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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Grinnellians spring to action

By Daria Brosius 

brosiusd@grinnell.edu

While many of us were indulging in endless Netflix marathons and appreciating the simple beauty of home-cooked food, some Grinnellians were a bit more ambitious with their spring break plans.

Several students took the opportunity to expand their horizons over the break. Meg Schmitt ’15 and Yishi Liang ’16 travelled to tropical locations to participate in job shadows through the Career Development Office’s externship program, while Tefiro Serunjogi ’15 led an Alternative Break trip to Texas.

Schmitt spent two weeks in Hawaii shadowing Joy Tamayose ’88 who works as a field biologist. She was able to intimately experience the daily tasks of a field biologist working in Maui’s Haleakala National Park through her externship.

Schmitt found the trip to be a great opportunity to get insight into field biology. She is an independent major in environmental science, but has not always been sure how much science to incorporate into her academic plans.

“[The trip] helped me see the benefits of having a science degree,” Schmitt said.

“I learned from someone who was really passionate about her career.”

The only difficulty Schmitt could name about her experience was leaving.

“It was a beautiful area. I got to see so much of the island,” she said. “I got to see a lot of things I wasn’t expecting. I was really lucky. I met an amazing person.”

Liang was able to do some serious travelling over her break, shadowing a Grinnell alumnus, Tom Kerr ’81, in Bangok, Thailand, also through the CDO’s externship program. Her host works for the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, working on the organization’s quarterly newsletter that marks the progress of different areas.

The greatest challenges of the trip were the amount of travel and weather.

“I had to spend 30 hours in total getting there, [and] I was only there for 9 days. It was also really hot there—99 degrees every single day,” Liang said.

Another adjustment Liang had to make was to the prevalence of stray dogs and the bus system.

“The public bus they have sometimes doesn’t come to a complete stop when it picks you up,” she said, requiring passengers to make a quite literal leap of faith every time they hope to get on or off.

These aspects of the new environment only helped make the trip memorable.

“Overall, I learned a lot going to another country by myself, I became really independent,” Liang said.

The friendliness of the people she met in Thailand, including her host, further helped make the trip a success.

Serunjogi led an Alternative Break trip to Houston, Texas for two weeks. The group focused on environmental justice, spending most of their time working with a group called Tejas, which works with local minority communities.

The group helped out in many different ways: canvassing, collecting surveys, participating in clean-ups and learning more about the issues and the area.

“[We] worked with an urban organic farm for three days in a very poor community that provides free organic vegetables,”Serunjogi said.

Serunjogi commended the farm on its sustainable model, as it sells some of its products to local restaurants to balance the costs of operations.

“For me, Tejas is just basically two gentleman who began this organization, two ordinary guys doing good,” Serunjogi said. “[We were] seeing ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Serunjogi credited his co-leader, Natalie Duncombe ’15 for helping make the trip such a success.

“I had a fantastic co-leader.

I think AltBreak is a great way for people to get out there and just see life, their country from a different

perspective. A chance to do good,” Serunjogi said.

Serunjogi summed up the sentiments of the other students well:

“In only two weeks, it’s tough to leave a lasting change: the biggest change is yourself, living other peoples’ lives, seeing the world through their eyes and leaving your comfort zone.”

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