For three amazing weeks this summer I was in Malawi accomplishing two of my biggest dreams: empowering young women (internationally, bonus!) and traveling to Africa.
I never would have guessed that I would study abroad because during my undergraduate degree I was so against it. I was mainly against the financial aspect of the experience and resented how much money I thought it cost to study overseas. As I entered my graduate degree, I found out about the trip to Malawi and I could not help but get excited. I knew this trip would be the perfect match for me and the goals I have for my future and at that point, I knew I could not put a price on the experience of a lifetime. If there is somewhere that is on the top of your list to travel to, like Africa was for me, you should deeply consider making the trip. Details like age and financial status should not hold someone back from living their dream.
Not only did the Malawi experience help me check a place off of my travel wish list, but it also helped me gain a professional experience I will never forget. As part of the service learning component to the trip, I was a lead on the Young Women’s Initiative. This initiative works to empower and educate young women affiliated with the Malawi Children’s Mission. While overseas, our Binghamton group was able to offer education on general women’s health topics, lessons on how to make reusable sanitary products, and empower the women by enhancing self-esteem and self-image through a few activities. There was nothing more fulfilling or rewarding to be told how valuable it was for the young women to know how to make their own sanitary products, which will now be something they can share with their families. This is a skill that will carry-on for generations to come. Working with the Young Women’s Initiative was an experience I hope will direct my career search, as working with those students and giving them a new skill was something that fulfilled me greatly.
In Malawi I was able to achieve a few of my goals, but the country was so much more than I could have ever expected. It allowed me to recognize how materialistic people in the United States are, the vast number of opportunities we have at our finger tips, and how much more beautiful life is when we slow down and appreciate each other and the world we live in. In the United States, the days of talking to strangers are a thing of the past. I will not forget walking into a grocery store in Malawi and people wanted to know my story – who I was and how I got there – I was caught completely off-guard, but the civility of the strangers I encountered was truly humbling and has since been something I have tried to mimic. Among the beautiful people are beautiful scenes and beautiful animals (okay, not the tree spiders) and in all seriousness, I could have not had a better experience in Malawi and I encourage all to visit this wonderful country.
Best of luck in your trek to Malawi,
Danielle Peebles, a Social Work graduate student, studied abroad on the Malawi: Service Learning and Community Development program during summer 2017.