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April 11, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Student learns life lessons abroad

We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching, poverty-stricken infomercials of children running through dirt streets wearing little or no clothing. The image though, became a part of a BGSU student’s real life.

Nicole Harmon, 22, spent her summer in Tanzania, a small village in East Africa that was a 45 minute walk from the nearest city of Arusha.

It wasn’t the 25 hour trip, or being viciously attacked by a dog on only her second night, that made her want to pack her bags and come home. As she set foot on the turf of Tanzania, she entered another world.

“I was so overwhelmed at first. The poverty of the people hit me hard. It kills you to look at these children who run and swarm around you and beg for food,” Harmon said. “It’s even harder because we are told not to give it to them. We are told that they depend upon the Americans to feed them and don’t know how to go out and get food for themselves.”

Harmon stayed with a Tanzanian family that had six children. She had her own room; her host-parents had their own room and the children shared.

A local stream was the only supply of water. Women carry buckets on their heads to and from the stream and do laundry there.

“I was too embarrassed to ask how everyone showered with no running water so I’m sure I looked ridiculous dunking my head in a bucket trying to figure it out,” Harmon said.

A nearby small grocery store called “Shop Rite” helped her survive the different food and culture. She could buy a bottle of Coke for 50 cents, bottled water, M’M’s and Pringles — all the essentials to keep her from being too homesick.

Each day Harmon walked the 45 minutes to Arusha to meet the rest of her group, who were involved in the same program. Each day they taught older children about HIV and AIDS. It was this education that drew her to invest in this program adventure.

“I have met many people–other students–from Africa that have lost their families to AIDS. I had been working in the Education Abroad office, and began looking over the Internet for something like this,” Harmon said. “I just wanted to do something.”

Harmon worked with 15 other volunteers from all over the United States. Each lived in different villages around the city.

Since English was very limited, most of the host families had someone who could help translate. It was Harmon’s 24-year-old host brother who was attending college to become a teacher that helped her.

“We had to learn the language to teach these people. We had guides that helped and became very familiar with greetings and phrases, but it was sometimes very hard to communicate,” Harmon said.

Preparation for the trip began about five months before take-off. Harmon had to get immunization shots, passports and Visas.

“I would love to go back to Africa. The safari is beautiful, the people are the nicest and so helpful,” Harmon said. “I think, in general, that people from Africa are the nicest people I have ever met.”

Even though the program Harmon participated in was not a BGSU program, she still gets credit for it.

According to Sally Raymont, director of the University’s Study Abroad program, there are more and more scholarships available for students who want to pursue this experience.

“We can work with Financial Aid and maybe be able to make adjustments to student aid packages,” Raymont said. “We try to do everything we can to make it work financially for the students.”

Over 300 students each year study abroad.

Recently, the General Education Committee passed a rule to allow “all academic study abroad experiences bearing three or more credits to count as fulfilling the International Perspective requirement.”

This means that non-BGSU programs, transfer students with study abroad experience, experiences before this new rule was passed; all can be counted.

For more information and questions students can contact Sally Raymont at [email protected] or 419-372-0309.

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