Graduating fellows - the Influence of Undergraduate Travel-Study
Costa Rica, England, Fiji, Jordan, Rwanda, Uganda
“My specialization is international security, with a geographic focus on Africa. The support provided by the Foundation Fellowship has been instrumental in my academic and professional development in these fields. During the summer of 2010, I spent three months in East Africa, studying the Ugandan civil war and Rwandan genocide. Few undergraduates who study insurgency or genocide get the opportunity to meet former child soldiers or genocide survivors or to observe a post-conflict society in person. These experiences brought an unprecedented concreteness and humanity to the concepts and statistics that we study in international affairs.
“In December 2010, I attended the Mass Atrocity Response Operations workshop hosted by the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, where we discussed how the United States could use its political and military power to prevent or stop atrocities like those witnessed in Uganda and Rwanda. This issue is at the heart of my graduate research and career aims, so learning about the most current theoretical and policy developments from top researchers and practitioners was enlightening and inspiring. Thanks to the Foundation Fellowship, these formative experiences will continue to propel my academic and professional growth as I move on to further graduate studies in the United Kingdom next year.”
Costa Rica, Ecuador & Galapagos Islands, England, Jordan, Tanzania
“Riding up a mountain road in a rusty dala-dala van, my knees were pressed into the woman sitting opposite from me, trying not to stumble out of the open, sliding door. On our way to Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital, I was thousands of miles from home, but I was closer than I had ever been to confirming what I wanted to do with my life. Through Global Service Corps, I spent many weeks that summer in Nkoaranga, where my duties at the local village hospital included training the staff to use computers, making beds, dressing wounds, taking blood samples, performing various blood tests, assisting in childbirth, and even assisting with surgeries.
“My international experiences strengthened my conviction that pursuing a medical career is the right future for me. Moreover, my time abroad has led me to further appreciate all aspects of life – the traditions, arts, people, and foods of each unique culture. In a time when the face of medicine is changing and physicians must prepare to serve diverse populations, my experiences through the Foundation Fellowship will prove invaluable for a successful career and all other endeavors.”
Costa Rica, England, Fiji, India, Jordan, South Africa, Tanzania
“Talk to me about ecology and conservation now that I’ve jumped off waterfalls in Fiji and swum through endangered reefs. Talk to me about the scarcity of resources and the burdens of overcrowding now that I’ve fought for weeks for a spot on the train in India. Talk to me about the politics behind the war in the Middle East now that I’ve broken bread at dinner with Iraqis, Pakistanis, Jordanians, Palestinians and Afghanis. Suddenly the war in Iraq becomes an issue for a close friend – the scarcity of water in a region, a reality in my own life. And once I’ve seen and felt and heard and touched and tasted the hurts, the joys, and the differences of so many places in this world, they become more than words on a page – they become pieces of my heart. These experiences and people will forever shape my career, my actions, and my deepest desires, my prayers. That is education.
“I carry indelible marks from my experiences abroad. But rightfully and happily so! It’s impossible to go abroad for any significant portion of time and not come back changed. Think about how great this is, though! If you want to change your worldview, go view the world! Try thinking about war after you’ve visited the Normandy cemetery. Try discussing racial issues after you’ve spent time in Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island. Try studying architecture after you’ve seen Gaudi's Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. Or try thinking about public transportation in Athens, Georgia after you’ve ridden the trains in Mumbai, India!”
“Over the past four years, the Foundation Fellowship has granted me incomparable opportunities to explore my interests through independent travel. In the summer of 2008 after my sophomore year, I lived in Buenos Aires and worked with an agency called LIFE Argentina (Luchando por un Infancia Feliz con Esperanza). Every day, I traveled to La Ciudad Oculta or La Ferrerre, shantytowns outside of the city, to work with the children living in these high-risk environments. I helped the children with their homework, led health education sessions, and started a volleyball program for the girls to balance the long-established soccer program for the boys. One of the most beneficial projects I worked on was designing a drug awareness program. This project was unique in that it had to be relatable to very young children because the youth there are often addicted by age seven or eight.
