelihoods, education, food security, and children’s nutrition, in order to construct a community profile to determine whether a nutritional intervention was necessary. With the help of primary school teachers as translators, we completed the interviews and analyzed our data. More than one third of the community’s children were malnourished, with another quarter of them at-risk, and more than 90% of households were food insecure.
The NGO immediately extended a pre-existing supplemental feeding program to include this community, however, the most difficult part of the experience was noticing just how few resources the community had and being confronted with the seemingly endless barriers that stood in the way of addressing those challenges. I observed the careful balance that must be observed in these communities between assistance and empowerment and learned about the detrimental effects of interventions that were implemented carelessly in the past. Participating in the process from preliminary research to data collection, analysis, and implementation allowed me to see the importance in thorough and thoughtful data collection for the purposes of humanitarian work and human development. The experience was a valuable glimpse into the world of public health. Meanwhile, my interactions with community members and villagers taught me about a culture with strong social supports, family values, and very spicy food.
After spending a month in Ghana, I definitely had more questions than answers, but I believe this is evidence to the quality of the educational experience. I can now ask intelligent questions about an area of study that I hardly knew existed, and while I now can truly appreciate exactly how much I do not know, I would say that this new thirst for knowledge is favored over the naïve feeling of mastery that comes with the culmination of an undergraduate degree. As a senior with an apparent “end of education” in sight, the friendly but firm reminder that there is still much to learn was the most valuable aspect of this experience.
Nora and I were both members of UD’s Club Cross-Country and Track teams. In our junior years, we both had the opportunity to study abroad (separately) in Morocco and were determined to keep up our running training. While we were there, we discussed how uncommon it was to see women running or exercising outside and even more uncommon to see Moroccan women in leadership roles in the community. When we returned home, we talked about how much running has taught us: from goal-setting to team-networking to just building enough confidence to run outside in public. We decided to explore the idea of creating a running and leadership camp for Moroccan women; Tessria was born.
Tessria (تسريع) in Arabic means “to accelerate,” which conveys forward motion in both running and development. After consulting with Moroccan friends and an amazing Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco named Simone, we set an overall objective for the camp: to use running as a tool to educate female participants and develop their skills in specific areas such as leadership, discipline, responsibility, and self-confidence to empower them to engage in public political, social, and economic spheres. The participants would leave the camp ready to become active vehicles for change and development within their country.
Ouarzazate, a small city in the south-central region of Morocco, became our camp location, due to the need and desire for sports education for women in the area. Ouarzazate and its surrounding villages are low-income areas, and we wanted to make sure our participants could attend no matter what their socioeconomic status. With crowdfunding opportunities from the University of Delaware, we were able to fundraise enough so that there was no cost to Tessria participants. We put together a 5-day program that included three essential parts: an opening icebreaker/networking activity, a workshop that connects both running and a life skill, and an exercise portion. Our workshops included discussions on goal-setting, sexual harassment, women’s health, and a panel of women who held leadership roles in the community. These workshops brought up many societal issues, but the women’s stories and statements were inspiring. In our goal-setting workshop, one of our participants named Sumiha, who could be said to be our most conservative participants, told us that her hijab (hair and neck covering) does not hold her back from anything. In fact, her goal was to design a line of sport hijabs for women! Our exercise periods involved basic stretches, ab routines, and relay races, and culminated in a 15-minute distance run! We were so impressed by the athletic ability and determination of some of these women, many of whom had never attempted any kind of intensive exercise! Sumiha, the same woman who wanted to design sport hijabs, kicked our butts in the 15-minute run, pushing the pace the entire time.
In addition to the concrete impact we were trying to have on the area, we were able to use this project as a research opportunity. We used our time in Morocco to gather research for our undergraduate theses: Nora is looking into the effects of the camp over the week; Elizabeth is looking into the cultural factors that affect women’s participation in sports in Morocco.
Though neither of us spoke the local dialect of Arabic spoken in Morocco, we formed such a close bond with these 20 women over the course of the camp. During many of the workshops, the women stated that they had not known a lot of information that we had discussed, but we learned so much from them, too. For a day-to-day recap of Tessria and periodic updates, check out our blog at www.tessriarunning.wordpress.com.
My research experiences over the last 3 years have shown me how research is driven forward by our ability to come up with creative solutions to complex problems. Conferences like the fall national meeting of American Institute of Chemical Engineers help to reach these goals by encouraging the exchange of ideas and professional networking. The national AIChE conference is the largest meeting of chemical engineering professionals in the nation; this year thousands of engineers traveled from all over the world to Salt Lake City Utah to give talks and attend lectures at this meeting. As someone applying to graduate school and interested in pursuing a career in research, my experience at the AIChE conference was rewarding not only because I had the opportunity to network with high caliber students and faculty from all over, but I also got the chance to present my research and gain new creative insight to my senior thesis.
My trip to Utah with 11 other students from UD was a wonderful experience from the moment I stepped off the plane and was greeted by the beautiful rocky mountain landscape. The student portion of the conference kicked off with a keynote address from Roger Boisjoly, an aeronautical engineer who worked on the Challenger space shuttle. Mr. Boisjoly spoke on his experiences working as one of the head engineers, and on his attempts to raise safety concerns and halt the launch in 1986 before the shuttle exploded. I really connected to this story because in my mind Mr. Boisjoly did everything right. He was a skilled engineer who stuck to his recommendations despite all urging from his superiors, and still his work resulted in disaster. His testimony showed me that as engineers sometimes being able to solve problems is not enough; we have the ability to create, and the responsibility to ensure that our creations don’t bring harm to others.
As the conference continued there were several networking events where I got the opportunity to meet faculty from universities from all over the nation. One of the toughest things about choosing a graduate program is finding faculty advisors to work with. Much like finding a good supervisor in industry, it’s important to evaluate potential graduate advisors. They all have different work styles and expectations, and if they create an environment that is not conducive to the learning and success of the grad student, then grad school can be a long and sometimes failure-ridden five years. At the AIChE conference there was a grad school career fair where I got to talk to professors from most of the graduate schools I was interested in to see if these people were really people that I could work with. Beyond questions about programs, I found many faculty also very receptive to questions about directions after graduate school and some of the experiences they had that made them choose to go into academia. It was through several of these types of conversations that I think my mind became more open to the possibility of becoming a professor. I think I still have a ways to go before I know what my directions post-graduate school will be, but the access I had at this conference to the many different viewpoints of both respected faculty and industry professionals helped to make me more receptive to career directions I might not have otherwise considered.
I think perhaps my favorite experience from the conference was the poster competition where I had the opportunity to present work from my senior thesis to a conglomerate of interested professionals. Each time I presented, people asked new questions I hadn’t thought of or sometimes even pointed out other experimental methods that would have perhaps worked better. This experience may seem very simple, and perhaps it is, but to me it really embodies what these types of meeting are all about because at the very same moment I was presenting my senior thesis there were other seminars occurring where experts in the field of drug delivery, or catalysis were gathered to hear and provide critiques that will hopefully inspire new directions of research. It is this promotion of the open sharing of information that makes conferences like AIChE a power house of innovation, and the best part of all is I got to be a part of it. I may not have won any prizes for my poster, but I came back with new ideas and directions to take my research and I think that is pretty cool.
As engineers, it is easy for us to work individually with our own resources, and mistake our ability to understand the world from a particular perspective as a strength. The perspectives of others not only helped me to become more open to other ideas and viewpoints, but also to be better prepared for my future career and come up with better solutions to the particular problems I was working on. With a mindset more open to collaboration and the ideas of others, I came back from AIChE a better engineer. ~Ben
The student conference, whose last days overlap with the regular conference, is an opportunity for chemical engineering undergraduates from across the country and from around the globe to gather in one place and enjoy an engaging weekend centered on chemical engineering. The event is not only an excellent networking opportunity, with representatives from top graduate schools and companies actively recruiting, but a chance for students to engage in some friendly competition.
On the first day of the conference we had the great pleasure of listening to a talk given by Alan J. McDonald, former director of the solid motor rocket project for the Space Shuttle Challenger. He gave incredible insight into the value of safety in all types of engineering, something which is becoming more and more of a focus in modern techniques. The rest of the day was filled with various “tech sessions” which consisted of talks given by experts in a variety of chemical engineering subject areas.
The second day was when the recruitment fair took place. Representatives from graduate schools and top companies had booths which students could visit and discuss their future goals. This was an incredibly valuable experience as someone who is planning to begin graduate school in the fall because it gave me an opportunity to learn about the schools in a way that I simply could not from a website. I was also extremely fortunate in that a few of the specific professors that I want to work with were at this event, and I was able to speak with them about their research.
Following this recruitment fair was the “chem-e car” competition, the premise of which is that each university participating designs a small 4-wheeled car, which must be propelled and stopped by a chemical reaction. Before arriving at the event the participants are not told what distance their cars must travel or how much weight will be loaded onto it. While the University of Delaware did not participate in this event, it was still extremely exciting to watch and I was very impressed with how well many of these cars worked.
The undergraduate poster competition took place on the third day. This competition is a chance for students to present their research to chemical engineering professionals and gain experience talking about their work. Not only was this great experience for future presentations but I also placed second in my division.
While in Salt Lake City we also had the opportunity to do some sight-seeing. I had never been to Utah before and was amazed at the beauty of the landscape. Even from the center of the city you could see the snow-covered mountains in the distance. We drove up into the mountains to explore and were rewarded with spectacular vistas and wildlife. Salt Lake City itself is also beautiful, with an astounding number of parks throughout the city as well as the Mormon temple, which is truly an architectural spectacle.
Overall this trip was fantastic. I made a lot of new friends from all over the country and was able to participate in an event which will certainly benefit me in my graduate school career and beyond. ~Michael
This past winter session, I was given the wonderful opportunity to travel to Moshi, Tanzania for almost four weeks. Moshi is a small town located in Tanzania, Africa at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. About 40 other University of Delaware students and I traveled to Moshi through the organization MedLife. This is a worldwide organization whose goal it is to help those in third world countries with medical care, education, and development projects.
Each day we were in Moshi was different. We ventured into a new village about an hour from where we were staying to set up our mobile clinic. We were all organized into different stations to help the patients with different things. When a patient arrived, (there were typically about 50 patients already waiting when we got there) they went through education. Many of the problems in Tanzania rise from a lack of education. Many people get sick because they do not know that taking a shower or washing their hands are necessary for good health. In this station the patients learned about everything from personal hygiene to feminine care to the importance of going to school. Once given basic health lessons, they were checked in and sent to get their vitals taken. We took their blood pressure, height, weight, and temperature. The patients could then see a local doctor, who we got to shadow. The doctors would explain to us what was wrong with the patient and then ask us to suggest a diagnosis. The most common problems in Tanzania are high blood pressure, fungal infections, and malaria. After diagnosis, the doctor would prescribe medicine free of charge. It was humbling to see how thankful a person could be when you hand them a prescription for ibuprofen. We also taught children how to brush their teeth and gave them each a toothbrush to take home.
In total, we gave medical care to 2288 patients, 85 of whom MedLife will follow up with because of more serious issues. At the beginning of the trip, I knew about people in Africa and how they were poor. But I was still surprised to learn that most of the patients we saw had never been to a doctor before. Their closest hospital was at least five miles away, which makes a long journey on foot. Even at this hospital, there are only one or two doctors working at a time, and there are typically not enough beds for everyone. It is also very expensive and those in need cannot afford to go. Knowing that this is reality for so many people in the world was saddening. I now realize how fortunate I really am.
After this experience in Africa, I want to explore the world and help others while doing it. There is so much that we don’t know about, and so much that can be done to help those in need. I really hope I can head back to Africa in the future and continue to help those who need it the most.
We spent our summer participating in an internship with the Kaymakçı Archaeological Project (KAP), a Boston University research project directed by Christopher Roosevelt and Christina Luke. The project is located in the small village of Tekelioğlu about 20 minutes away from Salihli in Western Turkey. KAP focuses on the survey of ancient burial mounds or tumuli, and began excavation of one particular settlement called Kaymakçı in 2014. The archaeological excavation of Kaymakçı was the main focus of the project’s 2015 season. The site is the largest 2nd millennium Middle to Late Bronze Age citadel known in the region. The size, geographical position and archaeological remains strongly indicate that Kaymakçı was the cultural and political capital of the Marmara Lake basin and perhaps the middle Gediz Valley.
Because we are both art conservation majors at UD, we spent most of our time on the project treating excavated materials at the lab to ensure their long-term preservation under the direction of Caitlin O’Grady (University College London). We learned how to properly clean, label, and reconstruct many different types of materials including pottery, bone, mudbrick, metal, and glass, as well as how to minimize future damage through preventive measures. While this was a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience in object conservation, we also had the chance to do a bit of excavation and learn about the different components of an archaeological dig. This introduced us to a field that we haven’t been exposed to at UD, and allowed us to expand our understanding of conservation’s role in archaeology. Working as members of the 2015 KAP team allowed us to apply the knowledge we have learned in the classroom to a realistic and appropriate setting.
In addition to archaeology and conservation, KAP also focuses on heritage preservation, community outreach, and tourism development. Living in a foreign conservative village of 300 people, we were culturally immersed into a world that is almost completely different from ours here at a university in America. This experience allowed us to grow as individuals and see the world from a different perspective. We were exposed to the Muslim religion hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day at pre-dawn, midday, afternoon, sunset and night, attempted to speak some Turkish, and met incredibly warm and welcoming people despite the language barrier.
