Celi Schoenike ’09
Environmental Humanities major Celi Schoenike ’09 spent a summer in Kenya with School for Field Studies (SFS), a summer in Morocco with the School for International Training (SIT), and a semester in Florence, Italy through Syracuse University.
I've never learned more about the things that are most important to me than in the field - actually out doing and learning through experimentation, intimidation, enthusiasm, courage, encouragement, camaraderie.
You've just got to jump over challenges when studying abroad..
- In Kenya: None. The Maasai staff and my peers were so friendly and loving, and the setting so breath-taking, that I have, to this day, never been in a more wonderful place.
- In Morocco: The Islamic and Arab way of life was the most prominent challenge that I had to figure out how to live with (religion and language). I was very happy that I knew some French, as Arabic was very tough. My host family was incredible and greatly decreased what could have otherwise been a few very trying days.
- In Italy: Having grown up in Europe, the way of life was very familiar to me, as was the language. My host family and program staff/teachers were outstanding. I'll probably move there some day.
In Italy I participated in a local "soup kitchen" (really they were bountiful meals, not soup) twice a week and that was such an incredible experience - I met people whom I otherwise would have never introduced myself to. I also participated in a volunteer reading program, whereby a hired driver would drive my partner and I to a nearby elementary school where we'd do interactive reading exercises with i bambini (the kids).
In Kenya, I lived in a rustic straw hut called a banda with four people in each banda. We slept in sleeping bags and covered ourselves with bug nets. In Morocco, I lived with a host family [mom, dad, brother (10), and sister (5)]. In Italy, I also lived with a host family but this time my family was an elderly couple.
If you're feeling the natural feelings of sadness/sorry-for-yourself-ness/isolation, just try to swallow up those feelings and focus instead on the incredible opportunity that you're being marinating in. If you're in a country where the culture truly is completely different from what you're used to, try to remember that "this" is how this country's citizens live everyday, and if they can do it, so can you! If you have a chosen special diet (vegetarian or vegan), I would recommend that you consider setting that aside for the duration of your trip. If you're living with a host family and they offer you freshly killed meat for dinner, please do not decline, for it was prepared in your honor. When in ____, roll with it. Live it up!