Education Abroad Broadens Students' Horizons

Education Abroad Students

Spanning the globe in search of new educational experiences, four Kennesaw State students have…

Georgia (Feb 3, 2012)

Spanning the globe in search of new educational experiences, four Kennesaw State students have shared in personal essays some insights as to what they have learned about different cultures and how they successfully adapted to their new environments.

The Education Abroad Office of the Institute for Global Initiatives recently honored the winners of an essay contest during an open house at their new location on the first floor of the Town Point building.  The group moved from Willingham Hall in January.

“Almost a thousand KSU students participated in international study programs last year, and we’re seeing more and more students wanting to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to broaden their education abroad every year,” said Dan Paracka, director of the Education Abroad Office. “We congratulate these four individuals on their accomplishments. They are at the heart of everything we do.”  

Although each student went to a different country, they shared many of the same joys and challenges that come with international travel.  Each came back a little bit wiser in the ways of the world and with plenty of great memories that will last a lifetime.

Excerpts from the essays are below.

First-place: Johanna Leskinen was based near Cape Town, South Africa, where she taught science to ninth grade students.

A fly, that had most likely wafted in through the open window, floated lazily back and forth, making certain to pay a visit to each of our sweat-shined faces.   For a while, it was the only sound present – a familiar one, most likely, for the dusty classroom. I looked around with a growing anxiety as children’s voices drifted along the doorway, with a few materializing into grinning entities that planted themselves into plastic lawn chairs around our oblong table.  My seat, though, was a padded office chair: the teacher’s seat.  I felt like anything but a teacher.  On the first day,  I rolled around nervously there at the end of the table, attempting to maintain an air of authority with an excellent posture and clutched hands, which struck me as futile because frankly, the ninth graders before me stood at almost the same height or taller than I.  

We spent those first few sessions standing our ground, communicating with confused glances as I flailed my arms around and scribbled pictures on scraps of paper.  Many times they would feel overwhelmed as I directed a question toward them, and they sunk into their creaking plastic chairs shyly in defeat.  The language barrier was as permissive as the graffiti-ornamented concrete wall that enclosed Kayamandi itself.  The kids struggled with the intricacies of the English language, and mumbled to each other with the characteristic clicks and drops of the Xhosa language most of the time. I realized that for this to work, I would have to get experimental with my techniques.  Many times a certain flustered student would scamper into my room after class and place a text-heavy worksheet in front of me. “How to do it, teacher?” he would stutter, not even being able to attempt the first sentence of the instructions.

Second-place: Eddy Hallmark went to Guatemala, where he helped the locals further the cause of social entrepreneurship in their community.

Mornings came earlier than expected in Guatemala.  Each morning, the family rooster would crow around 4:00 a.m., again at 5:00 a.m. and finally at 6:00 a.m. when the sun actually rose.  I jokingly told my home-stay family the rooster needed a new clock to tell time.  On Saturday, the first day of our sales campaign, it was I who woke before the rooster.  At 3:30 a.m., I looked out my window to see the rooster perched on an old bicycle; he appeared slightly disappointed or at least annoyed to see someone awake before he had the opportunity to crow.

This morning was unlike others, because instead of going into the city of Antigua, we were headed into the country to a small village called Chimaltenago.  We traveled multiple hours in a series of buses and ultimately in a small, motorized taxi or an auto rickshaw called a Tuk-Tuk.  When we finally arrived in Chimaltenago, there was a small line of local villagers waiting outside the community center.  The regional coordinators, Yoli and Clara Luz, had traveled to the village earlier that week and informed the local people the KSU students would be coming on Saturday.  We unloaded eye glasses, solar lamps and water filters from the motorized taxis and began setting up for the sales campaign.

We were greeted by Paola, the local Mayan Katchequel entrepreneur, who had been trained by Yoli and Clara Luz.  She was excited to see so many volunteers and equally pleased by the line of local customers.  For Paola, social entrepreneurship has two benefits:  first, it provides needed products, such as eyeglasses and water filters, to the local people; second, it gives local entrepreneurs, like Paola, the opportunity to earn income for their families.

Third-place: Kayleigh Palmer traveled to Peru, where she learned an important life lesson in self-reliance.

Growing up, my parents always encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone. On May 31, 2011, I not only left my comfort zone but my comfort planet and universe. It was my first day of class in Lima, and my host mother, Rosa, agreed to ride the bus to Universidad del Pacífico with me to help me figure out my daily route for the next five weeks. As we boarded the raucous, overcrowded bus, she began asking people how to get to the university. Apparently Rosa never took the bus since she and her husband Emilio owned a car. They were very lucky that they did, because the bus was full of curious people like the guitar man yowling about the beauty of life.  

 With the help of a kind lady, we arrived at a stop that was a 20-minute walk from the school. Since I was late for class, Rosa hailed a cab for us. It was quiet, fast and free of strangers who fall asleep on the shoulders of unsuspecting gringas (an actual occurrence later that month.) I was mentally praising the merits of the taxi when the driver screeched to a halt in the middle of the street and whipped us into reverse. Forget traffic laws, we had missed our turn, and backing up into horn-honking, rapidly approaching traffic was apparently the only solution. Rosa was not perturbed in the slightest, so I did my best to stifle my anxiety.

After class, we had a break before we would need to return for an afternoon meeting. Since all of the other students lived close enough to walk back to their homes for lunch, I set out to find somewhere to eat alone.  I walked indecisively for over half an hour trying to find a place that seemed safe yet affordable. During my search, I tried to find the bus stop where I would catch the bus home, but I never found it.

Honorable Mention: Lily Wilkerson studied in Ireland, where she had the experience of a lifetime when the Queen of England visited the historic country for the first time in almost a century.

As a girl, I wanted to be the Queen of England. Not a girl swept away by a handsome knight, or a princess in pearls and gowns, I simply wanted to be the Queen. I believed she was the personification of class and dignity, and a high school trip to England cemented my admiration. I wanted to grow up and be somebody.

Years after this girlhood dream, as a young womanI stand in front of the General Post Office, O’Connell Street, Dublin. Ireland’s police force, the Garda, barricade the street. I can hear distant, angry chanting and closer, the crackle of an officer’s radio. My classmates surround me, conversation giving way to the cold. The sky is gray, and the city is nervous.

We are about to witness the Queen’s first visit to Ireland in nearly a hundred years. I am about to set eyes on my longtime idol, and Dublin, the city that has lately captured my heart, is in chaos.

I want to choose sides. The history between Ireland and England is bloody, and the scars have only barely begun to heal. I feel that I should join the protesters, as Dublin clearly still lacks a sense of identity. I want Dubliners to make this city their own, and I want them to do it without assistance from the symbol of their subjection. At the same time, I want to grab hands with those around me and talk in hushed whispers about the Queen making history, her goodness and goodwill, and the past finally being put to rest. I want to support the Queen, how can I not? My whole life I have put the monarchy on a pedestal, but now everything I have learned about this city wants me to tear it down.

The essays will be published in consecutive issues of the KSU Sentinel, beginning Feb. 7. You can also read the complete essays and see photos the student took on their travels by visiting:

(Photo caption) Dan Paracka, director, Education Abroad, presented awards to essay winners during an open house at the Education Abroad Office of the Institute for Global Initiatives. (L-r) Johanna Leskinen, First Place; Eddy Hallmark, Second Place; Paracka; Kayleigh Palmer, Third Place; and Lily Wilkerson, Honorable Mention.

By Robert S. Godlewski


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