Our summer didn’t consist only of work. Every week we had a day and a half off that allowed us to travel mainly around the Western coast of Turkey. We spent our free time exploring other historical sites, lying on Aegean beaches, and trying amazing local foods. At the end of our stay in Turkey after the completion of the project, we were able to spend a few days with some friends in Istanbul, which is completely different from the small village we had grown to love. Istanbul is very fast paced and filled with street vendors, markets, and a lot more English speakers! Having the opportunity to see different parts of Turkey and participate in multiple activities has enriched our knowledge of art conservation and anthropology and expanded our worldview. It was a summer we will never forget and we are incredibly grateful to the Honors Program for making it possible!
In August 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to Burkina Faso, one of the economically poorest countries in the world, with the non-profit organization buildOn. Our group began construction of a primary school in Pissa, a remote village in the province of Sanmatenga. buildOn aims to break the cycles of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education by partnering with remote villages in developing countries to build primary schools in areas where there is little to no access to education. buildOn identifies villages with the help of the ministries of education in the countries where they work. Once a village has been identified, there is a several month long process that they must complete before construction on the school can begin. All members of the village and buildOn staff members must sign a covenant that outlines the expectations for the construction of the school.
The covenant states that buildOn provides the engineering, materials, skilled labor and project supervision for the school. The community provides a gender-equal leadership team, voluntary unskilled labor, land for the school, local materials and a promise that girls and boys will be sent to school in equal numbers. The ministry of education in each country provides trained educators, transportation costs of building materials, desks, and other classroom materials. Many of the adults in Pissa (the village where we were constructing the school) were illiterate and unable to sign their own names. Instead, they indicated their agreement to the terms of the covenant by stamping their thumbprint.
One of the main pillars of buildOn’s work is gender equality. Their commitment to gender equality is evident in the covenant, but extends far beyond that. Burkina Faso is a largely patriarchal society. Although the United States is far from perfect in terms of gender equality, it was very eye opening for me to experience a culture where women are treated so significantly differently than their male counterparts. Part of our responsibility as trek members was to challenge some of the stereotypical roles of men and women, while remaining very respectful to our hosts and their culture. On the worksite this meant that we would learn and perform all of the different tasks associated with the school construction including making bricks, tying rebar, digging latrines, etc. When the majority of the women deferred to their more traditional role of collecting water, we invited them to work alongside us. A few days into the construction, the women no longer needed the invitation and would gravitate towards a number of different tasks.
Living with a host family in Pissa gave me the opportunity to better understand the effects of extreme poverty and the role that education can play to help alleviate it. While French is the official language of the country, my family spoke Mòoré, a Mossi tribal language. My Mòoré is limited to the words for water (“com”) and thank you (“barka”). The language barrier could sometimes be difficult and frustrating, but mostly it led to a lot of laughter as we attempted to act out what we couldn’t use words to express.
I am extremely grateful to the generosity of the Honors Program. The Honors Enrichment Award allowed me to travel halfway across the world and to have this truly life-changing experience that has forever altered my worldview.
This summer, I completed an unpaid internship with the New York Legal Assistance Group LGBTQ+ Law Project. The New York Legal Assistance Group (or NYLAG) provides free civil legal assistance to low-income New Yorkers, and the LGBTQ+ Law Project targets those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.
Mostly, my job was doing intake, building a resource booklet for NYLAG clients, and, once it became clear that my written Spanish was much better than my spoken Spanish, translating Spanish documents like birth certificates and divorce orders into English.
I really enjoyed translating legal documents. Birth certificates were similar to each other, but had enough differences depending on which country and region they came from to keep it interesting. The divorce order was the most difficult document to translate. It was in legalese, mostly in the passive voice, had unfamiliar vocabulary and strange grammar, was out of order, and had missing pages. Under the circumstances, I was surprised I was able to translate anything, much less get a working translation of everything that I was given.
I don’t like talking to strangers, so I was less excited about doing intake, during which we asked people about their demographics and case to determine whether the lawyers at NYLAG could take the case. However, I’m glad I did them because it was through intake that I first met Perla, the trans* Latina woman who I helped through a name change. I did everything that her case required, from translating her birth certificate to filling out her name change petition and other documents. The best part was when she came in to sign them. I knew I was helping her because with her feminine appearance, showing her ID with a masculine name and gender for traveling, routine traffic stops, etc. could only cause confusion, and might even put her in danger. Because all of the documents were in English and Perla was far more comfortable in Spanish, I sat down with her and translated the name change petition into Spanish out loud for her. Perla signed the petition, and it was ready to go to court. Unfortunately, I had to leave before I could see the petition brought to court, but I’m sure her petition will pass.
My favorite part of the internship, though, was doing outreach at Pride Festivals, during which we passed out flyers and talked to people about the organization. Everything there was bright and colorful, and everyone there looked excited and happy. Lots of people were wearing silly costumes. More importantly, I knew that like me, everyone was there to throw off the expectations of society and show their true selves. Their jubilation was infectious.
Through this experience I know what to expect from a legal career. I might not help a lot of people at once, but I will be able to make meaningful changes in people’s lives, one person at a time. I also got to experience New York City! I didn’t take very many pictures, but here are a few: (Statue of Liberty, the Orange is the New Black Installation at Times Square, Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, and two from the Central Park Zoo).
Without the Honors Enrichment Award paying my rent, I never would have been able to afford to stay in New York and take advantage of this amazing opportunity. Thank you, Honors Program, for the chance to prepare for a legal career while also helping the LGBTQ+ community!
This summer, I had the privilege of traveling to Copenhagen to represent ArtsBridge and the University of Delaware at an international conference. ArtsBridge is a program that promotes the integration of the arts in K-12 schools. Its primary goal is to combat the issue of dwindling funding for arts programs and better reach diverse learners. I discovered the program as a sophomore, and as its name promised, ArtsBridge did indeed bridge the gap between my desire to teach and my interest in alternative teaching methods. Over the past year, I created a dance-integrated math curriculum for second grade students to be implemented in local schools. The goal of my project is to establish community connections while determining the possible effects that dance could have on student engagement and achievement.
Dance and the Child International, also referred to as “daCi”, is an association devoted to dance education for youth and children. When Dr. Lynnette Overby, director of ArtsBridge at UD, asked me to attend the daCi international congress in Copenhagen, I accepted immediately. The theme of the congress was “Twinning” – the concept of two or more partners working together to foster reciprocity and share knowledge. The twinning model directly parallels my work with ArtsBridge, in which I collaborate with various community partners to implement dance curricula. Before I elaborate, I would like to thank Dr. Overby and the University of Delaware Honors Program for their continued support, without which I would have never had this life-changing opportunity.
I traveled to Copenhagen with another ArtsBridge Scholar and recent UD graduate, Amanda Boccardi. We began each morning by attending a Dance Flavors class, hosted by various dancers from around the world. We would then watch keynote speakers, engage in meaningful discourse, and apply our arts integration knowledge during interactive workshops. These academic experiences gave me the opportunity to collaborate with other educators and disseminate my own knowledge on a variety of topics.
Dr. Overby’s presentation was a workshop on designing impactful community engagement projects. Amanda and I shared our own community engagement experiences and discussed how they are examples of high-level community engagement, which is attained through open communication and ample reciprocity. Twenty teachers, scholars, and dancers from all over the world attended our presentation. Everyone enjoyed learning about community engagement and designing their own projects during the workshop, which combated a plethora of community issues, from educational inequity to lack of resources for refugees. After speaking, I was introduced to participants from a variety of countries and backgrounds. I even met the coordinator for ArtsBridge in Slovenia! We received an abundance of positive feedback, which further confirmed the meaningfulness of my work and was perhaps the greatest reward of the trip.
Although the conference consumed much of our week, Amanda and I took full advantage of our time in a foreign country. We were immediately enamored by the city; from its beautiful architecture to breathtaking canals, Copenhagen looked like a picture on a postcard. We rented bicycles right away, as cycling is the main mode of transportation for most locals. We saw places such as Rosenborg Castle, home of beautiful botanical gardens, as well as the crown jewels. We took a canal tour in Nyhavn and ate Danish candies while exploring Tivoli Gardens. Copenhagen is a thriving city that offers indescribable beauty and a diverse array of cultural experiences.
My week in Copenhagen held some of the most impactful moments of my college career. The daCi conference gave me the invaluable opportunity to network with other professionals in my field, and to disseminate the results, both perceived and evidence-based, of my own work. I discovered that despite my ample community engagement experience, there is still much to learn, and I am eager to delve further into the resources I acquired on the subject. Furthermore, I was encouraged to leave my comfort zone and to immerse myself in a foreign culture, which I did with zeal. The only shortcoming of my trip is that it has left me with an insatiable appetite for further experiences abroad (and for Danishes).
This past summer, I had the opportunity to live and work in Barcelona, Spain in order to improve my Spanish language skills. It’s safe to say that my summer was richer with experience than I could have ever imagined.
I arrived in Barcelona on May 29th and stayed until July 25th and was greeted by an ambassador to my program, Adelante Abroad. My experience with this program was nothing short of excellent. The apartment I was placed in was located conveniently close to the metro stop near La Sagrada Familia, an incredible basilica designed by Gaudí. I lived with a single woman who’d rented her room to me, allowing for plenty of language practice in the household.
For the first two weeks in Barcelona I attended an intensive Spanish class for six hours a day. Since everyone was from a different country, including Japan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Italy, we had no choice but to speak Spanish as that was the only language we had in common. While it was difficult to get our point across at times, my speaking proficiency soared over the course of those two weeks.
Three weeks in, I started my internship writing for a magazine, Barcelona Connect. With both online and print versions, I was busy as a bee writing up articles and press releases for events that were to take place all over Barcel ona and in surrounding areas.
Not only did I gain a tremendous amount of professional experience through my internship, but I also got to explore one of the most beautiful cities in the world each and every day. Since my sense of direction is basically nonexistent, I found myself discovering new streets and sites and people every day. Barcelona is broken up into eleven different neighborhoods or barrios, each with its own style and personality, so to speak. Getting lost amongst the winding alleys of El Born, Barcelona’s oldest and most historical district, was definitely one of my favorite pastimes.
I was absolutely fascinated to learn about the differences in culture between America and Spain. While I definitely experienced culture shock at times, this experience taught me to be a global citizen. Instead of focusing on the differences between cultures, it was important to connect with Barcelona locals by highlighting the similarities between us.
I’ve never been somewhere and seen so much pride in the culture. From almost every win dow hangs the unofficial Catalan flag, declaring that that specific house believes that Catalunya should secede from Spain. Although the sentiments were not usually violent, you could feel how strong their pride was just by strolling through the streets. Although most people speak Castellano, or traditional Spanish, everyone in Barcelona speaks Catalan, which sounds like a mixture of French and Spanish. It was difficult to understand at first, but with a little practice and patience I picked up enough to get by.
These two months have absolutely been the most amazing and eye-opening of my life, I’d like to thank the Honors Program for their immense generosity. Without the Honors Enrichment Award, living and working among the locals of Barcelona would have been impossible.
This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Peru for three weeks. I traveled first to Lima to see the beautiful coast of Miraflores and to eat delicious seafood. Then, I ventured to Ollantaytambo, a quiet town in the Sacred Valley. There, I learned more about the native culture and saw beautiful Inca ruins. After two days in the Sacred Valley, I traveled to Machu Picchu with my sister. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and intricacy of the ancient city. Finally, I went to the heart of Cusco, where I would spend the next two weeks. For the first week of the trip, I was a tourist who was learning about the Peruvian culture through tours of museums and ruins. Now, I would begin the section of my trip that would allow me to learn about Peru in a unique way.
For the following two weeks, I volunteered at the Mother Teresa orphanage, which houses children ages 4-18 with disabilities. I was not aware of the severity of the children’s conditions until I arrived at the orphanage. I was surprised to find nearly every child in a wheelchair and unable to speak. I was also surprised that the orphanage has an adult section consisting of men and women with disabilities. Each morning I arrived, I would change the kids out of pajamas, feed them, brush their teeth, and put them down for a nap. There was rarely much down time or even much time to do anything other than serving the kids’ basic needs. But when there was, it was difficult to do activities with the children. Many of them clench their hands or feet, so I would go to each and massage their hands or take them out of their wheelchairs and hold them. Though the facility was quite clean, I was saddened by the lack of resources, such as wipes, as well as stimulation for the children. I think the children could benefit from having music or someone to read to them.
At the orphanage, I was drawn to a boy named Matais. I believe he has Cerebral Palsy and is severely undernourished. I have had a lot of experience with children and have found myself connecting to them by talking and doing activities. However, I connected to Matais in a different way. It was challenging to get any feedback or response from him, whether it was when I rubbed his feet or held him. I had a connection with Matais because I felt as though he needed someone just to be there for him, and that I could do.
My experience was extremely draining, both emotionally and physically. It was upsetting to see detached children, many of whom are in chronic pain. I did not see any visitors, so I do not think the children’s families visit often, if at all. My work at the orphanage made me see the importance of family and having a life filled with supportive, loving people. There are a few full-time volunteers at the orphanage who live there. I greatly admire their dedication to helping others. One of the volunteers explained that she had an aneurism many years ago and needed brain surgery. She was so thankful to be alive and healthy that she sacrificed her career and now works full-time at the orphanage.
