Josie Cipriano

Josie Cipriano
Josie Cipriano
Global Studies: African Studies & Development; French
Peace Studies
Severna Park, MD
SLU Interfaith Student Council; Singing Sinners

When I was 15, I found my passion. I spent 4 weeks of the summer before my junior year in high school in a small village called Frank’s Eddy in Belize, Central America. I, along with 17 other American high school students, worked with the people of the village to build a community center in which they could sell handmade clothing, fresh corn tortillas, and other handcrafted items to tourists, thereby bringing money into their struggling community. Over the course of those 4 weeks, I learned so much about myself, my community in Belize. This experience changed my life because it taught me that I could make a difference in the lives of other people. It fueled my desire to dedicate my life to social justice.

So, flash forward to the college-searching process a few years later, and it’s easy to see why I was looking for a school that offered study abroad opportunities, valued unbiased education of other cultures, and encouraged global citizenship. I’m happy to say that, so far, St. Lawrence has delivered. This past semester (the fall of my sophomore year), I studied abroad in Rouen, France, and it’s the best thing I’ve done so far at SLU. While there, I had the opportunity to travel to Paris, Belgium, Germany, and Greece, exposing myself to new languages and cultures throughout the semester.  I also had two Swiss-German host sisters who taught me about their lives in Switzerland. The most memorable place I visited while abroad, though, was Senegal in West Africa.

The week that the program took us to Senegal will always stand out among my memories. It was the week where I first experienced  meaningful culture shock (since Belize), where I first heard Wolof (the national language of Senegal), and where I first traveled to the African continent.  The people are amazing, the language is beautiful, and the culture is vibrant. I’m already planning my trip back.

My life back at SLU after being abroad is driven by my desire to learn as much as I can so that I can take that knowledge back out into the world with me. I’m double majoring in Global Studies and French, with a concentration in African Studies and Development. I’m also a Peace Studies minor, which I absolutely love. Currently, I’m working with Invisible Children, an amazing NGO dedicated to ending the 25-year-long war in Uganda, to raise money for their new ‘Protection Plan’ that will save thousands of lives in central Africa.

So, as of now, I can count to ten in 7 languages, but I can only speak two with ease: French and English. This doesn’t mean I’m stopping there, though. Right now, I’m trying to learn Wolof, and am hoping to study abroad in Senegal for a full semester next year in order to practice speaking this amazing language. I am also hoping to learn another ethnic Senegalese language while I’m there – maybe Pulaar or Sereer,

As far as my life after graduation is concerned, I’m dreaming of joining the Peace Corps, but after that I’m open to anything. I really want to work in Africa, more specifically West Africa, and eventually develop my own NGO. Whatever I end up doing, though, I know that I will have been well prepared by all of the experiences that SLU has allowed me to have. I will never forget my semester abroad, and I’m already beyond excited for my next adventure.