“In the summer of 2009, I participated in a variety of different travel experiences. In early May, I traveled to the University of Hawaii at Manoa to conduct research on the DNA base adenine as an extension of my research in the Department of Physics at UGA. Next, I spent the majority of the summer living in the small village of Asebu, Ghana. There I worked in an orphanage, began laying the groundwork for building a free, self-sustaining school, and helped manage a professional soccer team designed to keep young men off the streets. After my months in Ghana, I traveled to Amaliada, Greece where I worked on an organic farm. I ended the summer in Toledo, Spain where I attended the XXIV International Conference on Photochemistry and gave a presentation on my research entitled ‘Time-Resolved Photoelectron Spectroscopy and the Photoprotective Properties of Adenine.’
“Through a wide variety of travel experiences, I have learned more about myself and the world than I ever imagined possible. As I embark upon the next phase of my life, these experiences continue to play an enormous role in shaping its course. My interest in intellectual property law was sparked by seeing the research of other labs and the ways they go about protecting their information. My interest in international human rights law is a direct result of all I have learned and experienced abroad. Regardless of which path I choose, I will carry with me the lessons I have learned, seeking always to expand my horizons and approaching each day as a new adventure.”
“The travel plans I enacted during my second and third summers at UGA were self-directed and purposefully off the beaten track. In the summer of 2008, I traveled to France and Japan for about five weeks each through the organization World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). My objectives were two-fold: to improve my language facility in French and Japanese and to study popular perspectives on environmental issues. In France I stayed with a host couple running a bed-and-breakfast and maintaining an organic garden. In Japan I worked with a rafting company with Japanese, Australian, and Nepali employees.
“The following summer, I set out to visit a variety of Buddhist and Christian living communities in Scotland, France, and Taiwan. In Scotland I visited an ecumenical Christian community on the breathtaking island of Iona and stayed with Benedictine monks in Pluscarden Abbey in the Scottish Highlands. In France I spent two-and-a-half weeks with the brothers and priests of L’Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval, a Catholic monastery where the monks guide the laity in spiritual retreats and produce texts and icons to sustain their contemplative lifestyle. In Taiwan I participated in the Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program hosted by Fo Guang Shan, which invites Westerners to learn about Buddhism and improve their cultural understanding.
“Such independent adventures naturally produced a great deal of contemplation – especially those including week-long, silent meditation retreats – but they also improved my linguistic skills and taught me to approach cultures different from my own in new ways. There is no way I would have had experiences as unique as these had I traveled with traditional study abroad programs, and I feel fortunate to have had the support of the Foundation Fellowship in pursuing these endeavors. I can honestly say that these journeys have changed my life in meaningful, substantive ways that I am only now beginning to understand.”
Domestic and international travels are integral parts of the Foundation Fellowship. Fellows enjoy unique, immersive learning opportunities all over the world through individual travel grants, spring break group travel-study, and a study abroad Maymester after the first undergraduate year.
“When I first came to UGA, I knew that above anything else, I wanted to do one thing: travel. For the past four years, I have had the amazing opportunity to fulfill this dream. As a freshman and sophomore, I spent my summers in Spain and Ecuador, immersing myself in the Spanish language. As a junior, I reached the pinnacle of my travel experiences, spending one semester interning in Washington, DC and the other living as an exchange student in Chile.
“Out of all of my travel experiences, these last two left the most profound marks on my academic, professional, and personal development. In our nation’s capital, I applied my academic understanding of international relations, analyzing recent changes in the Ecuadorian constitution and Brazilian oil industry and then predicting the effects of these changes on future U.S.–Latin American relations. Time in Washington, DC afforded me the chance to network with government professionals who encouraged and counseled me on working for the U.S. Foreign Service.
“In Chile, it goes without saying that my fluency in Spanish advanced by leaps and bounds. More importantly, however, was how the people, culture, and history of that country impacted my personal commitment to influencing U.S. foreign policy. I cannot forget a single lesson learned from each of these travels, for in the end, they are lessons that I will carry with me long after my time at UGA is complete.”
