In the fall of 2012 I traveled abroad on the Kenya Semester Program, experiencing East Africa in an unbelievable way. The program provided us with opportunities to learn about urban and rural growth and development in Kenya, covering environmental issues, refugees, cultural changes, political tensions, and ethnic cleavages. We spent time in Tanzania, studying the difference between pastoralism, agriculture, and the live of hunter-gatherers in the world today. Sharing these experiences with my peers allowed me to immerse myself in a foreign country and bridge the culture gap in a unique way. However, my travels did not end there.
Before I left for Kenya, I discussed travel opportunities with my advisor, Professor Matt Carotenuto. He encouraged me to apply for the VILAS grant, which would allow me to travel to Rwanda to study post-genocide reconstruction during the Independent Study portion of the semester. My task was to then find a legitimate organization to work with to fulfill required internship project. When I was unable to do so, I worried that I would not make it to Rwanda. However, after making changes to my proposal and resubmitting it, I was cleared to carry out my research after the Kenya Program ended.
I spent seven days in Rwanda studying the ways in which the Rwandan government teaches the history of the genocide to the new generation. I bought the texts which the government provides children, and I spent each day visiting genocide sites and memorials. To risk sounding cliché, my experience was incredible. Rwanda's small size does not represent a lack of diversity, as the country proves to be stunning, from the shores of Lake Kivu to the streets of Kigali, the capital city. My research was eye opening and will be the focus of my SYE. Through this opportunity grant I was able to use my study abroad experience as a base for further developing my academic interests.