Why did you pick this program?
Eliza: The University of Cincinnati's "Serve Beyond Cincinnati" student organization partners with both domestic and international organizations to volunteer and make the world a better place. We were placed with Jamaica Volunteer Programs to assist with working in an orphanage and primary school. I love children and service so I felt this was a perfect match for me...AND I WAS RIGHT! I loved the children so much!
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
Eliza: I encourage every single one of my friends to go abroad! In undergrad I studied in France and now this most recent trip has solidified my love for traveling. Even if one of my friends goes to an English speaking country I encourage them to go! I tell them traveling doesn't mean going to somewhere you don't know the language. Traveling is to experience a new culture, try something out of your comfort zone, and open your eyes to what the entire world has to offer.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
Eliza: The most important thing I learned abroad is openness and awareness of other cultures. I'm originally from a small rural Ohio town where there was barely any diversity. Being exposed to other cultures truly opened my eyes to the beauty of the world. But it also reminded me to count my blessings each day and to never take anything for granted.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
Eliza: My favorite experience was the first day at the orphanage. We arrived in the morning while the children were eating breakfast. We were waiting at a picnic table outside and marveling in the fact that the children only had a swing set in a concrete playground. The orphanage was exactly how you see it in movies, but living the experience was a whole different ball game.
Once the children finished eating we heard a woman tell them to go outside so we prepared to meet them. But as soon as they saw us they ran to us, climbed all in our laps, grabbed crayons off the table, and it was absolute chaos!!! These children had no idea who we were but they loved us immediately. We were complete strangers in their lives but they could not stop talking to us, getting us to play games, and demanding attention. It struck me as profoundly beautiful that children with no possessions or toys or anything to call their own could love so immensely.