Porntip Israsena, a senior Donaghey Scholar working towards an International Studies and Spanish double major, spent this past summer in Eastern Africa. Not many people would choose to spend their summer teaching children in a third-world country, but Porntip saw this as an opportunity that she couldn’t miss. Never afraid to take the road less traveled, the experience abroad was not her first time out of the country. Porntip previously studied abroad in Spain and Ecuador in order to improve her Spanish language proficiency. This time, she joined her Rwandan friend in experiencing the culture first-hand.
My journey to Rwanda and Uganda began long before this summer started. As many people in the Little Rock community may know, there are many Rwandans in the Central Arkansas area, with several attending UALR. During my time at UALR I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and develop friendships with many of the students. This summer I had the opportunity to visit with some of the students in their home country.
The majority of my time abroad was spent with my closest Rwandan friend, named Anitha. She has a home for a family of 15; 3 aunties and 12 children. Most of the children no longer have living relatives and have been living with Anitha’s family for about three years. While we were there we spent time laughing, playing, teaching, cleaning, cooking, organizing and everything else that goes along with day-to-day living.
Although my trip was not a “study abroad” program, the trip was a great course on International Studies. The most important lesson I learned during my 5 weeks in East Africa: in the midst all the negativity, poverty, corruption and hunger that Westerns tend to perceive about the third world, East Africa is teeming with development, spirituality, education, health, opportunities and life. I hope to return within the next 10 years to witness the rapid development that Rwanda is undergoing.