Seeking a journey: When I saw that Professor Kerner was taking students to Tanzania I was thrilled because the trip was coming at the perfect time in my life. I wanted to get out in the world. I wanted to step away from a sheltered life I seemed to be living and to broaden my horizons and expand my mind a bit.
Letting go of preconceptions: I was expecting a lot of things and had several preconceived ideas about what Africa was going to be like. I was expecting to see poverty, unhappiness and very little opportunity for the people. To a degree I was right. There was poverty everywhere and very little opportunity (most prominently regarding education for students). It cut me deep when I saw the lives these people lived. But the one thing that put me at ease and really impacted me was how happy people were. They were so kind, generous and thankful for everything they had. The hospitality was unbelievable. It was surprising at first to see such happiness. They live each day to the fullest and live comfortably and happily with what they have. I admire that. I took that observation home with me and will always carry it with me.
The most memorable experience: We had a final dinner with our host families. One of my host brothers, Dusten, who is about 8 years old, attended our dinner. From the day I met him and stayed with his family he was very shy and quiet. Throughout the time I stayed with my host family Dusten would never talk with me or the other student I was staying with. However on the last day I had with Dusten, I noticed he was really sad and still very quiet. Something seemed different though. When we had to say goodbye to our families, I noticed that Dusten was crying and burying his face into his father’s leg. He was sad that we were leaving, I later found. He held my hand for quite some time and we walked to the bus together. I hugged him and he held on for a little bit and then we said goodbye. Although Dusten did not say a word to me all week, that one emotion showed me that I did have an impact on his life. I spent my trip there trying to figure out if I was making any difference, and I did to someone who is very special to me.
Universal truth: This trip has slowly helped me discover who I am and what I want to contribute to the world. I want to be accountable. I want to make a difference, and I want to experience the lives of others who are so different yet so similar to me. It doesn’t matter where we live in the world, what our values or ideals are or what we do for a living that matters. We are all trying to live the life we were given and we are no different to the person living next to us.