I am extremely grateful that the Honors Program at UD offers the Academic Enrichment Award. I had the opportunity to see a culture through an entirely new lens.
I began to plan this trip with the goal in mind to discover whether or not I wanted to pursue a career working with wildlife and to be able to apply my skills to a site that really needs our help. I had no idea what to expect about the Safari Park or Thailand in general, so I went in with a really open mind. The trip was hampered early, within 3 hours of arriving in Bangkok, when all of my equipment and money was stolen but we ultimately arrived at the park safely. The Safari Park Open Zoo combines a rescue center that takes in any exotic animals that were being sold on the black markets with an open zoo attraction in which tourists can hop on a bus and go on a safari.
The volunteers split into teams each day to take care of the Rescue animals, Birds, Cubs, Big Cats, and Ungulates (giraffes and zebras). On the Rescue Team, I loved being responsible for the diet of the various animals, which included macaques, gibbons, binturongs, jackals, rabbits, deer, a civet, a cassowary, and a langur. I would “chop the diet” for the animals while other volunteers cleaned the cages. Lots of these animals you could pet and interact with. Some, like Dobby the gibbon, would hold your hand, play with your hair, or let you scratch his back. We spent lots of time making enrichment items for the different enclosures, especially for the monkeys, which gave my engineering work some practical applications. The monkeys would self-harm when they were bored, so this part of the Rescue team was absolutely key.
The Cubs team was definitely my favorite team, and I was lucky to get lots of days doing cubs. At the front of the park were baby leopards, baby lions, “teenage” leopards, and an enormous tiger (Blue) that visitors to the park could feed, play with, or take photos with. The cubs team was responsible for managing how much the cubs are fed each time and making sure both the visitors and the cats are safe during the time that they are interacting. My favorite part of the experience was the bond you make with the animals. I remember on my first day I was tossed in with the teenage leopards with one bottle of milk and they just tore me up; one in my arms to drink, one attached to my leg biting, and one on my back. You come out bleeding from everywhere and with hurt pride. That was my first big realization that these are dangerous animals and their instincts are still quite strong. When you are afraid, they can smell your adrenaline and they associate that with prey. I realized that customers were also afraid of the big leopards, and didn’t go in with them as much as the tiny leopards, but if nobody went in with them they would only misbehave more and more. I started to spend all of my free time in with those leopards then, bearing it out, and by the last day I could walk in the enclosure and sit on the floor and they would come up to me and sit in my lap, purr, rub me, and even lick my face (especially my favorite, Bitung). The change and promise that you see in these animals is just incredible, and something I will always remember.
The park did leave a lasting effect on me. As our stay lengthened we became less starry-eyed and more aware of the problems in the park and why volunteers are so key. A prime example would be the bears on safari, which are rotated like the other animals to be outside or caged. One bear, a Malayan Sun Bear, was too aggressive to be let onto the safari, and so he basically just spent his entire life in his small cage. This species of bear is extremely rare, and it was awful to see such an incredible animal in such a state. Without volunteers that have the skills needed to rehabilitate and train the bear, he may never get to leave. As I stay in America now, my thoughts still return to the Sun Bear and how I can help in the future.
The day after finals ended I traveled to Lima, Peru for eight days on a Medlife trip. After being stressed for a week I was ready to get away to a warmer place and make a difference for a community in need. Little did I know just how bad the living conditions and medical care were for some people living on the mountains in Lima.
Medlife is a non-profit organization that works to provide medical care for those who cannot afford it in underdeveloped communities around the world. Medlife sets up multiple mobile clinics throughout different communities in a region. The clinics are broken down into tooth brushing, health education, triage, doctors, dentist, OBG’s, and pharmacists. Medlife also sets up projects where volunteers help to better life in the community.
On the trip I stayed in a hostel in the city of Mira Flores. I went with a few other students from the University of Delaware, but the majority of students there were from schools in Minnesota, Florida, and all over the county.
The second day there my group went to work on the project, which was building a staircase on a steep hill. This involved a lot of labor on a hot day and was very tiring but it was definitely worth the work. Our group formed a chain and would pass cement buckets up the hill in order to fill the framework. Different groups went to work on the project throughout the week and on the last day we all went back to see the finished project and had a celebration with the community. The community broke glasses of champagne on each staircase to inaugurate the staircase. They then went on to dance and sing for us. It was very rewarding to see how much the staircase meant to them.
On the third day my group went on a reality tour where we walked around the communities to see what life was like for these people. We passed a huge cemetery that had people living right above it illegally. There was garbage all throughout the streets and wild dogs everywhere. There was only one police station with one holding cell and one police car for many thousands of people. Their bathrooms were just a hole in the ground and it was unbelievable to see older people climb many flights of stairs up a hill, if they were lucky enough to have stairs. An earthquake would be absolutely devastating in these communities.
The rest of the week I worked in the mobile clinics. I assisted doctors by taking the temperature, weight, blood pressure, and height of the patients. I directed the patients where to go and learned from the doctors as they diagnosed their patients. The doctor would translate the Spanish into English for us but my Spanish definitely has improved after the trip.
One of the days a student who was volunteering offered a little kid and airplane blanket. The kid was saying something in Spanish that no one was able to understand. Once it was translated he was saying he had no money, he did not understand that it was a gift. Once the student said it was a gift in Spanish the kids face light up and he hugged her and gave her a kiss. Everyone around was tearing up and it was definitely the most memorable moment of the trip and sums up how much we meant to the community. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone and it wouldn’t have been possible for me without the honors enrichment award!
Last summer in 2014, I learned from Lindsay Yeager that many girls in Tanzania, especially in rural areas, could not normally attend school because they did not have access to feminine hygiene products. As a future teacher and passionate believer in education, I was blown away by this fact. As a team, Lindsay and I began to plan a trip to Tanzania where an organization called the Dare Women’s Foundation was working to empower women and solve issues like the lack of feminine hygiene. During January of 2015, we went on the most immersive, intense, and eye opening journey of my life.
First, we planned to implement a
system we created to help women start their own businesses selling antimicrobial reusable pads including distributing materials like microfiber and sewing machines, a manual we designed, and our pad design. We also planned to create a documentary film and book uncovering the serious challenges women in Tanzania face.
During our trip, we spent nine days in Machame Village near Kilimanjaro, two days in Kabuku Village, one day in Moshi court, four days doing translating and editing work while visiting national parks in the area, and several days traveling. In a short time, we were able to accomplish even more than we had originally thought, and we documented incredible and moving stories to share with the world. Many women we interviewed had endured rape, domestic violence, or discrimination. Most widows had their land taken from them when their husbands died. All of the women had little to no access to feminine hygiene products which, due to the nature of their grueling and laborious work, often left them with medical conditions like fungal infections.
While the work we did there proved extremely emotionally draining, I was inspired and empowered by the Dare Women’s Foundation. It is the foundation’s goal to improve the quality of life for women in Tanzania, and in large part, that goal is accomplished by bringing women together to give them a voice and a purpose. For example, we interviewed a women who told us how as a young woman, she had to take care of an infant child and her husband who had terminal cancer before he died, and she was forced to move off of her land. She said in the interview that sometimes she feels hopeless, like she has no reason to live. Yet the next day, she came to our lesson on how to make pads with the community of women, her friends. She showed such an eagerness to learn and said how excited she was to use the pads and sell them for profit to pay her child’s school fees. To see that kind of hope sparks in a woman who has endured so much truly makes the effort worthwhile.
Upon returning to the United States, our work has not stopped. After updating our sponsors and supporters of the great success of our trip, we have received an overwhelmingly positive response. For example, in May 2015, we will be featured on the cover of IGS’s Global Magazine. Also, I have been asked to develop a children’s book and I have been made the content editor of the new website we are soon launching for the Dare Women’s Foundation as we increase the organization’s online presence. This project has changed me and helped countless women, and I cannot thank the Honors Program enough for their infallible support.
Sometimes in order to change the world you need a little more than just good intentions and a smile. Of course it’s a great place to start, but helping your fellow man takes a total devotion to the cause. Despite broadening my prospective on Indian culture while learning the fundamentals of eastern medicine, realizing this pearl of information was the most important thing I took away from volunteering in India.
I began my journey in New Delhi, India, where I was greeted by the kindest of hosts through the humanitarian organization, VolunteeringIndia. There I became oriented to Indian customs and tradition, visiting sites from the local market in Delhi to the Taj Mahal in Agra. To make a bit of a generalization, I gradually noticed how incredibly kind and friendly everyone in India is! A smile never goes unreturned, and don’t expect to be lost for more than a minute before a well-intentioned stranger comes to your aid.
After exploring the hazy concrete Jungle known as India’s capital, I embarked on a 15-hour bus ride into the Himalayan Mountains towards a small town called Palampur. For one month I worked as a volunteering pre med student in a privately owned underprivileged hospital with some very knowledgeable and skilled physicians and surgeons, and my experiences were both inspiring and humbling. I won’t pretend that my tireless efforts saved lives every day, or even impacted the community in a clearly visible way. However, I will ascertain that my time spent in the hospital helping perform tasks such as assisting geriatric patients in and out of their beds, taking blood pressure and vitals of post surgery patients, and applying gel to aid with ultra sound procedures reduced the stress on the doctors in a severely understaffed hospital, and made a positive contribution to the people of Palampur. My biggest contribution came when I observed that nearly every case in the hospital was related to poor renal function, resulting in kidney stones. I talked to a few physicians and did a little research during my down time. I created a poster, now hanging in the hospital, which displays what I determined to be the best advice for the average Indian citizen in Palampur on how to prevent kidney stones. If I can’t directly help the sick, maybe I can prevent them from developing the problem in the first place long after I’m gone.
So this takes me back to my first point; good intentions aren’t everything. And although I was a little disappointed I didn’t exactly change the world, seeing the potential impact I can make in the future was a profoundly happy feeling, one that excites me to train for the Peace Corps and study to become a physician. My next goals in becoming an EMT and volunteering in developed hospitals will continue to teach me the essential skills necessary for continuing my journey to becoming an effective health care giver. And if you happen to be reading this post, then I challenge you to notice something in this world that could use a loving touch, and learn the new skills necessary to improve someone’s life. Helping other people makes everyone involved happy, and in my opinion is the finest expression of our selfish nature and the inherent beauty of the human race.
I never thought I would have the chance to go to South America, let alone small village communities in and around Cusco, Peru. On my trip with MedLife, all the volunteers and I benefitted over 903 Peruvians who cannot usually get medical attention and haven’t received any in years. Patients varied in age from 2 to 90. Each clinic that we set up had different rotation stations including triage (height and weight measurements) dentistry, and gynecology. My personal favorite was tooth brushing and fluoride. Children would come up to the table, puzzled by the looks of the toothbrush and how it functioned. I was honored to help them learn, but at the same time, it was one of the saddest things I had ever seen. Clueless. They were clueless. They didn’t even own the basic hygiene product of a toothbrush, something we use everyday without thinking twice. The entire experience opened up my eyes to how fortunate and ungrateful I am at times. These people lived in absolute poverty and walked miles for basic medical treatment, a luxury I had right around the corner. It was truly humbling.
While in Peru, Machu Picchu was a must-see. Our group left the hostel at 3 am and took a train and two buses to get to the scene, but boy was it worth it. Not only was the view gorgeous, we learned so much about the Incan history. We even hiked to the top on a path called Sun Gate Trail to see the best view possible. I didn’t realize nature could be so beautiful. Until next time, Peru!
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”- Martin Luther King Jr. I had the amazing opportunity to spend the first week of summer break in Peru volunteering with MEDLIFE (Medicine, Education, and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere) thanks to the Honors Enrichment Award. MEDLIFE works to extinguish the injustice in healthcare in Peru, Ecuador, and more recently in Tanzania and India. My time in Peru was spent providing medical care to remote communities, building stairs, and exploring Lima.
When I landed, I met thirty-eight people from across the nation. For the entire week, I shared a room with five other people which seemed insane at first but by the end, I could not imagine it any other way. The primary purpose of this trip was to provide medical care to communities who cannot access it. There were three doctors, a dentist, and a gynecologist with our group that conducted basic examinations. At the education station, adults learned about illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. I worked with two of the doctors, did triage where I took vital signs, pharmacy, and tooth brushing. I was in awe when I would hand basic medicine like ibuprofen to a patient and they would hug me! It was amazing to be included in their community. Speaking Spanish helped me bond with the patients and allowed me to expand my conversational skills.
Besides providing medical care, the group did rotations contributing to a development project which in Peru is building stairs. Many of the homes were on steep hills and the people put their lives in danger daily in order to walk all the way down. As we were walking to the stairs, I slipped almost fell. It was frightening to say the least but the Peruvian women carried their babies on their backs down these hills. I have a newfound respect for these women who work, maintain their households, take care of their children, and put their lives in danger to carry buckets of water to their homes. In order to receive access to electricity and water in Peru, each ho meowner needs a property title which a family cannot get unless their home is accessible. MEDLIFE partners with a community to build stairs and help them get property titles. At the end of week, we had built a staircase and celebrated with the people. It was extraordinary to see people who had nothing share their food with us. This reminded me of a little, malnourished boy I gave my chips to earlier in the week. As we were playing, he offered me chips. This sense of giving and kindness was in every individual I had the pleasure of interacting with during the week. This trip taught me that you can conquer the difficulties in life if you are determined and positive.
