With graduation on the horizon, Park Scholar seniors reflect on their time at IC
Saturday, March 23, 2013
By Jenna Jablonski, '13
Like many Park Scholars will tell you, volunteering isn’t something we do on the side; it becomes the fabric of our college experience. For me, community service makes up some of my most vivid memories and defining moments from college. One of these experiences was spending this past summer volunteering in Uganda.
First of all, doing Operation Crossroads Africa was not something I expected myself to do. I knew it was something that Park Scholars had pursued in summers past, but for me? “Eh,” I thought. “I should get an internship instead.” Besides, the prospect of being sent to any country in Africa to volunteer for eight weeks was a lot to consider.
But when the opportunity came up, I couldn’t say no. I should add that a magical scholarship known as the Reginald R. Simmons Award sponsors two students – a communications and a politics major – to do Operation Crossroads Africa. I couldn’t help but think – when else will I get to spend a whole summer volunteering, especially in Africa? And when else will I be able to do this for free? I accepted the opportunity with three vague objectives in mind: 1) cultural immersion 2) community service and 3) fun.
Before I knew it, I was launched into one of the most peaceful and enriching experiences of my life. A group of seven students and I set out to volunteer with a local NGO in community health. During the day, we led women’s groups, built things, and visited clinics, and then we would play with the kids in our village until the sun went down. We all sort of fell into our roles, and I found my niche teaching English grammar at the local primary school. I had never pictured myself in front of a classroom of sixty sixth-graders, but what began as a daunting task became my favorite part of the week.
This experience contrasted greatly with my typical chaotic college semester. I lived day by day and was constantly fully immersed in my surroundings. Likewise, without electricity or much technology, nothing existed to distract us from building amazing friendships with team members and our newfound Ugandan friends – people I’m still close with today. Furthermore, this summer reminded me that I don’t have to be doing, doing, doing all the time; simply enjoying my company, absorbing my surroundings, and contributing what I could taught me just as much and maybe even more than my grueling semesters.
I am so thankful that the Park Scholar program has always encouraged me to go out of my comfort zone and explore the world and myself. Each experience seems to unexpectedly, yet seamlessly, lead to the next, ultimately allowing me to discover what inspires me most. And I know that my inspiration, as my compass, won’t steer me wrong when I go to decide the next steps in my journey.
Next » « Previous