After attending and sometimes helping facilitate multiple orientation and informational sessions throughout campus as a representative for Study Abroad, I can recall one question in particular always being asked: “What if I want to go somewhere else? Somewhere not presented through the CBU program?” My answer to this is simple…do it.
While our program is an insightful overview for those who have never been out of the country, I would never want students to feel limited to just those opportunities presented to them. As a senior headed to Washington, DC for graduate school, I have definitely become more cognizant of how competitive our society has become. Because of this increased attitude of determination and eagerness, young adults are surpassing all comfort zones, reaching for prospects on their own accord.
I remember I had the previous question on my mind my freshman year of college. I knew I wanted to travel more, as I had recently become passionate about exploration of cultures outside my own. Therefore, I came by the Study Abroad office and quickly signed on for a trip to Italy the following May.
However, one day when I was reading the CBU Connection (Yes, I actually read the Connection, and you should too for the exact reason I am about to tell you), I came across the tiniest of announcements that read “GYC Rwanda Application due soon” with a link attached. I’m not going to lie — I did not even know where Rwanda was on a map, but for this fact alone I was intrigued. To spare unnecessary details, I ended up applying, got accepted, and was the youngest member of the three-week summer delegation. Although there is no way to truly express how this experience forever altered me as a person within this newsletter, I can provide a hint with my opening paragraph of my Statement of Purpose for graduate school:
“After walking away from my interview with the Mayor of Karongi, Rwanda, a burning sensation ignited within my chest; when asked about the abhorrent conditions of the Potter’s Community, he had simply stated, ‘The problem of Karongi is not a priority… their problems are not our problems.’ It was then, the summer after my freshman year of college, that I knew that I must never have this mindset. With our world becoming more globalized faster than Apple can produce the newest version of the iPhone, our problems are no longer defined by boundaries or geographical borders. Furthermore, my passions are driven by experiences not limited by the mighty Mississippi or the Mason Dixon Line; my fervor is capitalized by tenacious curiosity, underlined by a firm belief in human rights, and emboldened by a yearning to always take the road less traveled. A young Anne Frank once wrote, ‘How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.’”
Needless to say, I caught the fever for fieldwork in third-world countries, particularly ones stricken by genocide and war crimes. I then turned to the most time efficient, informative source every college student would attribute his degree to: Google. I began searching adamantly for volunteer programs, intern scholarships, or perhaps other academic outlets to travel. The summer after my sophomore year I found myself on a plane to Cambodia for six weeks volunteering with a local NGO through IVHQ.
Both of these “outside” involvements helped develop not only my characteristics as a person but also my career path after graduation as much as the CBU curriculum has prepared me. Like the modest GYC announcement, there are chances throughout our campus that do not receive as much visual traffic. I challenge you to read the flyers, read the emails, read the communicative forms freely presented. I always tell freshmen, “What you will get out of college is positively correlated to the amount of effort you put in.”
So, put in the extra effort. It’s okay to think outside the box; the encouraging professors and faculty here would tell you it is preferred! It took me a little bit to research programs, distinguishing those that I thought were legitimate, filling out applications, and taking the necessary actions to prepare for the trip, but how worth it it was.
But because I know what it is like to be a busy college student, here are some of what I have found to be the best international programs if you are eager to go somewhere else besides Europe or Mexico:
Addendum: Ironically, no one at CBU knew anything about Global Youth Connect so how it ended up in the Connection is still a mystery to me. I like to attribute this situation to perfect timing.
— Melanie Horne