Between the mobile clinics, we explored Lima and Paracas. We ate all of the Peruvian dishes, visited the Larcomar beach, did a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands, and dune racing in the desert oasis of Huacachina. Every day was a new adventure. Peru gave me new friends, great memories, and the desire to continue exploring and serving others. I want to see the world.
I owe this unforgettable experience to the Honors Enrichment Award and saying thank you does not even begin to fully express my gratitude for this opportunity.
With the generosity and support of the Honors Program at UD, I had the opportunity this past winter to travel with an organization called Vida to impoverished and rural communities in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. A group of 16 volunteers, including medical, veterinary, and dental-focused students, as well as bilingual doctors and staff, provided medical, dental, and veterinary care in three communities over a span of two weeks. Before I set out on my trip, I didn’t know what to expect, except maybe swarms of mosquitoes and ample supply of rice and beans.
Day one was filled with excitement as we practiced taking physical exams on fellow volunteers, learned about common illnesses, and attempted to learn medical terms in Spanish. But I don’t think that anything could have prepared me for the following day when we visited Los Chiles, a community in northern Costa Rica. Populated mostly by illegal Nicaraguan immigrants, “houses” there were nothing more than wood and black plastic bags tied to posts. Many of the people who lived there worked in agriculture, and some had no source of income other than the crops they grew.
Instead of setting up a clinic, the medical team surveyed the households and collected data to provide insight as to whether or not it would be a good area to have a mobile clinic come a few times a year. Each person welcomed us with open arms and kindness that I was unaccustomed to, but which was a pleasant surprise. During our exploration of the community, I had the chance to see the poverty and conditions that many Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans live in. It was heart breaking, yet inspiring. Though they had so little and lived simple lives, they worked without complaining so their children could have a better life. It gave me a greater appreciation for all that I have, and made me want to work harder to become a doctor and work to improve global health.
A few days later, we arrived in El Manguito, our first stop in Nicaragua. Over the course of three days, we attended to almost 100 patients. The hot, one-room school building with dust-covered desks was nothing like a typical American doctor’s office. We saw cases of parasite infection, common colds, malnutrition, and chronic back pain, among others.
We then traveled to Los Chilamates, a community near Managua. There, we served over 60 patients in two days. Every patient we saw was grateful for the smallest thing, whether it was ibuprofen for the sore knee of a seventy-year-old man still working in agriculture, or multivitamins to promote growth in a bright child. In those two weeks, I made life-long friends, played soccer games with local kids (and lost), donated school supplies that we had collected at UD, and practiced my Spanish with anyone willing to put up with my American accent. We also explored the natural beauty of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, visiting a hot spring and a lagoon filled with rainwater.
This trip was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am so appreciative to have had the chance to learn, adapt, and experience life in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Transfrontier Africa located in Olifants West Nature Reserve, part of the Balule Nature Reserve, is the only NGO research hub for the greater Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa covering about 19,633 square kilometers. This landscape contains more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve, several of which are in danger of extinction. Transfrontier Africa’s main mission is to preserve these threatened and endangered species through population monitoring and anti-poaching efforts. The locations of individuals in various threatened populations determined through research are used by the wardens of the anti- poaching unit as a means of focusing their efforts for the protection of the overall populations.
In the Balule Nature Reserve, there is a population of Black Rhinoceroses (Diceros bicornis) that contains 16 individuals. These individuals are monitored seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year, not only on their whereabouts within the nature reserve, but also for conservation efforts. Population monitoring is done many ways. One method is walking for middens, or specific locations where individuals will mark their territory. Another is through camera traps, motion-triggered devices. Camera traps are deployed throughout the reserve, typically at waterholes and midden sites. The pictures are then retrieved from the SD cards and sorted for individuals to be identified. If there were any sightings of a Black Rhinoceros by either our team of research technicians or other reserve guides, the information of the individual and its whereabouts were recorded. The monitoring and protection of Black Rhinoceros populations at the Balule Nature Reserve is funded by the World Wildlife Fund.
A second species of main concern is White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). This population is a lot larger with about 100 individuals, although still threatened by poaching. Along with the methods mentioned above, we also used radio telemetry to track White Rhinoceros individuals. Much calmer in nature, collaring White Rhinoceroses is not as risky as it is with Black Rhinoceroses. With radios and scanners, we would search the landscape for particular individuals if they were not spotted and identified through the methods above. The research team hopes to find the whereabouts of all individuals of both species about each week and become concerned if they go undetected for about a month.
The last species of main focus is African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana). With financial aid and collaboration with the Save the Elephants Foundation, Transfrontier Africa monitors populations in the Balule Nature Reserve. Through camera trapping and game drives, individual African Elephants are identified by their ears, acting like a finger print because they rip and tear over time. This information is being used to create a census of all the individuals so that their populations, demographics and migrations can be monitored for species conservation. While working as a field technician, I experienced several other species in their natural environment, such as Lion, Jackal, Hippopotamus, Hyena, Civet, Giraffe, Warthog, Zebra, Impala, Wildebeest, Waterbuck, Kudu, Steinbok, Sable Antelope, several species of birds, among others.
Overall, this experience really opened my eyes to the dangers that threatened and endangered species face, as well as how difficult it is to monitor and protect them from the conservation standpoint. I hope to use and continue this type of work in my future endeavors, and contribute to saving populations struggling against habitat destruction, global climate change, among many other pressures, in a world characterized by the growing human population.
This year San Antonio, Texas hosted the annual ROAM Food Truck Conference. I submitted an Honors Enrichment Fund for this conference as I have the opportunity to be team leader for a group of five students working on starting a food truck at the University of Delaware. In conjunction with faculty in the College of Health Sciences and Lerner College of Business and Economics, throughout the course of this school year, the team will create a business plan for a food truck that provides flavorful and healthful items. Entering the summer, investors and financers will be sought using the completed business plan. The ROAM Food Truck Conference delivered valuable insight, which I would not have obtained otherwise, on the exact process in starting a food truck business, as well as valuable opportunities for networking in the field.
Entering into the world of food trucks, business plans, and finances I was unequipped to handle the amount and style of work that this endeavor requires. The ROAM Food Truck Conference provided me with valuable information. As a 2-day conference, I participated in “Track 1,” which had seminars on how to start a food truck. Some examples of seminars included: “So You Wanna Start a Food Truck? Business Planning,” “Funding Facts,” and “Marketing and Branding for a Food Truck.” Furthermore, I had the opportunity to network with current food truck owners. I gained many contacts out of this trip, including contacts for a professional who offered to review the team’s business plan and the (RED) campaign, who hopes to work with the collegiate food truck, once it starts.
In the free time, between conference session and in the mornings and evenings, I took the opportunity to explore all that San Antonio has to offer. As a historical city, I first visited the Alamo, infamous for the Battle of the Alamo. Next, I took a trip to Schilo’s famous German deli and tried out the homemade root beer, pea soup, and knockwurst. Then I visited Market Square and El Mercado, a conglomeration of Mexican food and antique booths. Also, as part of the conference I was able to visit a food truck “park” and explore their marketing techniques and vehicles. It was a great experience to explore a city I have never been to.
Finally, I would like to thank the University of Delaware Honors Program for providing me with this opportunity. Without the financial assistance of the Honors Program, this trip would not have been possible. This trip directly benefits not only the team and myself, but the UD community, as the team is now very equipped with the tools and knowledge to execute our business plan and work towards the manifestation of our first nutritious, healthful food truck.
“Let’s just make it there”. That is what I was telling myself as I sat alone in Dulles International Airport, waiting for the the first of three flights that would eventually bring me to the
ancient city of Cusco, Peru. Over the summer I had signed up to do volunteer construction work with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) for four weeks. But my mind wasn’t on the future construction site or the people I was about to meet. It was simply focused on making it to Cusco ontime without any missed flights or baggage. And by golly, one cancelled flight, stiff cot, and 20 hours later, I finally made it to Cusco in one piece.
One of the small things I love about traveling is the first time you walk or drive through a new city, just taking in all the foreign sights around you. And despite my excessive explorations around Cusco on Google Street View, actually driving through the streets for the first time was an amazing feeling. Not only because the
people and buildings looked different, but because I knew I was driving through the city I was going to call home for the next month. And even then, I knew I would one day look back at this first drive through Cusco and think to myself how little at that time I actually knew about this city and what it was going mean to live here.
My home in Cusco was a large volunteer house, with anywhere from 1220 fellow volunteers living there at one time. As I was hoping for, I lived with an eclectic bunch, with people hailing from New Zealand, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Australia, England, Ireland, and Canada. As cool as it was to meet so many people from so many different countries, the structure of the program made the social dynamic a weird one. Every Saturday a handful of volunteers would leave the house and every Sunday a new batch would move in. And since most volunteers only stayed for two or three weeks, by the end of my four weeks, there was not a single person left in the house who was there when I first arrived. So one hand I had the chance to meet a lot of new people, but it was also hard to forge deep friendships in such a short amount of time.
For my construction work, I was placed at a school building located in the hilly poor outskirts of Cusco. I was lucky enough to work on this site for the entire month. So by a couple weeks, I knew the site backwards and forwards. Under the instruction of a local foreman named Marco (who did not speak a word of English) we plastered ceilings, cracked open carrizo (think cheap bamboo) with our hands, and installed ceilings on the outdoor bathrooms. No matter what we did each day, everyone left the site tired and dirty, which is a great feeling.
It is hard to sum up in a single closing paragraph what this month in Peru meant for me. It’s easy to throw around terms like “eyeopening” or “lifechanging” but the real impact this trip had on me cannot be put into words. But to simply have the chance to live in a foreign country for a full month is something I’ll never take for granted or ever forget.
This past January, I was able to volunteer for four weeks at the Safari Park Open Zoo in Kanchanaburi, Thailand with the help of the Honors Enrichment Award from the University of Delaware. I went on the trip with my roommate Brian Griffiths and our friend Justin Berg. Brian is an Environmental Engineering and Plant Science double major and Justin is a Pre-Vet and Biology double major here at UD. On a daily basis, volunteers at the Safari Park were responsible for cleaning animal enclosures, feeding the various animals, and creating enrichment for the animals in their free time. At the beginning of the day, we were divided into one of five teams: the Cat team, the Cubs team, the Rescue team, the Birds team, and the Ungulates team. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “ungulates” it has to do with the giraffes and zebras.
Personally, I was usually put with the Rescue team because I expressed my desire to build and create enrichment for the animals at the beginning of the trip. The animals at the “Rescue Retreat” are two gibbons, six macaques, one langur, two binturongs, two jackals, one cassowary, and several deer. After the morning enclosure cleanings and feedings were finished at about 10:30 AM, we usually had time to think about different improvements that we could make on the various enclosures. This could require constructing platforms, creating ladders for the monkeys to climb on, or hanging rope for the animals to swing on. As a civil engineering major though, I knew that I wanted to do a bigger project to really leave my mark on the Safari Park. That was when I was assigned to build an addition onto the current deer enclosure that would more than triple it in size.
Flying into Cusco was like entering another world. Gone was the perfectly oriented grid of illuminated streets in Miami and here was the one room shack on the mountainside; its tin roof barely being held down by cinder blocks. My experiences in Cusco are a reflection of all the typical perturbations that every American comes to realize as they bear witness to the shocking poverty in third world countries. The safety of first-world ignorance is inadvertently shattered and the desolation overpowering the majority of the world takes precedence in the mind in the form of an overwhelming state of dual helplessness, the peoples helplessness to change their situation and your helplessness to save them, inevitably resulting in obliterating hopelessness.
Idem to all Americans my ambition was to help the less fortunate in Cusco but this daunting challenge was quickly met by the limits of its unfeasibility. Daily I worked with people whose teeth had rotted down to vacant oozing black holes, whose nails had become the consistency of wood, and whose feet had never known a pair of true shoes in a mobile medical clinic that was provided with doctors native to the country. Through these clinics care was supplied that the people had no hope of obtaining otherwise. Overall, a total1365 people were helped in some way throughout the week, whether it was receiving fillings, medication, or pivotal health information as simple as how to brush your teeth. However, the fact remains that the clinics were the closest medical care facilities for some at a whopping eight hours away, prescriptions were limited by funds to over-the-counter American drugs such as Ibuprofen, and sustainment for the prescriptions was limited to a month. All of these facts supplicate questioning as to the impact volunteering can contribute in this medical form and as far and these statistics seem to go, it’s obvious they insinuate a negative. Despite this, to limit both the work being done by clinics and the people of Peru to heart-wrenching facts such as these would be an injustice left only to infomercials.
The true value of the clinics lies in the fact that they make accessible what is otherwise unattainable. Therefore, they create the possibility of freedom from drudging resignation to present circumstance. I have no doubt that the people experienced immediate benefit simply by the way they came from undeterminable distances with literally a sheep in hand; attesting to their past experiences and satisfaction with the clinics. My original qualm was with the long-term permanency of the treatment, but after experiencing the appreciativeness of the people, their respect towards the doctors, and their willing compliance in contrast to what I have witnessed in America I rest assured that my trip to Cusco was valuable. Not only was Iable to work alongside doctors who found helping others more important than their paycheck and who explained the reasoning for every treatment they administered, I was able to see firsthand the effect of accessibility on mentality. In America where everything is on demand this is a liberty that has diminished its value, but in Peru the relative rarity of access to anything results in its reception through thankfulness. Thus, adding to their quality of life unimaginably. The American way of life is in no means bad, to argue not to take advantage of the graces it presently offers would be harder than arguing idiocracy as an ideology, but to accept everything with thanksgiving would be an invaluable quality to procure from the Peruvians.
