Traveling to Tanzania in the summer of 2019 for a service-learning trip through Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries (STEMM) was a once in a life-time opportunity. This trip challenged me to “travel” outside my comfort zone by becoming more open and willing to learn.
Reflecting on my service trip, it’s hard to differentiate the things I learned and the things that changed my life. Those “little” moments when I learned how to overcome a language barrier or strengthen my faith shaped me into the person I am today.
1. Being Open to All
This trip helped me become more culturally sensitive. While traveling to different villages, it was important to keep an open mind on expectations and cultural beliefs. When traveling to the Maasai village I had no idea what to expect. Before arriving, my group was told this would be the most immersive part of our trip. While talking to the women and children of the village I learned they have customs that people in America and other developed countries only hear about in movies. By visiting the Maasai village we wanted to educate the men and advocate for the young women who sadly had no idea about the effects of their culturally normal customs. I still remember the first gut wrenching feeling I had when I first heard about them. It was an ultimate test for us to ‘listen to learn’ and then ‘advocate and educate’.
2. Taking Care of the Earth
I learned the importance of taking in Earth’s natural creation. Tanzania is full of beautiful mountains and thousands of miles of natural wildlife and the people who live there strive to keep the land as magnificent as the day it was created. I now make environmentally conscious decisions to care for creation.
3. Making Time for Worship
During this service trip, I wanted to become closer in my relationship with God and experience other religious beliefs that are similar and different to mine. The group I traveled with had the same goals with scheduled time for worship in the STEMM orphanage. It was an eye-opening experience to compare how I and other cultures worship and how they are virtually the same even halfway around the world. From time to time, I still remember the songs - even though I may have forgotten what most of the words English equivalent are.
4. Learning How to be Patient and Understanding
I had to quickly learn how to use patience while communicating through language barriers. The people of Tanzania live completely different lives than we do in the United States. Having an open mind when someone is trying to communicate with you, whether they are in distress or telling a happy story, can change your perspective to become more receptive to others and relay genuine kindness.
5. Building Relationships
I gained an overall sense of purpose throughout my trip. The relationships I built with my service trip group and the Tanzanian people I met will forever hold a close place in my heart. While hanging out with the children at the STEMM orphanage it became clear to me -they are just as curious about our culture, and their willingness to learn and live life as a blessing every day is inspiring. It also became very obvious that I do not stand a chance in any soccer match against those kiddos. This trip has helped me realize nursing is the field I’m meant to be in. After graduating, I hope to utilize the skills I learned at Briar Cliff University to treat and take care of people in Tanzania.