September 2, 1988
Monmouth College; Class 2011; B.A. in Business Administration
When I was in my first year of high school, my theology teacher wanted us to write a "bucket list". Well my bucket list started out with some unrealistic dream because when you are young, nothing seems impossible. On my list, I wrote: "Travel to Africa and help with the HIV/AIDS epidemic". I really didn't know what was the true inspiration behind my desire to travel to Africa, but I knew that it had to be done. After I wrote that list, I would take it out once in a while to sometimes check things off or change the items that seemed unrealistic. However, there was one thing that was never checked off or crossed out.
During the summer going into my last year of college, I knew something had to be done. I wanted to find an internship that was fun, challenging and rewarding. Fortunately, I came across an organization that provided me with all of those requirements and more.
I signed up for an 8-week internship for the following summer, right after graduation. It was the best time of my life!
My whole world was turned upside down and I never wanted to go back home! Teaching in Africa was a dream come true and I now cannot imagine my life without it. Because of my past experience, I can now say that I have finally found my niche in life.
While I was in Moshi, I was teaching at a school for children from the ages of 3 - 7. I taught English, Math and Kiswahili alongside other volunteers. Teaching at the Faraja Orphan Center was a new experience for me considering I had never taught before. Although it was intimidating at first, I ended up falling in love with teaching. The children were amazing and I wish that I could have done more for them. They stole a piece of my heart every single day. When it came to me leaving, it was hard to resist the urge to grab them and put them in my pocket to take home. When reflecting on my experience, it is hard to put it into detailed words. All I know is that I learned more from those courageous, intelligent and beautiful children than what they learned from me.
During my Junior year in college, I watched a special feature on MTV about a group of celebrities climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for a project that brings clean water to villages. After watching the show, I promised myself that one day I will climb that mountain. At the time, I had no idea where in Africa the mountain was, nor how I would ever get there. A year passed by and an opportunity arose. I had a once in a lifetime chance to become a intern for an international volunteering organization. It was not a hard decision for me to choose to live in the Kilimanjaro region for two months. It was like a dream come true- Mt. Kilimanjaro was going to be my backyard.
Unfortunately, before my trip I knew that I was not going to have the funds to climb. I also did not think that I would even have the urge to climb because I knew I would be very busy. Well... I was wrong. I was busy, but I constantly had the mountain taunting me. Volunteers were leaving left and right to climb. And to make the situation even worse, I had to stare at the mountain everyday. Finally, I decided that the next time I returned to Tanzania, I would be conquering Mt. Kilimanjaro or, as I like to say, "Killing Kili".
Not reaching the summit, but I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that my concern does not become a reality.
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