Dorie studied abroad with AIFS in South Africa in 2011, and our fantastic Alumni Ambassador, Elle, just caught up with her high-school friend to see what she is doing and how the Service Learning Program impacted her.
A little background
I am from College Station, Texas (whooooop!) and I went to the University of Alabama where I majored in Political Science. Presently, I attend Boston University School of Public Health where I am working on my degree in International Health.
On choosing South Africa
I never really had a huge interest in studying abroad in Europe. I appreciate those who do and did, but I just wanted something different. I picked up an AIFS booklet, among others, and started thumbing through the different options. I found the South Africa trip and immediately decided that it was something I wanted to do. I felt like I would get a unique experience and one that would make me stand out compared to others. I saw that the LSCE program previously did work with HIV/AIDS and that immediately peaked my interest.
On Service Learning
My time abroad was much different than what most consider “study abroad.” My Service Learning program had a special application process, and I was one of about 15 selected to participate. The first week I was in Stellenbosch (about 15-20 minutes outside of Cape Town) we had a week long class that went over the history of South Africa. After that, those that were in the LSCE group (Learning for Sustainable Community Engagement program) began the education portion of our program. The first week of this program entailed learning about what it means to be involved in a sustainable community program. It sounds like a simple explanation, but there is a lot of theory and communication skills to learn. You can’t go into a community and tell them what they should do to fix a problem. You have to hear what they want, learn from them and show them alternatives. It’s called a sustainable solution for a reason; if you were to leave the community it should continue without your presence.
On Graduate School
I always planned on going to graduate school, however public health wasn’t my area of interest until after I returned. Before, I was specifically interested in Public Administration and policy. Over time and additional research, I found that I was much more interested in health and education. My time abroad, and the work I did in a low resource setting among such a beautiful group of kids definitely inspired me to go into public health.
I would say that my trip abroad was my inspiration, and has continued to be my inspiration.
On applying to Graduate School
My study abroad experience was basically my entire personal statement for my application. I used the experience I had, and what I learned in the essay, and I definitely think it helped me get in. The fact that I had some experience in Public Health helped me stand out compared to someone who did not study abroad, or went abroad to a more generic place.
I am currently working on obtaining an internship (practicum requirement for PH students) abroad in South Africa. PH students are required to do a practicum to gain real world experience, and it can be abroad or within the country. Ultimately, I would absolutely love to do work in South Africa. I love community health and, more specifically, health education, so if I could obtain a job with an NGO or even a community health center in Cape Town I would be ecstatic!