After graduating high school in June 2011, I spent three months in Ghana working for a non-governmental organization and filming my own documentary. I returned just 10 hours before I was to move into my dorm at Savannah College of Art and Design. I completed my fall quarter of college and headed back to Chicago for winter break, the first time I’d been home in six months. I realized that although SCAD is an amazing school it just wasn’t what I was looking for in a college. It lacked the global education and vast study abroad options, and only offered art related classes. My three months in Ghana reassured that I wanted to go into documentary filmmaking and non-profit management, both which were not offered at SCAD. I wanted to chase the dreams and would stop at nothing to achieve my goals. I knew where I wanted to end up and SCAD just didn’t seem like the road to get there. So I made the mature decision to transfer to another school at the beginning of the next academic year in fall 2012. I tossed around the ideas of going back to Ghana and taking classes at a local community college but finally landed on doing a gap semester trip. Gap semesters (or gap years) are when college students don’t want to study in a normal school environment but still want to continue their education. I wanted to continue studying but the idea of being trapped between four walls in a classroom just didn’t settle right with me. I searched for different trips but only found one that seemed to fit just right.
After reading the mission of Carpe Diem Education, “Inspiring growth and transformation through experiential education, community and intercultural exchange”, I knew this was the organization I wanted to spend my semester with. They believe in the power of authentic cultural exchange, growth through pushing one’s comfort zones, the creative spark and potential for tremendous social change that lie in each of us and the growth and inherent value of every student, and that every student returns home a changed and more aware individual and global citizen. The organization hits on some very important ideas of mine so it’s a natural fit.
I will be embarking on their East Africa trip this spring 2012. The Africa gap semester boasts rich opportunities for living and working alongside like-minded individuals and organizations committed to the empowerment of local Ugandan and Tanzanian communities. Experience the contradiction of impoverished groups residing in lush landscapes and the broad, white smiles from orphans faced with the adversity of the AIDS epidemic. Safari the Ngorongoro Crater, participate in environmental conservation efforts in Tanzania, build houses or schools for needy communities, and practice your newly-learned Swahili while volunteering alongside locals. Challenge yourself by taking a leadership role in the group’s travel, then reward all of your hard work by earning open water SCUBA certification in Zanzibar at the end of your semester. More than any other, this semester is rooted in diverse volunteer opportunities that all involve “getting your hands dirty” while loving every minute of it.
I can not wait to get back to Africa and feel the warm sun hit my shoulders, to see the smiling faces of the children, and to learn another African language. It will feel like the best welcome I’ve ever received. Africa is where I belong and soon I’ll be back home.
Read all my blog posts and updates from my 3 months in East Africa here.