Feeling our Impact through Student Experiences
Although we all strive to have an impact in the world, it’s often difficult to feel our contributions. We may sense our influence as we connect and interact with others, but our effects often feel indirect and intangible, leaving us wanting more.
As someone who actively searches for touch points, moments in time that capture the power of our purpose, I wanted to share one such experience.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of gathering with members of the Buffalo Tanzania Education Project (BTEP) to raise funds and celebrate our collective connections with the people and country of Tanzania.
Although we have had only three such events since BTEP formed back in 2009, each has been unique in the specific projects and initiatives that are highlighted. And the particular focus in turn exemplifies the various stages and phases of this interesting and ever-evolving project.
This year we had the pleasure of showcasing the six students who participated in our first UB Study Abroad course to Tanzania, three of whom shared reflections and thoughts about their experiences.
From our vantage point the trip had been a success. Everyone returned safely and the University learned that Study Abroad to Africa was both viable and appealing, opening the door for future travel and exchange.
But hearing the students speak about their experiences provided a glimpse into the magnitude of our impact- not just the Study Abroad course, but the larger BTEP initiative that has slowly unfolded over the past 5+ years.
A Masters student from China, Yi, spoke about the hospitality of the Tanzanians and how they welcomed and embraced the students with such kindness and openness. She shared that she had always dreamt of going to Africa, and how the trip has impacted her life. As she works to complete the first year of her graduate program, she has decided to focus on micro-finance and supporting developing countries in their efforts to emerge from poverty. She is now very clear on her goal of returning to Africa upon graduation.
Tyler, our youngest student to participate in the trip, spoke of the friendships he formed while in Tanzania. He talked about the Bishop and the role that faith plays within the communities he visited, not as a luxury or simply an activity of going to Church on weekends, but instead as a lifeline for the people giving them hope and promise as they struggle every day. Tyler also spoke of his relationship with the driver who he got to know through late-night conversations about life, marriage, and self-sacrifice. He also described the sense of purpose that he was left with and power that all of us have to make a difference in the world.
When Tyler and Yi spoke about their trip it was evident to everyone in the room that their life path had been significantly affected by their experiences.
Although we cannot know where their educations and careers will take them, we do know that they have for the moment embraced humanity and their own connection to the world.
Through this point of connectivity our own impact and significance can be felt. What a wonderful gift to share.