Consequently, it was the people walking down the fifteenth century cobblestone streets or across the mile high jungle covered mountains in their traditional alpaca shawls that made the trip worth it. Through them I was able to learn necessary information to prepare me for a medical career and to observe the intrinsic values of virtues simultaneously.
For a month this winter, I lived in Santiago, Chile, traveling to different parts of the country each weekend with World Wide Chile. During the week, I stayed in an apartment in Lastarria (seen above), a historical neighbourhood near lots of restaurants, museums, parks, and more. World Wide Chile is a very special program that sets up each student with an internship or volunteer placement in their field of interest. As a nursing student, I had the opportunity to work in the public health sector. For my first two weeks, I was in the women’s health department shadowing midwives, and OB/GYN, and her interns. The differences between a Labor & Delivery unit in Chile versus the States are astounding: when a woman (or girl, really) was fully dilated, she was wheeled into a surgical center, an episiotomy was immediately sliced (before she even starts to push!), and forceps were used if the baby was not coming quickly enough. Then, the placenta and cord were pulled out, and forceps were used to scrape the woman’s uterus clean. The brisk manner I encountered in L&D carried throughout the entire hospital. Because there are no nurses who work in women’s health, there was no one to bridge the doctorpatient gap; therefore, women were left exposed in their stirrups while doctors whispered to each other about the severity of each patient’s condition.
I don’t mean to sound too critical. My shadowing experience was amazing. Every doctor and intern went so far out of their way to make me feel welcome and useful. I attended rounds with all of the attendings; I went to sexuality lectures with the interns; one resident walked me through the medical records for his most interesting cases and that was only in the hospital! I spent my last two weeks in an outpatient health clinic in a much poorer part of Santiago. There, I sat in on consults with mental health patients, conducted psychomotor tests on children, helped with diabetes education, and changed a lot of wound dressings. This, for me, was incredibly rewarding. Though many people would have been appalled by the ulcers and holes (yes, some went all the way through) that I cleaned in my patients’ legs, I loved the handson practice. Not only did I get to hone skills I’ve learned with the University of Delaware, but I was able to use Spanish to explain to these strangers what I was doing and to ask them questions about how they got their injuries, what each medication did, etc.
Each weekend got better and better. We started with Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, and Paseo del Vino. After seeing Valparaiso (pictured above), I didn’t think I could love somewhere more. But the next weekend, we went to Valle del Elqui, proving me wrong. We stayed in a little hippie hostel where we were fed fresh bread and apricot jam every morning. We did a sunset hike to stargaze atop a mountain, and I fell in love even more. Then, we ended with the Atacama. This topped all else. Our last day, we watched the sunrise over a geyser field, and we watched it set as we hiked across a mountaintop. Basically, this experience was the best month of my life.
When I arrived in Jordan, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew of the young NGO I had signed on to work for, Think Unlimited, was from a New York Times article that talked briefly about their work in the unassuming Arab country. Yet that article resonated with me so deeply that I sought out the founders, James and Shaylyn Garrett, to see if they would consider accepting an intern. It wasn’t a smooth process, but after 9 months of persistent communication and a Skype interview, they agreed to take me on as Think Unlimited’s first intern.
I soon learned the company was in a state of transition. They were moving away from the high school summer camps, termed “Brain Camps,” and teacher training, “Brain Builders,” to enter the university classroom. To help with this new phase, I was tasked with carving out our narrative in a regional context. That meant finding Jordan’s story amidst all sorts of books, articles, and reports on MENA-region education reform, the burgeoning Arab youth bulge, and the Arab Spring.
Although the bulk of my work involved research, I did get the chance to go work with one of our Brain Camps. In the conservative village of Taybeh, I lived with Peace Corps volunteers for a week to help run the camp activities and administer pre and post examinations to collect data for Think Unlimited. The goal of the Brain Camps is to teach critical thinking and creativity to Jordanian high school students through a series of activities and presentations. It wasn’t easy. Despite eight years of English, the students could hardly speak a word. Behavior problems persisted throughout the week, as it was near impossible to hold their attention for more than a few minutes at a time. I was admittedly disheartened, and I longed for my time in Tunisia speaking to the best and brightest young embassy students.
Jordan showed me just what I was up against. The truth about education reform in the Middle East, which is often criticized for its preference for rote memorization over critical analysis, is that change will not come easy. There are political, cultural, and religious barriers that are deeply entrenched within MENA society. 1 and 4 Arab youths are unemployed, and those with university degrees are no exception. Women are often, both voluntarily and involuntarily, shut out of the workforce, despite better test performance and higher university participation. High-stakes tests, like Jordan’s Tawjihi, insulate high schools from creativity and innovation. My task seemed more daunting than ever.
But with Think Unlimited came hope. Wary of how difficult it was to change education at the high school level, our company turned its attention to the universities, considered the hub of the knowledge economy. Through a yearlong course in innovation and entrepreneurship, we hope to prepare a corps of social entrepreneurs that will seek creative and sustainable solutions throughout the region. To help with this, I sifted through thousands of pages of often technical writing to understand and explain our new image. My final report, accompanied with an hour and a half presentation to our staff, was well received.
In Jordan, it wasn’t all work for me. I saw the beautiful architecture of Petra, spent a few days in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and got the chance to meet Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. I learned more than I could have imagined about MENA region education reform and how Jordan fits into the discussion. Most importantly, I met brilliant, caring people that share my passions and goals for improving education in the Middle East. None of this would have been possible without the Honors Program and their generous Honors Enrichment Award.
I started my trip to Thailand wanting to learn about how people in a different culture live more sustainably, backed by their unique cultural views about the importance of nature and our duty to protect it. When I stayed at Pun Pun Farm in the Mae Taeng region of northern Thailand near Chiang Mai, I thought the residents would be purposely living meagerly, at subsistence level, to put the environment first because of Buddhist beliefs. In reality, the people there had mostly the same standard of living, just without the unnecessary luxuries that I am used to having in the U.S. The residents, regardless of their religion and previous experiences, are people who opened their eyes and realized what a danger the ‘typical’ human consumerist-based lifestyle is to the planet. They moved out to Pun Pun to break the cycle for themselves and concentrate on harmony with self, community, and nature, which I was able to do as well in this pristine setting. The lifestyle I actually experienced was hardly as difficult as I thought it would be, if I stayed open-minded and flexible about some trivial aspects of life such as having no plumbing, warm showers, or walls that keep bugs and lizards out of a room. Overall it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences in my life so far.
Pun Pun’s main aspects can be divided into three categories, and from all three I learned some valuable lessons. The first is organic gardening, and the gardens where volunteers and residents both work for 5-6 hours per day. I learned the first day when I was out in the sweltering Thai summer day, plowing and weeding through the garden beds, that this work is extremely physically strenuous, and I gained a new appreciation for the millions of farmers around the world who do this every day to provide the food we eat. It was inspiring to be involved directly in the process of garden-to-plate food production, especially since in the U.S. we hardly ever see where our food actually comes from. Pun Pun has 20 permanent residents and an average of 30-50 volunteers during tourist season, but the farm’s 9 acres are still able to provide 60-70% of the food consumed.
The second aspect of Pun Pun is natural, or earthen, building, which is constructing using naturally available materials such as straw, bamboo, mud, or ‘trash’. All of the buildings at the farm were made using this method because Jon Jandai, the founder of Pun Pun, is an expert in this subject, and has traveled Thailand teaching other farmers his techniques. Not only is this a cost-effective way to build a home, it is also easy to do, sturdy, sustainable, and beautiful. After living in an earthen dormitory for the duration of my stay, I can say that it is comfortable too. The ease at which these earthen homes can be built makes me want to build one of my own someday on my own land. It seems ridiculous to me now to take out a loan and spend half my life repaying it just to get a decent house in the U.S. when I can built one for virtually no money if I use this method.
The last and most emphasized aspect of Pun Pun is seed saving, or collecting and distributing indigenous seeds from Thailand to other interested organic farmers in the region. The main seed that I worked on harvesting during my stay was from the amaranth plant, which required first picking the small bunches of seeds off the plant stem, rubbing them between my hands until the larger part of the shell came off, then sifting off the finer layers of shell until tiny black seeds emerge that are about a millimeter wide. The patience that it takes to sit and sift and rub the seeds for hours just to get one teaspoon full of amaranth seeds that will be given away for free to other farmers, is something that is not easily attained. The residents of Pun Pun realize that saving seeds is the future, so they work tirelessly and without any compensation besides reassurance that they are doing something great for the environment. I think this is a great message for citizens of the world: we should all give up some of our time to take care of our mother Earth because even if it seems like we’re not getting anything in return, we’re really taking small steps to ensure a good life for our future generations.
What I loved about Pun Pun was the feeling of community, and how I was immediately adopted into their family of residents just by being a volunteer. To live on a mostly self-reliant farm means working, living, and socializing communally so everyone has to do less individual work. It was encouraging to be surrounded by a group of people who enjoy living as part of nature so much. It was most inspiring for me to meet Jon Jandai who taught me many life lessons that I will keep with me for the rest of my life. He said the critical thing for people to do around the world is to consume less. Currently we consume so much and don’t give resources a chance to build back up, which is not a sustainable way to live. To consume less and live an easier lifestyle, people can come to Pun Pun or make a farm on their own. You only have to work a couple of hours a day, and spend the rest of the time as a family and learning more about yourself without any distractions. He said “Life is easy, we just make it hard on ourselves”. I learned it was my own expectations and prejudices about the difficulty of living a natural lifestyle that prevented me from trying to change my way of life. Once these barriers were broken down, it really is the easiest, most rewarding thing to live on a place like Pun Pun farm.
For the past three months I have been living in Munich, Germany, participating in an undergraduate research program through the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, and experiencing firsthand the German culture. It has been an incredible learning experience unlike any I have had previously. Before I elaborate, I would like to thank the University of Delaware Honors Program for giving the funding for travel to this program, and allowing me to participate.
While in Germany, I have been researching in a lab under a German Professor, Dr. Thomas Bein. The work has been both fulfilling and successful, and has further shaped the development of my future career path. I was working on synthesizing and characterizing novel organic frameworks for future use in solar cells, as a cheaper alternative to silicon- based solar cells. The materials are quite new to the field of chemistry, so working in this lab was a great opportunity to work on the cutting edge of a species of compound that as of yet has been studied very little. In my twelve week program, I was able to synthesize and study a brand new type of these organic frameworks, which due to the dearth of these compounds that have been synthesized, is not a trivial accomplishment in only three months of work.
In addition to the work itself, I was able to make professional contacts with many different scientists, both in Germany and from the states. I have plans to keep in contact with my own research lab here in Munich, and to hopefully provide help on the future development of my project. I also was able to attend many talks and two conferences, one organized by LMU and the other organized by the program I participated in, DAAD RISE. This summer has exposed me to the cutting edge of solar-based nano-materials research, a growing and exciting field that I am now considering entering upon graduating.
But, I did far more than just work in a lab this summer. Living in Munich and conversing with the locals has given me insight into a completely different mindset. What is most interesting is that the Germans are in many ways just like Americans; yet, there are also many differences in opinion and lifestyle. In Munich especially, people are quite proud in their heritage, going as far as wearing lederhosen regularly. They also have completely different opinions on issues such as public health care, higher education, taxes and conservation of the environment. Especially interesting was being in Germany during the NSA/Snowden scandal, as the citizens here were very informed and opinionated about government surveillance, and always interested in discussing it with an American. Being exposed to these different ideas through firsthand discussion has opened my eyes to new opinions, a worthwhile experience as a young person. I was also able to travel around much of Germany and the surrounding countries. I saw many fascinating historical sights, and learned much about the history and culture of Europe. From wandering around the canals of Amsterdam, to climbing up to a castle in Prague, I have gained an appreciation for a history that goes back far earlier than the US.
All in all, I had an incredibly educational, fulfilling and, most importantly, fun summer. Even as I write this I already miss Munich, and plan on returning to Europe as often as I can.
For the past two summers, I have been privileged to be able to travel to Guatemala to partake in medical mission trips, loving the people I met and the work we were able to accomplish in just a few weeks. With medical school (hopefully) in the near future, I wanted to continue this journey to see and do more while I had the chance. Although a first generation American-Filipino, I had never actually visited the Philippines; I realized that this summer might be the last opportunity to do so for some time. With the help of the Honors Enrichment Awards, I was able to travel to the Philippines to finally experience my culture, while volunteering with an organization that I have respected for quite some time – Operation Smile.
After 26 hours of traveling, I arrived in the Philippines with an open mind, pledging to try everything that I could fit into two short weeks of touring the country. The pieces started to fit together and I started to recollect the stories from relatives that I have heard since childhood. The thick smog, endless traffic, and torrential rains were all present, right outside the airport exit.
However, when the smog clears and the storms cease, the Philippines shows a different side. Although filled with governmental corruption and high levels of poverty, one cannot help but find the country endearing. The people are pleasant and extremely hospitable, and the culture is centered around the value of respect. For example, when greeting elders, it is customary to take their hand and bring it to your forehead in hope of their blessing and wisdom to be handed down – this is called “mano po.”
