A Small World After All
By Carol Keochekian ’81
They had thought the world was a huge place and that people everywhere were significantly different.
But after participating in the University’s Study Abroad Program, four CLU past and present students found just the opposite to be true. Their motivation for seeking foreign study differed, yet their findings at the conclusion of their experiences were essentially the same: the world is a small place and people everywhere share similar aspirations and goals.
For Karis Rower ’05 of Temecula, Calif., choosing to study abroad was a given. As a sociology major, “nothing made more sense than getting out into the field,” she recalls. “Textbooks can only teach one so much.”
Her first overseas adventure was a one-month study tour to Thailand in winter 2003. Intrigued with the learning experience, she signed up for a three-month program with the International Partnership for Service Learning in Kolkata, India, which combines academic coursework with volunteer opportunities.
Living with a Bengali family, Rower studied history, religion, literature and political science and fulfilled a service component by working with street children at a rooftop school, with girls from red light districts and babies in an orphanage.
“I learned this lesson again and again during my study abroad experiences: People are the same, everywhere, all the time,” the alumna observes.
Faced with serious problems at her places of service – abandonment, poverty, abuse, corruption and the sex trade, Rower felt she was able to contribute and found comfort in knowing that people were working to resolve these issues.
“Every nongovernmental organization (NGO) I spent time with was created and run by women who were making scarce resources do incredible things as they devoted their lives to issues of social justice and bettering their own societies,” explains Rower.
Now living in Portland, Ore., Rower is working full time at a naturopathic clinic and preparing to attend naturopathic medical school. The 21-year-old had not considered this career path before traveling in Asia.
“I have no doubt that my current goals were shaped by my time in India, where I witnessed and experienced a deep respect for and knowledge of the earth and its healing properties,” she says.