History and international affairs double-major Chris Chiego knows that adventure and academic research can go hand in hand. With a duffel bag and one phone number, Chris flew into East Africa last summer in search of information on recent violence in the wake of Kenya’s disputed presidential election. His goal was to piece together the reasons for such violence in hopes of preventing it from recurring in the future. He soon learned that making connections was not only easy and fun, but also invaluable if he wanted to progress with his research beyond readily available public documents. By making friends with the owners of a small Ethiopian restaurant close to his apartment, he secured a nice supply of free sodas to go with tasty Ethiopian dishes as well as the contact information of another American who had gone through their store a month earlier – and who had a vast network of contacts in the Kenyan human rights world. By the end of his stay, he had a large network of contacts to help him find new reports and sources and made several trips into the field to talk directly with those affected by the violence and see the charred remains of victims’ dwellings. He also had the opportunity to discuss with young Kenyans the relative merits of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
“As a result of my time in Kenya, I decided that a career in political science would be the ideal avenue for me to explore these questions of conflict. The opportunity for independent research with all the challenges and rewards of fieldwork added a welcome new dimension to the typical academic job. I also keep in touch with some of the people I met in Kenya and hope to return if I get the chance.”
Through medical internships and volunteer experiences on four continents, Sana Hashmi has learned the importance of listening, in all its forms. In Brazil, where she faced major language barriers, she learned to listen without words, communicating with her pediatric patients through games and gestures. An internship in South Africa taught her to hear the voices of those who could not speak. There she learned that children, especially those with HIV/AIDS, were silent victims of disease and despair. In India, she learned to listen to those ostracized by society and forced into silence. Treating parasitic diseases in Bombay slums; performing electrical therapy on leprosy patients; and educating Hijras, a “third-sex” population in India, about safe sex practices, she learned that listening to neglected communities is crucial because these populations are afflicted by some of the worst diseases but remain unrecognized because of health disparities. For Sana, a biology, microbiology, and religion triple-major who will enter Stanford University School of Medicine in the fall, medicine is a way to listen to those who cannot express their pain, and observing this firsthand helped her appreciate how medicine assists silent victims globally.
“The Foundation Fellowship has given me the blessing of actually changing the world, one patient at a time. I have performed wax therapy on leprosy patients, worked in one of the largest slums in Asia, distracted children during chemotherapy, comforted families and dying patients, and assisted in miraculous births,” said Sana. “I have become a stronger person, more driven to pursue my passion of medicine, more resourceful, more understanding, and more compassionate. I stopped being just Sana and started being someone else – a member of the global community.”
For Christopher Poe, travel-study was essential to his dual bachelor’s/master’s degrees in religion. In the summer before his third year, he spent eight weeks in Boston, Massachusetts, studying Biblical Hebrew at Harvard Divinity School. That same summer, Christopher spent 40 days in Egypt and Jordan, completing a directed reading on the Exodus and the Balaam son of Beor passage. In Amman, he examined the Deir Alla, the oldest inscription mentioning a biblical figure outside of the biblical text. From there, he traveled to Deir Alla, where the inscription was found. Christopher retraced the traditional route of the Exodus from Mount Nebo to the Nile. Along the way, he visited museums and archaeological sites for research and experienced the desert with modern Bedouins.
“During my college career, I had the opportunity to travel within five continents. I studied aboriginal religion in Australia, ecology in Ecuador, international justice in Bosnia and The Hague, and ancient inscriptions in Egypt and Jordan. All of my travel experiences were made possible by the Foundation Fellowship. These experiences allowed me to step outside the textbook and into the past. I was able to retrace the route of the exodus. I sailed on the Nile. I saw the oldest cave paintings in the world. I snorkeled along the Great Barrier Reef and studied Hebrew at the oldest divinity school in the United States. These experiences gave me the opportunity to understand the subjects I was studying in ways that I never could have with only a textbook.”