I stayed in the two of the main metropolitan areas, Manila and Quezon City, for the majority of my stay. Known for their shopping malls, sky rise towers, and restaurants, there is no shortage of activities. In the United States, eating traditional Filipino cuisine is limited to rare occasions; I made sure to have my fill of dishes that I have not had in years.
One of my hosts in the Philippines, Dr. Santos, is a plastic surgeon, who informed me prior to the trip that I was welcomed to be a volunteer with Operation Smile, an internationally respected non-profit that hosts corrective surgery clinics for those who are born with cleft lip and palates. These gaps (in the lip or palate) can cause many problems including inabilities to eat, speak, socialize, and smile. For 30 years, over 200,000 children around the world have had free surgeries. I was lucky enough to witness these operations inside the operating rooms while asking questions, a type of exposure that most premedical students never have. In only three short days, the mission had over 80 successful operations and changed many more lives.
While volunteering at that same hospital, I came across a much more common case. This girl, less than a year old, was obviously malnourished and anemic, desperately needing a blood transfusion that the parents did not want (they could not afford it). Another volunteer and I made it our side project on our last day to do everything we could to care for this child. After driving around the rural town, we found a Red Cross, who sold us the blood that we needed. The cost? 1500 Pesos, which coverts to less than 35 US dollars.
This is the unfortunate reality of many countries around the world. While I have always been interested in medicine from an early age, traveling to these places and taking part in medical missions have solidified my career decision. Seeing the stark contrast between health conditions in first and third world countries inspires me to become a doctor, to be one day able to assist these deserving people in the best way I know how. Once again, with the help of the Honors Enrichment Awards, I have been reminded of why I continue my current academic path; it has shown me a glimpse of what my future can possibly be. This time around, I am even more thankful that my experience allowed me to visit the place that my parents called home; now more than ever, I feel proud to be a Filipino.
When I first enrolled in the honors section of the Equine Management capstone course, I had no idea that the class would ultimately teach me more professional skills than any other class I have taken so far at the University of Delaware. As part of the course, a group of five honors students, including myself, were responsible for developing promotional materials, researching content, creating PowerPoints, and delivering presentations for an equine behavior short course. The short course was designed in partnership with the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension, which aims to educate the public on practical topics in agriculture. Thirty-five Delaware horse owners and twenty students in the non-honors section of the Equine Management course attended the short course. Not only did the short course itself teach me a wide array of professional skills, such as how to communicate effectively with an adult audience, it also provided the survey results and content that I utilized to write an abstract for publication. My abstract entitled “Engaging Undergraduate Students in the Development and Delivery of Equine Extension Programming” was accepted into the undergraduate competition at the Equine Science Symposium and published in a supplement to the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.
Through the aid of the Honors Enrichment Award, I was able to travel to the Equine Science Symposium held this past May in Mescalero, New Mexico. Upon arriving in New Mexico, I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape, especially the lake right outside my hotel room. Mountains completely surrounded the hotel and conference center, and even though the land was a bit dry, the trees were still gorgeous.
As part of the undergraduate competition, judges analyzed my scientific merit, accuracy, clarity, organization, and use of visual aids in both my abstract and presentation. While I will admit that I was very nervous about delivering my presentation, it went extremely well. Afterward, many people came up to me and asked questions, stated how they wanted to utilize a similar program at their university, or complimented me on my confidence and enthusiasm when speaking (I hide my nervousness well). Receiving such positive feedback made me even more proud of my work; I was able to generate discussion to help increase the level of student involvement in cooperative extension programing.
Not only did this conference help me become a better presenter and teach others a novel way to educate their students, I was also able to meet many researchers and graduate students from other universities. Some of the people I met were the authors of journal articles that I had read prior to the conference, which was particularly exciting for me. I also learned new information in many categories of equine science, such as exercise physiology, nutrition, management, and education, through attending many presentations throughout the course of the symposium. On the final day of the conference, I even experienced the speed and power of Quarter Horse racing, which was both a unique learning experience and a lot of fun!
When the awards were announced on the final night of the conference, I was disappointed to learn that I did not place in the competition. However, my true mission at the conference was completed—to educate equine extension specialists and professors on how they could engage their undergraduate students in extension programming. Through my presentation and abstract, I was able to reach a large audience of professionals and promote the University of Delaware as a model for other universities. This meant more to me than any award.
From mid-January to the end of March 2013, I worked as an intern in the political office of the US Mission to the United Nations in New York. My duties included attending Security Council sessions and other negotiations to take notes, drafting memos regarding such meetings, and writing summaries of reports outlining the progress of various UN missions throughout the world. I would also occasionally escort visitors through the US Mission and run errands for my colleagues in the office. Because of tight security in the US Mission and the UN, I was unable to take photos of my workspace. However, I can provide pictures of other aspects of my time in New York. For instance, this is where I lived:
This is the view from my window and from the roof of the building:
This man was a staffer from the Danish embassy; I met him in a negotiation on Afghanistan:
Another view of the city:
This internship experience was invaluable to me, on both an academic and professional level. Academically, my experiences in the office largely reflected what I have been taught in my courses at UD. In the introduction to international relations course (POSC 240), for example, we learned how the process of negotiations generally develops, with discussions first over logistics like the venue of the talks and gradually progressing toward more substantive issues. Several times in my internship, upon hearing my colleagues describe the steps they were taking to reach compromises with foreign governments, I witnessed this negotiation process in action. Although these diplomats were not likely to be following a step-by-step plan the way I had been taught, I was able to see that the measures they took largely followed the rules I had learned. Other knowledge from UD that played a key role in my experience was the understanding of how our political process and our system of government work. What the general public, and even some foreign diplomats at the UN, often fail to realize is that America’s ability to actually encourage action by the UN is limited by the structure of our government. Even when the staff of the US Mission is able to reach agreement with the missions of other countries on a resolution or a treaty, for instance, these arrangements have little to no real-world effect in the US without approval from other branches of government. I observed an example of this when our office was working tirelessly with other countries to negotiate an arms trade treaty to impose stricter rules regarding the movement of weapons worldwide. After months of painstaking negotiations, a compromise was finally reached in the UN and a treaty with language acceptable to all sides was drafted. However, this treaty will not be binding in the United States unless it is ratified by the Senate. Even as our diplomats were aggressively trying to complete the treaty, they were well aware that it stood little chance of garnering Senate approval. This experience highlighted to me how domestic political concerns can interfere with and complicate negotiations with other countries.
In addition to strengthening the knowledge I have learned at UD, this internship experience has helped me in my contemplation of a future career. My favorite aspect of working at the US Mission was the writing of memos and report summaries. Indeed, my time at the UN has convinced me that I do not want to pursue a career in diplomacy. However, because the writing aspects of my internship were my most enjoyable (and elicited the most praise from my supervisors), I have become more assured that I would like to work in a field, like journalism or publishing, that involves writing. Another valuable aspect of this experience is the contacts I have made with my colleagues. I am proud to say that everyone in my office was very pleased with my work, and several expressed willingness to provide letters of recommendation in the future. Even if I do not ultimately end up working in government, the relationships I have formed in my time at the US Mission will be useful in my future job search. With such sincere recommendations from people whom I’ve come to greatly respect, I feel confident that I will at least be able to “get my foot in the door” of whatever industry I ultimately choose. Overall, my internship at the US Mission was exciting, interesting, educational, and beneficial, and I will be forever grateful that I was able, through the generosity of the Honors Program, to participate in such an experience.
Spending spring break in Ecuador delivering medical care to unreached communities was the best decision I have ever made in my college career. This experience was all made possible by the Scholar Enrichment Award and for that, I am truly grateful. For seven days I assisted in medical care delivery, built a bathroom, and explored the foreign land of Ecuador. I learned what serving truly means by interacting with the Ecuadorean children and connecting with the community.
The primary mission of this trip was to deliver medical care to several villages that legitimately have zero chance of receiving health care otherwise. Eight communities were reached, two each day for four days, and received basic examinations by a doctor, dentist and gynecologist. The adults learned about sexual health, nutrition, cancers, diabetes, and other illnesses at an education station while the children received instructions on brushing their teeth and washing their hands. I was taken aback by the overwhelming eagerness these individuals had to learn about their health. I had expected slight hesitation because foreigners were intruding on their communities but it was entirely the opposite. MEDlife did an incredible job being culturally sensitive: the medical team was comprised of local Ecuadorean professionals while the instructions and pamphlets were written in the local language. Personally, I served in the doctor, pharmacy, and education stations and learned how essential the simple medications were for them to receive.
Throughout interacting with the adults and children, I learned that serving does not mean solely providing physical effort – it means caring about these people and showing them love through mental, emotional, and physical acts of selflessness. Individuals were so excited for us to be standing next to them that they just wanted to hold our hands – it did not matter to them that you could not speak Spanish well or verbally communicate, they just wanted your company and love. That is what I really learned this trip; it’s the people that matter, not the service you provide.
Along with our health promotion mission, all 54 of us took rotations assisting in the construction of a community bathroom. These communities drink the water they excrete in. And bathe in. At least 80% of these children have parasites because of it and it’s an outright disservice to them not to be moved to help. Along with this, I could not help but realize how joyful these children were when I interacted with them. After the clinics we played games with them and their smiles lit up the city, but in the doctor station I saw all of these reasons for them to lack that joy. But they never stopped smiling. It makes you wonder how Americans would react if they were in these children’s places. The bathroom will prevent a gigantic amount of the parasite infections that inflict this community and allow them to pursue education and a better quality of life.
At the end of the week, the community’s overwhelming gratitude for the bathroom actually made me feel that I didn’t deserve all of their thankfulness – all I did was put in a few hours wheel-barrowing rocks and sand. Of course I would do this to help them, it would never cross my mind to do otherwise. I didn’t deserve their thankfulness – I should have been the one thanking them for allowing me to serve them with the limited skills I had.
After the clinics had run their course, we daily explored Ecuador and fully immersed ourselves in what the country had to offer. We explored the dark depths of caves, slopped through the thick vegetation in the Amazon Rainforest, sped through the murky rivers on canoes, and buzzed around the bright markets of Quito. This country is amazing. Every day was something new that made me fall in love with the land, the people, and the lifestyle of Ecuador. It was all I could do not to stay behind and live there for the rest of my life. The Ecuadorean joy and satisfaction sharply contrasts the whiny want of Americans and it’s been an adjustment to return. There are so many other experiences out there to be had, people to show love to by serving them, and land to be explored. I want to experience it all!
As mentioned earlier, the Scholar Enrichment Award made this incredible experience possible and I am entirely grateful to have been given this chance.
Boarding the plane for Peru, I was unsure what to expect. After an evening layover in Miami spent exploring South Beach, and an early morning layover in Lima, I arrived in Arequipa. Exiting the plane, I immediately noticed the three mountains that look down over Peru’s second largest city: Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu, as Eduardo, my fifty-‐something cab driver would explain to me in broken English.
Eduardo took me to the Volunteer House, where my roommates -‐ five girls from Washington State, Australia, France, and New Zealand, met me at the door. After two days familiarizing myself with Arequipa, I reported to the Traveller Not Tourist office to pay my rent deposit and go to the orphanage. Another group, Operation Groundswell from Canada, happened to be in the office at the same time and asked if I would like to help them with a manual labor project before starting at the orphanage.
I agreed, and spent the next 3 days in Los Olivos, a rural community of stone houses at the base of Misti. The project was to build concrete fence for Sr. Luna, a skinny, elderly man who lived alone. After removing his current fence of rocks, or piedras, we dug out the ground, set the foundation, and started to build the fence with the help of Renee, a local builder. After two days of digging and shoveling concrete mix into cement mixer, my hands developed sets of bloody blisters; even under the thick gloves I wore.
After my new Canadian friends left Arequipa, I started work at the orphanage (Casa Hogar). There were two daily shifts of part-‐time volunteers who worked with the permanent volunteers, or tias, who lived in the orphanage. When I was assigned the morning shift, I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. to leave enough time to shower and catch the combie, a smaller, overcrowded bus, to make it to Casa Hogar by 7 a.m. The afternoon shift went to 1 to 7 p.m. The only boy volunteering at the orphanage, I wasn’t immediately trusted to work with the younger children or babies, as they usually assigned this work to female volunteers. My first couple weeks at the orphanage I would sweep, mop the floors, clean up toys, do the laundry, and anything else asked of me. When there weren’t any chores to do, I would play with the children.
Slowly, I became trusted with more and more roles. By the end of my time at the orphanage, I was feeding babies, taking the older kids out in the street to play, reading to them, and was asked to stay and eat lunch or dinner with the kids almost every time I worked.
With a week left on my trip, I took three days off from work to travel by myself to Machu Picchu. Leaving Arequipa on an overnight bus, I arrived in Cusco, where I spent a half-‐day before taking a colectivo, or shared cab ride, through winding dirt roads to Ollantaytambo. From there, I took a train to Aguas Calientes, a small town at the base of Machu Picchu.
