After a very successful inaugural year in 2015, Dr. Ellen Brinks will be taking CSU students to Livingstone, Zambia from May 22-June 11, 2016 to contribute to community education and community health initiatives. For three weeks, they will be taking part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). The following pre-trip field report is written by Madeline Kasic.
As an English education major I originally thought studying abroad would take me to England to pore over the works of Shakespeare, Marlow, Beckett (who is actually Irish), Dickens, and hopefully J.K. Rowling. Studying English literature in its native country would be an amazing experience, and is something I hope to someday have the opportunity to do; but at this stage of my life I want an experience abroad that would offer me a new perspective and help me gain experience towards my goal of becoming a teacher. Unfortunately, no matter how wonderful literature is, and the inexplicable way reading allows us a window into the experience of others, there is something to be said for gaining experience firsthand.
Enter the opportunity to teach and do community service in Zambia. When I first heard of the program I did not know what to think of it. Zambia offered all the experiences I was seeking, but I did not know what I was seeking when I began looking at study abroad programs.
My realization of how incredible this opportunity might be happened slowly over Thanksgiving break after my adviser recommended the program to me for the second time. I was staying in my uncle’s town house in Frisco, CO where my younger brother was frantically filling out college applications. He inspired me to get my own computer out and start working on finding a study abroad program for the summer. I found myself taking a closer look at the organization African Impact that Dr. Brinks was working with to create her program and something sparked. Here was a program that would help me gain experience in the field of education and take me somewhere I would never have thought to go otherwise. It was the opportunity to help people, become a better teacher, and gain a new outlook on the world.
The next morning, I told my family that I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, and they were stunned. My parents were comfortable with the idea of me fending for myself in Europe because we had taken a few family vacations there and had lived in France for six months when I was little, making Europe an easy place for them to visualize me by myself. I also have relatives in France so there would be someone relatively close by if I needed help, which helped set their minds at ease. But now I was presenting a very different idea of how I wanted to spend my summer.
My uncle started looking up facts about Zambia on his phone while my parents and aunt began asking me questions about the county and the program. We quickly discovered a couple of facts: I would be in Zambia during the dry season, the Zambian government is relatively stable; Zambia is landlocked and bordered by seven countries; that just outside the city of Livingstone (where the program takes place) is Victoria Falls, one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world; and there was the ever so slight chance that I would see my brother’s favorite animal the Pangolin.
The more questions were asked the more excited I became. I was planning a journey that was different from what I was expected to do, and that made me feel like I was making the right choice. I don’t identify as a rebel, but I do believe that the best things happen when we reach for the unexpected. As a teacher, I want to empower my students to think outside the box, and go take the chances they feel need to be taken, making this trip to Zambia a chance to practice what I plan to preach.
My hope is that by teaching and serving in Zambia I will gain a better understanding of what our world needs to successfully continue into the future. I believe that education is one of the best ways to help enable young people to inherit the world and to make better choices than their predecessors.
After deciding to go to Zambia came the many stages of getting to Zambia. It started with applying to Dr. Brinks’ program. I enjoyed the shock and awe that accompanied my friends’ reactions to my summer plans, and as I looked further into the program I decided to extend the original three week trip by eight more weeks, enabling me to stay with the Zambian class I will be working with for almost their full term.
Then after I was accepted into the program came the academic and physical preparations for the trip. To prepare academically the other students going to Zambia and I read A Thousand Hills to Heaven by Josh Ruxin, Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind by Curtis A. Keim, The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell and a number of short essays depicting the experiences of aid volunteers in third world countries. And to prepare physically we each subjected ourselves to multiple vaccinations to protect ourselves against typhoid, malaria, and yellow fever.
My hope is that by teaching and serving in Zambia I will gain a better understanding of what our world needs to successfully continue into the future. I believe that education is one of the best ways to help enable young people to inherit the world and make better choices than their predecessors. This applies to me as well as my future students. Through this trip I hope to not only educate myself, but help the youth of Zambia receive an education as well as emerge with a story and example for my future American students of how they can impact the world.