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Service-Learning Archives - Away She Goes
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The Global Experience

Whiny 18 year olds keep asking us, “What do you even do all day?!” (Just kidding on the whiney, they’re actually very thoughtful and a bunch of fun, and so far not getting into too much trouble.)  Well, every Thursday I TA a section of the Global Experience course, taught by Staci, an Asst Site Director.  Edlira, part of the ACT staff, and an adorable Albanian, is also a TA.  So far this means I send mass-emails and recieve questions every time I leave my room, and for good measure there are emails waiting when I’m back in my room. I also was up at 7am Tuesday, excorting students to their service-learning placement.  More on how that went later. TAing this class is one of the aspects of the job I was most excited about.  Ideally, I want to someday run/work for study abroad that fuses together cultural/political awareness with concrete social justice action.  To that end, I’m really enjoying the experiential (hands-on, discussion-based) pedagogy of the Global Experience class, as well as the culture, justice, and critical-thinking subject matter. This week’s assignment was a blog post on the role of education in creating citizens, the possibility of the American Dream, how discrimination and prejudice inhibit societal change, and which community issues are of greatest concern. Personally, I believe education is the way to create citizens.  Of course if you’re reading this blog, you will notice that I consider all kinds of things to constitute my education: classes, free lectures, film festivals, museum visits, outside reading, embassy visits, television shows (yes, I’m serious), live performance, travel, community service, and...
Mata los Indios

Mata los Indios

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Mata Revisited

This week I will be returning to Mata los Indios, the small batey in Monte Plata where I spent spring break, assessing poverty, digging a foundation and attempting to bring micro-finance to a poor, rural population.  As of when you read this, I will be on my way back to that place of no internet, bucket showers and crushed frogs.  I had been itching to get back since getting here, but now it seems like it is so suddenly upon me. Recently, we got the green light from Esperanza to continue moving toward micro-credit in Mata los Indios and the surrounding area.  I know we had been told before that it was a good chance we would have success, but being back in this country and not knowing the verdict had me itching.  Going into bateyes again with so many failed borrowers had me feeling a little hopeless, a little worried that nothing could ever change in Mata, even if we helped provide he intervention from Esperanza. Now that we’re returning to Mata, I feel like we all have a firmer grasp of what we’re doing, why and how.  We’ve seen people both better and worse off than those in Mata, those who have been able to succeed in improving from that standing and those who have failed.  Our survey-creation, -delivery and -evaluation skils have improved with experience. Right now I’m just looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and getting to work on my project’s business plan, so that maybe I can accelerate some assistance and learn a little in the process. Share this:Click to email this to...

Starving Children

I hate the argument that you cannot let a child starve, that it is some sort of moral imperative. It is a logical fallacy. If you really believed that it is impossible, immoral and unacceptable to turn your back on a starving child, you wouldn’t be doing it constantly, millions of times over.  You would be selling all your stuff and feeding the millions of starving children all over the world with the money.  But we don’t, because that isn’t efficient, and that isn’t effective. What confuses me is that on a micro level, people suddenly see it as the only option.  Perhaps exploring other options, and fully examining the potential foibles and pitfalls of food aid is in order, rather than leaping into it. Feeding starving people is an emotionally driven action.  It’s personally satisfying, which is nice for you.  It provides a great hero moment; it makes you feel nice about reducing human suffering.  But are you actually reducing human suffering?  What about inciting food riots, putting locals out of business, or creating dependence?  To be clear, I’m not arguing for inaction.  I’m arguing in favor of thoughtfulness, of consideration, of logical decision making.  I agree that hunger is heartbreaking, and theoretically unacceptable.  But I don’t think the best way to stop it is to hand out cheeseburgers and sacks of American-grown corn all over the world, either. People always tell me they, “couldn’t sleep at night,” if they ignored that hungry child.  But that makes it about us, the outside observers, rather than about the child, and what they really need.  And who says the child...

Things to Consider Before Voluneering Abroad

Volunteering can be a rewarding addition to your life, whether at home or abroad.  However, an unfamiliar language, foreign setting, presence of extreme need and an attempt to set up your volunteering before you leave home can leave youe vulnerable.  You want to make sure that everyone involved benefits from the experience, so a little research (like talking to former volunteers) is imperative.  Cost.  I’m not saying you should never pay to volunteer, but I have a strict policy that I will never pay someone for the priviledge to work for them.  If they are honestly providing me with something, however, I’m willing to at least check it out.  So what are you getting for your money?  Often it’s lodging, some meals, or even round-trip airfare.  Figure out what exactly “on-site support” means, and whether it is worth it to you.  Sometimes, the cheapest thing and the easiest thing isn’t the same, so figure out your priorities and pick an organization that matches yours. Location.  Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for every place, climate or situation on earth.  Feel free to test yourself and expand your horizons, but don’t set yourself up to fail.  Why are you doing this?  If you don’t know the point of your trip as well as individual projects, it’s harder to decide the best way to do them.  Try to learn the overaching as well as immediate goals of the organization as well as your career as a volunteer.  Are you taking away the job of a local?  This is a big one.  In Cuba, for example, volunteering or working as...

Ten Things No One Tells You About Study Abroad

You will have at least one nervous breakdown. People don’t really want to hear that much about your trip.  30 seconds or less will do. Other countries are really not that scary.  The people are pretty much just like us–they just dress, talk and act different, and eat different food. Some days, it will suck. This is because it is real life, not an extended vacation.  So laugh and keep moving.  Even if you have to fake it, you probably won’t notice when you stop needing to. You will spend too much money. No matter how carefully you pack, you will have brought too much, and still manage to have left behind something you totally miss It’s harder to adjust to life back home at the end of the trip than life away from home at the beginning. Everyone gets in.  Well, pretty close to it. Everyone lies about how perfect study abroad is.  Study abroad is awesome, but not perfect.  I promise, your friends don’t post pictures, blogs or status updates about feeling overwhelmed, having trouble making friends, or being ridiculously homesick.  No one wants to admit “defeat” especially since everyone else’s time seems so perfect.  But everyone is having their rough days, too. You will, in fact, spend the same amount of time on facebook and watching movies/television as you did back home. Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click...

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