Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Insights from Olivia

Olivia last spoke with me in the entry "International Bright Young Thing" in November of 2012: 

Now, almost two years later, she shares some of her thoughts about college and life.  She has just completed her second year of university studies at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

As always, Olivia amazes me with her empathy and with her courage.  

How do you feel now that you have completed two years of university?
         My first thought is, I am growing up so fast! I feel like I graduated from high school just yesterday and now I am done with two years of university. Two years of college have been a wonderful experience of growth for me. I don’t know if it is the kind of education I am receiving here at Kalamazoo College or the environment but I feel like over the two years I instantaneously question everything , in other words I think more independently about things and I am more careful about letting my prejudices and beliefs affect the way I look at things. I also have a clearer understanding of the issues that are important to me such as reproductive health and infant mortality. I am looking forward to educating myself more about them and how I can use my education to address or contribute the efforts aimed at addressing them.

Have you selected your major? What made you make this choice?
              Yes, I am biology major with a concentration community and global health and a minor in English. Honestly I have always been fascinated with biology (it doesn’t matter what kind). I always feel like there is something new to learn in the discipline. It is the excitement of uncovering something new. However human biology appeals the most to me. Learning about how we are engineered to carry out certain processes and the tiny bits that make up an entire human being is very intriguing for me. In my freshman year I was hoping to double major in biology and business with a Chinese minor but part of it was due to the fact that I was afraid a biology degree alone wouldn’t be very useful for me after I graduate from college. However I realized that these four years are a chance for me to focus on studying the things I really like and be the best I can be at them. I also love writing and analyzing literature so I decided to minor in English as well.

You have recently joined your school’s newspaper crew; will you be working as a writer? What topics do you hope to cover?
            I actually joined the college newspaper (The Index) at the beginning of my sophomore year. At first I just wanted to write for the paper but as time went on I felt like there were a lot of stories I wanted the campus community to read about in ways that they never have. My first story was about the bombings on Westgate mall in Kenya. I wanted to collect multiple opinions about the issue so I interviewed visiting students from Kenya, an English professor, the college President and a couple of other staff. So most of my articles are intended to sort of present multiple views on issues. I also cover public health and social justice issues. In addition, I wanted international students to be part of the ‘college’ newspaper so I worked with another International student to start a column for international students which featured stories of certain international students and their experiences at Kalamazoo College.

You seemed to be organizing a rally for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign at Kalamazoo. Can you talk about how the rally went?
           I didn’t organize the rally but I think it was part of the mother’s day rallies that were going on in different cities across the country. I noticed there was one in Kalamazoo so I wanted other students to attend the rally so that we can all stand in solidarity with the girls. I just couldn’t help feeling that I could have been one of those girls and the least I could do is empathize by creating awareness of such an unfortunate incident.

 Why did you work to organize this and how do you feel about the results?
         I was able to get a few students to come with me downtown for the rally. I feel like it was a genuine gesture from those who organized it but it could have gone better in terms of focusing on the main point (which was the girls in this case) instead of their captors.

 Have your views on education changed at all in the past two years?
Definitely, I feel like 80 percent or more of education happens outside of class. Most of the things I have learned in the last two years can be attributed to the interactions I have had with people and the events I have attended. I also think an open mind is very important to learning or education. I know this may sound clich√© too, but am more confident that education is a great investment and I can’t explain how privileged and grateful I feel for getting an education.

 What are the perks and pitfalls of being an international student at an American university?
I’d say the flexibility in the education curriculum; I get to take a lot more classes outside my major which I think is great. I know this because every time I talk to some of my friends back home about let’s say an anthropology paper I have to write they are like ‘I thought you are studying biology’ haha. I appreciate that because then I learn about other things. The pitfall I guess is that it’s far away from home.

Do social media help you keep in touch with people in Uganda, Ghana, etc?
Yes, I text my friends in Uganda quite often on facebook and I think I am closer to my family because of the various forms of social media.

Are you still hoping to participate in a study abroad program?
I still want to go China for study abroad but I can’t right now for personal reasons but it is still something I am considering and hopefully I will get to go there some day.

 Have you been watching the World Cup? Are you American peers getting excited about the games?
I have watched a couple of games, there are not many people on campus right now but I guess my surprise is the general atmosphere especially in Kalamazoo. Watching world cup is a tradition back home. I just have memories of people coming together to watch games and celebrating. However here it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

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