By Seán McGlone – Editor-in-Chief
For most of my college career, I contemplated doing a semester abroad. Along the way I had dozens of people telling me I should go, that it was a life-changing experience and that I’d probably regret if I didn’t go.
I struggled to make a decision well into the beginning of last year, my junior year, as to whether I should go and where. During that time I thought to myself – could I really be away from home for four months in a different country? Where could I see myself going? What would I miss while I was away?
Then I heard about another trip – one that would give me the opportunity to help others, one that went to an area few Lasell students had gone to before, and one that I had heard “would change the way you look at things.”
So I decided – I would apply for the Shoulder-to-Shoulder trip to Tanzania, Africa. Knowing little about where we would be staying, the work we would be doing, or even Tanzania in general, I figured I would take a small risk in the form of going halfway across the world.
Once I was accepted, we as a group were then left to figure out what exactly we would teach the students in grades 3-7 and how we would do so.
I never considered myself much of a teacher and I had next to no experience being around kids. I worried about how exactly I would work with these children and how I would even communicate with them given the obvious language barrier.
As we drew up lesson plans and gathered supplies, our departure date slowly crept up. Suddenly, just days before the trip, I started to get very nervous. I wondered how could I go so far away? How would I teach these students? Eventually, through all of the nerves, I went on the trip knowing that I would regret not going.
Our first day at the school, I was nervous. After months of preparation, it was finally show time. While I stumbled a bit, I had an amazing teaching partner by my side who helped me through.
I was amazed at how welcoming the students were. Here we were, 16 strangers and two returners stepping into their classroom to teach them. Students were asked in Swahili on the first day “Do you love them?” and they proudly shouted back “ndio!” Which is Swahili for yes.
In the days we spent at the school, I was amazed how the students hung on every word that we said, they respected us as much as any of the teachers that worked in the school, and they loved just being around us and having our attention.
During my short time there, my favorite moment was having the chance to play soccer with the boys at recess. On a field that was mostly dirt, with goals that had no netting, the boys and I would pass, shoot, and run wild whenever the ball was close. Whenever there was a goal we would all celebrate with high fives and cheers. The students would all rush over to me for high fives, thus fulfilling my childhood dream of being the most popular kid on the playground.
We spent just under two weeks at the school. In that time, we formed relationships with the students and were blown away by how smart the students were, how they respected us (if we dropped something on the floor the students would excitedly pick it up and hand it back to us with a smile), and how much they enjoyed yelling “poa!” back at me whenever I yelled “Mambo!” The sight of seeing the students sing the Tanzanian national anthem on our last day will stay with me forever. Asante Sana (thank you very much), Tanzania.