Student Service Stories

For being a tiny school in Vermont, Champlain College is actually quite connected around the globe. Over 50% of students chose to study abroad and explore what different cultures and communities have to offer. With Champlain’s own international campusus in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland, plus its global partners in Argentina, China, New Zealand, Italy and Morocco and other third-party programs—the sky’s the limit to what (and where) you can study.

Champlain also offers multiple service learning trips throughout the year. Champlain students can immerse themselves in a new place to learn and volunteer in places close by, such as building houses with Habitat for Humanity during Spring Break in North Carolina, or as far away as Uganda, volunteering at the Malayaka House. Last Summer, eight psychology students were able to take a trip to The Gambia in West Africa to volunteer in the local community. Below is one student’s story of a powerful realization she had during her trip:

Champlain students visiting the Bah family on the last day of their trip.

Champlain students visiting the Bah family on the last day of their trip.

“It takes a Village”  

by Deborah Kosnar, ‘17// Psychology major // Global Studies minor

My biggest takeaway from my Gambian experience was the power of community. Early on in our trip, our group visited the Bah family for a communal dinner, something many of us were unfamiliar with. We did, however, contribute to preparing the delicious traditional meal of Benachin anyway, learning quickly that cooking is a group effort.

Before dinner, a gaggle of us explored the village of Yundum and made our way over to Spring Gate Pre-School, where a student would be interning. We stopped at the house of Mariama Jallow, the main school teacher, and a few of her students, who joined the walk to our final destination. All around us, there were smiling children, excited to see each other and their visitors.

During our walk, our host, Samba Bah (aka the most genuine human alive), noticed my tattoo of an anchor that reads ‘It takes a Village’ and expressed his love for the African Proverb. I explained that I got in while I was on another international trip with Champlain, and the full quote is, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We discussed how true this statement is. Our success in life is heavily dependent on the support we receive growing up.

In The Gambia, children are constantly out on their own and are looked after by local community members, despite not being blood-related. Samba insured me that I would experience the reality of the quote during the time of my stay and as always, he was right.

Local community members made it a point to look over us eight strangers from America. Without the community we formed in The Gambia, our stay would not have been as enjoyable. Over the month, our little family would recite the quote to one another when times were difficult, reinforcing the fact that support was all around us. Even now, months after departing West Africa, our global village is still strong—with the help of social media, of course!

Taking time to travel and try something new is a life-changing experience! You learn so much about other people, places and yourself. Click here learn more about Champlain’s Office of International Education and read more student travel experiences!