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Kenya | Panthers Abroad

Maasai Mara, Kenya| Megan Waage| Winter 2020 | Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Why did you want to study abroad and to this location specifically?

I have always loved to travel and I have a profound desire to practice nursing on an international level. Despite this, traveling to Africa was not on the top of my to-do list until this program, Community Healthcare in Kenya, was presented to me in one of my nursing classes Fall of 2019. The decision to go on this trip and the true extent of the actuality of it all never set in until I was sitting on an Ethiopian Airliner. As a result, this impulsive decision was of the best that I have made — beyond better than rescuing my quirky cat named Nug. She would not know what to think if she encountered some of the cats we saw on our safari in Maasai Mara. (Giraffe Pictured: Dave the Giraffe)

In what ways was this country the most different from living in the U.S.?

With obvious cultural differences aside, like food, clothing, and language, Kenya was the most different from living in the U.S. because of the ways in which people interacted and cared for one another. The saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” is actually an African proverb — a proverb in which is not just a saying, but a way of life for those that I encountered throughout my trip. From taking in five orphans, raising them as their own, to carrying our luggage, the people we met along the way were completely and utterly selfless.

What did a typical day look like for you?

Our group often woke early to eat breakfast and prepare for our day. We would then travel to our destination for the day, interacting with people in a variety of ways. Our group listened to stories, taught lessons based on public health initiatives, and lived in the moment. A typical day is difficult to describe, as each day was different in its own way. Whether it was the places we visited or the stories we heard, each day was filled with intense cultural immersion. Our group visited an orphanage, Kenyatta National Hospital, and Itumbi Primary School — just to name a few locations. Every interaction supplemented our learning and daily discussions in ways unattainable in a classroom setting.

How much did this trip impact your educational experience and in what ways?

This trip exceeded all of my expectations and ultimately benefited the development of my own personal cultural competency by humiliating my understanding or lack there of. The experiences had increased my respect for other cultures than my own. They intensified the realization that one can never be completely knowledgeable of another person’s ways of life. As ambassadors changing the aid front, we can stand with those in need, helping in ways that actually meet their needs instead of just completing our own preconceived checklists of donations. Lastly, this overall educational experience rekindled my desire to work internationally and with all people.

What was your favorite memory from the trip?

One of my favorite memories from my study abroad in Kenya would be the one-on-one that I had with a group of students at the Itumbi Primary School. We sat in the dirt drawing simple pictures in the sand — I would draw, say a square, and the students would copy one by one without saying a word. To me, this memory reminds me that connections can be made despite a language barrier, because the simplistic nature of kindness is universal.

I am a firm believer in the benefits of immersive education, as preconceived notions and agendas from overseas are often debunked when exposed to another culture. Thank you to the faculty, team members, and donors that made this experience possible. A huge thank you in part to Dr. Kako, Dr. Klingbeil, and the Conway Family of the Rita Mae Conway Scholarship.

This could be you! Check out the options we have for studying abroad here. If you’re interested in learning more, the Center for International Education is located in Garland Hall, Room 138 or can be contacted at (414) 229–4846 and cie@uwm.edu.

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