Waking up at 4:30 a.m. to pouring rain, I walked to the bus station to beat the crowd as part of the first wave of visitors. But over the course of my three-‐hour tour and two-‐hour hike of Machu Picchu Mountain, the weather cleared up. I returned to my hostel exhausted, sunburned, and satisfied with my trip.
by Shreya Jammula
The Honors Enrichment Award enabled me to participate in the Gap Medics Program – Thailand. Gap Medics is a pre-medical program with participants from all over the world and has global sites including Zanzibar, Tanzania and Central Europe. I stayed with a group of 25 other students from Australia, England, New Zealand, Moldova, China & USA in the Gap Medics House. While most people stay for 2 weeks, I chose to stay for 3 weeks and every week, we had different placements often at different hospitals. My placements were general surgery, neurology and anesthesiology, which was very similar to general surgery. I was assigned a specific doctor as my mentor for each week whom I shadowed on patient rounds both in the hospital, to outpatient clinics and to the operating theatres.
The best part of this experience and the sole reason I wanted to do this program was because I could be in the operating theatres while the surgeons operated. As soon as I got to the hospital, I would change into scrubs & appropriate shoes, cover my hair and wear a mask before following my mentor to different surgeries. During my first and third week, I got to experience a broad range of surgeries including craniotomy, Caesarean section, knee reconstruction, laminectomy (spinal surgery), hysterectomy, cataract removal, colectomy, nephrolithotomy, appendectomy, cholecystectomy, lipoma and skin graft among others. My second week at the Neurological Hospital was different from my other weeks but no less enjoyable. I observed surgeries only twice that week, both of which were incredibly complicated surgeries that were upwards of 6 hours. The rest of the week was spent visiting the ICU, where the doctor presented to us patient charts and x-rays and asked us to diagnose the patient before taking us through the patient history and treatment plan; physical and occupational therapy, where we got to experience some of the equipment used on patients; stroke unit & dementia clinic.
Aside from work, we also had plenty of time to have fun! The program was located in Chiang Mai, which is an hour’s flight from Bangkok. Our house was situated 30 minutes from the city center in a secluded area. A typical workday was from 9-5 (could vary based on where you were placed) so after work, most of us would often go into town. After 5pm every day, the night bazar would open up, which offered us endless entertainment. Pretty much everything, from fake designer clothing to souvenirs to bootleg DVDs, can be found there! On the weekends, we did more sight-seeing and activities. My first weekend there, we went elephant riding, bamboo rafting and went to a waterfall – all in one day! The other day, we went zip lining, which was an amazing experience. My second weekend, I did more cultural activities, such as visit the Doi Suthep Temple and went on a tour of the famous White Temple in Chiang Rai. The tour also included a visit to the hot springs, Opium Museum and to an island of Laos that specializes in snake whiskey!
Best experience I had during my trip: got to observe an emergency craniotomy. A patient was rushed in because he had a hematoma (blood accumulated outside brain but inside skull), which was complicated by his history of epileptic seizures. I saw the surgeon cut open the skull, remove the massive clot, put the skull back on and suture the skin. This experience alone made the whole trip worthwhile – there was no way I could have ever seen such an emergency surgery in America unless I was already a doctor.
by Liz Hetterly
In this experience, I developed skills in qualitative research methods and learned about the social and economic environment that shapes the reproductive health of married adolescent girls in Bangladesh. In my previous trip to Bangladesh last summer, my work focused on designing a population-based survey and analyzing quantitative data. This winter I was very fortunate to complement that experience in quantitative research with skills in qualitative research. The majority of my trip was spent doing in-depth interviews with married adolescent girls living in urban slums, to determine their perceptions of family planning services, barriers to accessing these services, and their reproductive decision-making. I learned that married adolescent girls face significant pressure to meet social and familial expectations around when to have children and how many to have, and how this pressure along with poor economic conditions can affect their health and autonomy
I would tell students who are planning to go to another country to an Honors Enrichment Award experience to really do their research about that country beforehand. In my case, I had already been to Bangladesh once before so I knew exactly what to expect. But thinking back to my first time in Bangladesh, I know how helpful it was to have read up about the country beforehand – the history, the current political situation, the culture, etc. The quality of your experience is often determined by the extent to which you can adapt to and engross yourself in the culture of that particular country, and that process is made easier by doing research beforehand to prepare yourself so you know what to expect. Before you go, read about the history of the country, find out who the most popular writers and artists are, buy a map, try to learn some of the language, meet someone from that country who lives in the U.S. and ask them for advice, find out what the style of dress is, etc. etc. Doing this, along with keeping an open mind, will determine the difference between an ordinary experience and an extraordinary one.
by Andrea Diorio
This winter break I spent 3 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa with Cross Cultural Solutions, an international volunteer placement program. Each morning from 8:00am to 1:00pm, I spent volunteering with 3 of my friends at Fikelela Children’s Center, where we cared for and played with the children. Fikelela, which means “to reach out,” serves as a temporary home for children, ranging from infant to age 8, who are in the process of looking for foster care. These children have been orphaned, abandoned, abused and/or neglected by their parents. Many of them were left at the hospital after birth, left at a social worker center, or taken from their homes by a social worker due to abuse or neglect. South Africa has very strict adoption laws, so in order to adopt a child, he or she must be under 6 months old, and it must be proven that his or her parents are deceased AND his or her grandparents are incapable of caring for them. Because of this, adoption occurs very rarely and foster care is much more common.
Fikelela is located in the Khayelitsha township, the biggest one in Cape Town with over 1 million people living there. These townships are made up of homes, but nothing like what we’d consider an actual home here in the U.S. They are mainly made out of scrap metal and are smaller than what we’d consider a shed or garage. Seeing these living conditions in person was unbelievable, nothing like how it feels to see it in a picture or movie.
After volunteering in the morning, I either had free time or a cultural and learning activity with our program. I, along with the rest of my program, were able to do a variety of new and fun things, like going to tour Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned, and eating ostrich and crocodile at a traditional African restaurant, and even spending an evening learning about the history of South Africa and how far it has come. I learned more about South Africa than I had ever expected. As the world’s youngest democracy (democratic since 1994), the history of the country is actually quite similar to the United States, just decades and decades behind. They are headed in such a positive direction, yet the poor effects of apartheid still linger with racial segregation as a very apparent and noticeable issue there. Learning about its history and current political climate and then being able to see it myself, whether while volunteering or exploring the city, was something I will never forget.
The greatest lesson I will take away from my time in Cape Town is that money and material things really cannot buy you happiness. Compared to what we are used to, these kids have very limited resources and really are not getting the attention, both physical and emotional, that they deserve. However, these were some of the sweetest and happiest kids that I have ever met. They don’t know what iPads or iPhones are. They don’t get to eat at nice restaurants. They have the very minimum but they are still so happy and loving. And although hearing that is inspirational, being able to see it and experience it in person was so real and eye opening. Those children will always have a very special place in my heart and saying goodbye to them was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever had to do. But just like South Africa itself, there is so much hope for their future and I pray that they each grow up to meet the potential that I could see in each of them.
by Melanie Allen
For Blue Hens, Winter Session is a perfect opportunity to travel. During this time, one has the chance to go home for a few weeks after finals, enjoy some home-made cooking and holiday celebrations, then hit the road! This is my third Winter Session spent travelling, however this trip was very different to my prior adventures trips which were primarily for recreation. Upon receiving an Honors Enrichment Award, I spent the last four weeks working with a locally run NGO in Ghana that focuses on environmental conservation issues.
My most recent travel to Ghana this past summer inspired my decision to apply for an Honors Enrichment Award. I had the opportunity to work in the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Department at the University of Cape Coast, where I assessed the water quality of three lagoons heavily used for human consumption. My project revealed that these lagoons were only able to support a limited number of species, and those that were able to survive in these waters were considered pollutant tolerant organisms able to withstand hostile conditions. These findings were not surprising as when I visited these lagoons for sampling, pollution was extremely noticeable with evidence of an unsustainable public waste management system. I conversed with several professors at the University of Cape Coast, inquiring about the root of the problem because I was having difficulties understanding why little had been done to clean up this area that local people utilized on a daily basis. Was it lack of research or education? Inadequate infrastructure? Were the locals aware that pollution was the primary cause of the recorded decrease in size and occurrence of blackfin tilapia, one of the primary sources of protein for this coastal community? Unfortunately, due to the brevity of my stay in Ghana and commitment to direct lab work, I had little interaction with the affected community to find answers to these many questions. When my summer abroad came to an end, I felt both my personal and intellectual quests in Ghana were left unresolved.
Upon return to the U.S., my investigation continued as I dove deeper into understanding how environmental degradation was approached in a developing country. A professor that I worked with over the summer connected me with, CEIA, the Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis. This organization integrates environmental concerns into various policy fields and takes a community based conservation approach to Ghana’s challenges by focusing on public awareness and environmental education.
One way that CEIA has approached this is by establishing environmental clubs in primary and junior high schools in the Cape Coast area, with the intention of encouraging eco-friendly behaviors and interests at a young age. These clubs were started in 2009, but since then have been fairly inactive due to little intervention from CEIA after establishment. One of the main projects that myself and another volunteer were working on was enhancing educational materials for these clubs to use during their meetings. This involved creating a “curriculum” for these clubs, focusing on a variety of environmental topics such as pollution and waste management, water quality, climate change and habitat loss. We would visit the clubs weekly to better understand the kind of activities they were currently doing, as well as ensure that the faculty advisors had input on what topics were being incorporated in these lesson plans. Each lesson plan had a two page summary explaining what the issue was, group activities to complete as a class, discussion questions, and a take home message to encourage the students to engage their families in these topics.
The other main project I had the chance to be involved with was organizing a community clean up exercise at Fosu lagoon, one of my sampling sites from the summer. This involved a collective effort, and the cooperation of multiple stakeholders. We asked the professors from the Department of Fisheries to participate in an education seminar that was held prior to the clean-up, discussing past research and results conducted in this lagoon, as well as the adverse health risks from consuming fish in polluted waters. We also involved Cylcus Recycling, a company that buys back plastic garbage, one of the main waste found in these lagoons, to discuss how recycling has potential to bring in income for the community. Zoom Lion, a waste management company provided the tools for the clean-up, and the students from the Environmental Clubs served as the main clean-up volunteers, though we had several local fisherman and community members participate in the event.
From this experience I had the chance to discover how a collaborative effort between science, the government, and local culture can create and build solutions to urgent environmental challenges.
Working directly with CEIA enabled me to develop a greater understanding of a foreign culture and development and the Honors Enrichment Award has truly shaped my future endeavors.
by Jock Gilchrist
From January 6th to the 26th, I worked on the Ananda Marga Organic Peach Farm in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest in southern California. The name is a bit misleading, however—we spent several days uprooting dozens of dead and dying peach trees and transplanting young cherry, apple, pear, and persimmon trees in their place.
But every day on the farm was slightly different from the one before it. In addition to tree maintenance, we also harvested vegetables from two greenhouses, planted cover crops, gathered fertile black soil from the forest, cleaned up debris from the remains of an old trailer, planted vegetable seedlings, demolished a windmill, made baskets from chicken wire, planted cacti around the perimeter for security against unwanted animals, and cut lilac shoots to sell in the spring. The manual labor was challenging but incredibly satisfying, and we went to sleep at night feeling the tangible results of our work through the ache of our bodies.
The farm is owned by a monk who practices a combination of Tantric and Vedic traditions originating in ancient India. He spent around 3 hours a day in meditation and was surprisingly energetic for a man of around 50. Another volunteer and I took part in an evening singing ritual and half-hour meditation with him. Though the specifics of his religions’ philosophy didn’t strike a deep chord with me, it was interesting to be immersed in it for my stay there.
As part of his spiritual beliefs, and by virtue of the fact that it’s an organic fruit and vegetable farm, the diet was vegan, and also excluded garlic, onions, teas, and coffees, all of which supposedly have stimulating effects on the mind. There wasn’t a single processed food item in the house, and we baked our own bread every day and made nut butters often. This diet endowed me with ridiculous amounts of energy and left my body feeling happy and light. I’ve since made a more serious commitment to a vegetarian diet and buying unprocessed food and more vegetables.
The nearest town to the farm was a small one of about 500 people. In fact the farm was so isolated that we only left twice during my entire stay to travel to LA for a group meditation and dinner. The natural setting really gave me the chance to get back “to my roots,” so to speak. The house lacked several amenities that I realized I tend to take for granted, like heat and hot water. But the more dramatic absence was of the degree of social engagement I had become accustomed to at home and at school. For two weeks there was only one other volunteer and I with the monk (a third volunteer arrived for the last week). The withdrawal of the little comforts in my life ended up reminding me how blessed I am.
Also, being that there was no TV and slow internet and cell service, there wasn’t as much opportunity for entertainment and distraction. With the noise of our culture gone, there was nothing to do but face myself and my thoughts fully. This allowed me to do some real soul-searching about my ambitions, personality, and relationships to a depth that I don’t think would have been possible elsewhere. I left the farm feeling extremely invigorated and confident about the coming semester and what lies beyond that.
by Casey Spencer
The generosity and support of the Honors Program allowed me to attend an international conference at which I displayed a poster of my research. Honestly, I did not know what to expect when I packed for San Diego. I was unsure if everyone would be in suits and heels or jeans and sneakers. I was relieved when I arrived and found that most people were dressed casually and seemed laid-back. I was clearly one of the youngest attendees. The informal atmosphere allowed me to feel comfortable even when most of the attendees had doctorates and decades of research experience while I am only an undergraduate with half a year’s worth of research.
