Lauren Trotter ’13 is a Health Science major who studied abroad in Nairobi, Kenya (SIT). Lauren explored many different facets of Kenya, but the one she focused on most was the health issues in the area.
“Studying abroad in Kenya was the first real opportunity that I was presented with to go out into the world and try to make an impact using the tools that I had been prepared with at Gettysburg College. I was exposed to experiences where I was able to apply the information I had gained as a health science major. I witnessed first hand the impact of nutrition, lifestyle, and socioeconomic status on one’s overall health status. For the last month of my abroad program, I conducted an epidemiologic study in local hospitals in the coast city of Mombasa. My study, entitled ‘Perceptions and knowledge of Malaria and the resulting effects on the health seeking behavior of people in Mombasa, Kenya,’ was a culmination of what I have learned at Gettysburg as well as what I witnessed in Kenya.”
Lauren had the opportunity to understand first-hand the severity of the health issues in Kenya, particularly in working with a woman’s organization. She provided an insightful and heartfelt description of her experience:
“One of the most eye-opening experiences for me occurred when I visited the NGO WOFAK, Women Fighting Aids in Kenya. The NGO provides a safe haven for women who have spoken out about their HIV status, as well as providing nutritional lunches for children who have been abandoned due to AIDS. During the visit, we learned about these services and were able to walk through the town and visit a home of one of the newest members of WOFAK. The woman’s home was the size of most people’s bathrooms and she lived there with her five children. I sat on her bed with 4 other students while we listened to her speak about how she became infected and the struggle of every day life. Through the current WOFAK members, she had just recently gained the strength to accept her infection, and planned in the future to hopefully be able to tell her children. Through her story, I learned that the negative stigma associated with AIDS is what truly facilitates its rapid transmission. People are knowledgeable about this disease, but the fear of having it and being shunned from family and friends is enough to prevent people from getting tested or speaking out if they know their status. Sadly enough, it is a stigma that is killing a nation, and organizations such as WOFAK are working towards breaking that belief, and its members are living proof that acceptance can help lead to a long healthy life.”
Lauren is an example that there are many different ways to become involved while abroad and get a truly comprehensive education.
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