I will be attending veterinary school in the fall and took this opportunity to explore different applications of genetics research in veterinary medicine. My research is focused on poultry genetics and feed efficiency. While it is an important field, I intend for my research to be medically groundbreaking. About half the speakers discussed animal genetics. I attended as many animal-based workshops, in which I learned about the genetic diseases of horses, dogs, cats, cattle and swine. Truthfully, I had no idea genetics was so present in veterinary research. As the conference went on, my excitement for my future profession increased and I was looking forward to developing research projects of my own.
At times the conference was beyond my undergraduate education. However, I managed to stay positive and focus on the objectives of researchers and rather than their exact methods of analysis, which always involved computer programming (something I have very little experience in). This was also my first opportunity for professional networking. It was hard to get passed the idea that experts in the field of animal genetics may want to hear what I have to say. But, with each day of the conference I gained confidence and a better grasp on my purpose there. I was able to ask speakers how they got involved in their current research and what opportunities there were in their field. At first it seemed foolish, but I reassured myself by thinking “everyone has to start somewhere.”
As the day of my poster session approached, my nervousness increased. I was afraid for potential questions people may ask me about my research. I was relieved when I got there and saw how friendly everyone was. The hour and a half I stood there felt like an eternity. Luckily, during that eternity I was able to talk to other students displaying their posters and learn how they got interested in research and their career goals. The people that did stop to inquire about my project were very encouraging once they found out I am an undergraduate. I realized there was nothing to be nervous about. In fact, their praise and support reminded me that I have been presented with an incredible opportunity to attend an international conference as an undergraduate. While at times I was frustrated with my inexperience in research, my lack of genetics knowledge, and not knowing my place at the conference, I stayed optimistic. I am excited for my future in research as a veterinarian. This trip, made possible because of the Honors Enrichment Award, helped me understand the connection between genomics research and veterinary medicine.
by Aimee Pearsall
My name is Aimee Pearsall and I am a junior Music Education Choral/General Major with a minor in violin at the University of Delaware. I could not imagine a more perfect way to start the year of 2013 than traveling to Jamaica with the organization Jamaica Field Service Project (JAFSP.) This organization is a service-learning study abroad program offered through the State University of New York located in Potsdam. It offers students a chance to attend trips in Jamaica and focus either on music education, music therapy, or literacy. I chose the music education track, and I was given the opportunity to study Afro-Caribbean drumming in Jamaica while volunteering in local elementary schools and preschools to teach singing, drumming, and recorder. I could not have asked for a more educational, culturally rich, rewarding, or fun experience!
The first few days of the trip were filled with exciting excursions, relaxing on the beach, and interacting with the locals. We went on a hike that familiarized us with the lay of the land; the parish of St. Elizabeth is practically a desert! Here is a picture of the University of Delaware students that went on the trip. We also went snorkeling in a coral reef and saw beautiful creatures like the octopus pictured on the right!
Additionally, we went on a twelve-mile boat ride and saw dolphins and crocodiles up close. Later that day we swung from a rope swing into the Black river, and ate at a restaurant in the middle of the ocean, pictured below!
There is no doubt about it, teaching the children music was by far the highlight of the trip. Each evening, our trip leader held a training session where we were given teaching materials that we were to teach the next day in the schools. The group worked in two elementary schools and three preschools throughout the week. We taught the children singing, recorder, and traditional Afro-Caribbean drumming which is integral to the Jamaican culture. Because most of the children receive no formal music instruction and the Jamaican school system offers no music classes, the children were incredibly excited and grateful for the opportunity to learn music. It was wonderful to be able to teach children who were so excited about the prospect of learning. Additionally, at the end of the week, we were able to donate many drums, recorders, and school supplies to the schools, which means that music will remain a part of the schoolyard culture even now that we are gone. The point of teaching was not so much to teach the children all of the technical aspects of music, but to give them a good experience making music with one another so that they could continue to use music as an emotional and fun outlet to bond with their peers, family, and neighbors.
The final aspect of the trip that I found so wonderful was learning about the Jamaican culture. Each evening our trip leader held a drum circle, where we as students and staff bonded through our music-making. Our trip leader, Eric Wills, lives primarily in Jamaica throughout the year, so he was able to provide us with candid information about the Jamaican culture that would have been hard to learn on our own. He told us stories of how Jamaicans overcome poverty, tales of how many Jamaicans still participate in voo doo, and how drumming is used at traditional ceremonies and at dead yards to celebrate the life of the dead. This gave me a new sense of responsibility to pass down the drum beats that are integral to the culture to the children so that the drum beats do not continue to die out. I truly felt immersed in the Jamaican culture, which was very important to me, so that I was able to interact with the local people in a respectful manner, and teach the children music in a way that helped to promote their culture.
I am so grateful for the University of Delaware Honors program for giving me the opportunity to go on this trip of a lifetime. I was able to help another country that was in need by doing what I love, teaching music. Seeing the joy on the children’s faces when they participated in music was so incredibly rewarding. I was not only able to help another community, but I learned a lot about teaching strategies, drumming, and another culture that will help me to be a better educator.
by Rebecca Aiello
For the first two weeks of the new year, I had the opportunity to travel with the VIDA volunteer program, as one of 40 students pursuing medical, veterinary, or dental careers. VIDA, which stands for Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures, is a non-profit organization working in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Students, such as myself, under the direction of bilingual doctors, veterinarians, and dentists, learn valuable skills in the field of their choice, while providing free services to communities in need. My trip began in Costa Rica, and ended in Nicaragua twelve days later. In that time, I learned valuable veterinary skills, made lifelong connections, experienced a new culture, and brushed up on my Spanish.
The trip was based around six clinic days, where we worked from 8am to 4pm (sometimes later!). We set up our clinics at three different sites – the first was a Red Cross building, the second an old gymnasium, and the third a church. As part of the veterinary team, I helped in intake, surgery, and recovery. We learned how to examine the patients, taking vital signs such as heart rate, respiratory rate, pulse, and capillary refill time. We also checked for skin infections, skeletal problems, and fleas and ticks. If the patient was to be spayed or neutered, we would prepare the necessary medications, including anesthesia, antibiotics, and analgesics, and administer them. I also learned how to place an intravenous catheter and intubate animals in preparation for surgery. During surgery, I would either assist the veterinarian performing the operation, or monitor heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature throughout the procedure. Once patients were out of surgery, they entered into recovery, where we would continue to monitor vital signs to ensure a proper recovery. The veterinarians we worked with were eager to share their knowledge, and very helpful. Our patients were usually dogs, although we examined a few cats. One group even did a consultation for two rabbits. With a team of four veterinarians, and fifteen student volunteers, we were able to see over 250 patients in only six days.
For four days in Nicaragua, we were in homestays. I was placed with two other girls on the veterinary team, and we shared a room in our family’s house. The houses in Nicaragua are like nothing I have ever seen before, and it was a great opportunity to really immerse myself in the culture. It was a bit difficult to communicate with our host “mama,” because she did not speak any English, and my Spanish is minimal. However, she had two daughters, and the older one, was able to translate for us when she was at home. The daughters brought us around town, to a market, and into Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Touring Masaya, where we stayed, and Managua, with local people really personalized the experience for me. On the last night of our homestays, we had a farewell fiesta, complete with traditional music and dancing. It was a wonderful end to our short stay in Masaya.
We traveled by bus to each location, and the winding roads of Costa Rica made for long trips. When crossing the border to Nicaragua, we spent a total of eleven hours on the bus! However, we were able to see mountains, lakes, towns, coatis, iguanas, monkeys, and even two volcanoes.
While the clinics were an amazing learning experience, I was excited to participate in the other events that VIDA plans for their volunteers. In Costa Rica, we spent a day in the shadow of Volcan Arenal, which was Costa Rica’s most active volcano until 2010. There, we were able to swim in hot springs, which are naturally heated by the volcano. In Nicaragua, we took a latin dance class, where we learned dances such as salsa and merengue. One morning, we visited a local day care, where women who work in the market could bring their children. We donated coloring books, toys, stickers, and bubbles, and played with the children for a few hours. That afternoon, we had the opportunity to zipline canopy mombacho, one of my favorite parts of the trip. On our last day in Nicaragua, we took a boat tour around the Islands of Granada, or “Las Isletas,” a group of more than 300 islands off the coast of Granada.
by Sarah Weiskopf
Earlier this month, I traveled to Costa Rica and Nicaragua on a medical volunteer trip through the organization VIDA. The clinics were very different from what I was expecting. Instead of each patient being seen privately, all patients were seen in one large room. Our job as volunteers was to record basic patient information, obtain a medical history, take blood pressure, and ask questions about what brought the patient to the clinic. When we were done, we reported our findings to a doctor, who would then explain both to us and to the patient what the problem was. The patients coming to the clinics rarely saw a doctor, so when they had the opportunity to do so, they told us every problem they could remember having.
We saw many cases of parasites, fungal infections, and problems associated with drinking unpurified water and cooking with wood smoke. Most patients received some kind of medicine. At first, I surprised by the amount of medications that the doctors prescribed, but I soon realized that much of it was ibuprofen or cough syrup, things that we buy over the counter here in the United States. Although these drugs are available over the counter in Costa Rica and Nicaragua as well, many of our patients could not afford to purchase them.
Our patients were extremely grateful, and even if they had to wait most of the day before they could be seen, they almost always thanked us and told us we were welcome back anytime. The Nicaraguan town of El Arenal showed us their gratitude by giving each of us handmade bracelets that many of the residents sold at the market. It was very touching!
During our six clinic days, we saw over 365 patients.
The clinics were very rewarding and educational, but there were also many other memorable experiences from this trip! In Costa Rica, we visited natural hot springs. As we drove through the country, we saw some amazing views, and even got off the bus to see wildlife and some of the largest iguanas I’ve ever seen.
Nicaragua was also a very beautiful country, but even right from the border, you could tell that the citizens were not as well off as those in Costa Rica. Our first stop in Nicaragua was Masaya, where we lived with host families. My host mom did not speak a word of English, so my Spanish definitely got some use! It was interesting to talk to the host families see what daily life and cuisine is actually like. I can honestly say I have never eaten so much rice and beans in my life. We also participated in other community activities in Masaya, such as a community soccer game, tag with some of the local children, and a visit to a daycare. I also got to go zip lining through the jungle, which was very cool!
After Masaya, we traveled to Granada, the oldest colonial city in the Americas. There were some beautiful churches there, and we also took a tour of the surrounding islands, which were gorgeous. One of the islands had very friendly monkeys, and several people from our group fed them crackers!
My trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I met many interesting people, got to experience what life was like in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, learned a great deal, and helped out people in need. I would highly recommend volunteering with VIDA, and anyone who is interested should visit: http://vidavolunteertravel.org/
by Jess Applebaum
I spent two weeks volunteering in free mobile veterinary clinics in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with a the nonprofit, VIDA (Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures). The words unbelievable, eye-opening, and extraordinary are all understatements as to how fantastic this trip actually was, and a 500 word blog post is not nearly enough to describe everything.
I got more hands-on experience than I could have imagined. Working in pairs, we did checkups and gave injections on our own. We learned how to prepare patients for surgery and assisted in several spay and neuter surgeries where we actually got to make cuts and tie sutures. We managed the recovery station where we monitored vitals as patients recovered from anesthesia, wrote prescriptions in Spanish and prepared take-home medications before returning animals to their owners. The veterinarians that worked with us were absolutely amazing and were so willing to share knowledge, answer questions and trust us to perform important tasks. As a team of 15 students and four local veterinarians, we treated 203 animals.
We also had recreational days which included a day at hot springs heated by the Costa Rican volcano, Volcán Arenal, zip lining on a canopy tour in Nicaragua, a community soccer game, salsa dancing lessons, a day at the largest market in Nicaragua, and a boat tour in Granada, the oldest city on the continent. We saw lots of wildlife and fed chocolate to some wild monkeys. I enjoyed living with a host family in Masaya, Nicaragua and getting to know locals. I played a game called libre, similar to tag, with children, and spent time before clinic teaching them English. The neighborhood kids called me “Profe,” short for “Professora” or Teacher. As a Spanish minor, it was a great opportunity to practice Español and learn more about where they come from. Even though we come from two completely different places, we have a lot in common.
There were also some heartbreaking moments on the trip. Many of the dogs we treated were sick with a variety of diseases, most extremely thin with intestinal parasites. They were also severely abused. Owners beat their dogs with whatever they could find: tree branches, metal chains, shoes. This made working with animals difficult because they were aggressive, biting and scratching us on multiple occasions.
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the world next to Haiti. Many people can barely afford food for themselves, let alone a pet. Our clinics were set up in places with limited resources, one being on a basketball court outside of a school. It was heartbreaking to see patients with conditions we couldn’t treat under the circumstances.
One of the most touching experiences was when a mother cried after I gave her a package of children’s underwear from the US. I also donated some pajamas to children outside our clinic, and a little boy took a girls set, so happy to have pajamas even though they were pink. Where I lived, all water was contaminated, there was no such thing as a hot shower, and we had a septic system that only sometimes worked, but locals remained positive and were very friendly and welcoming.
Thank you to the VIDA staff and everyone who helped make this trip possible. Thank you to everyone who gave me donations to bring, and thank you to UDHP for funding part of this trip. It was a very rewarding experience. I feel like I have a home away from home in Nicaragua, and I hope to return again one day to further help the people and animals of Latin America.