By Chanel Watkins, a social work major and Gilman Scholar to Tanzania. Chanel worked with OSD in preparing her Gilman Scholarship application.
I booked my first, it was said to be granted tickets to my next life.
They told me to study abroad is a blessing, I can’t help but to think this is what God must feel like.
They told me that this is where I’m supposed to be, that I would encounter people just like me here.
Those who come from the same heritage, learning our oppression,
Denying cultural stigmas, and steadily fighting their depression.
I opened my eyes and I was suddenly the majority, greeted with the upmost adornment,
experiencing true royalty. A stranger to this land, but it felt like home, the liberty felt like a crime, I had
the opportunity to speak with the less fortunate, and grew ignorant to the importance of time. Because
suddenly I knew how fortunate I was. To be granted this chance, oh how fortunate I was! To be so far
from what I’m used to, to be stretched and humbled in ways I’m not used to! To witness hardships with
the naked-eye and wonder have I ever really felt pain? To watch the sunset and know that I’ve never
witnessed true beauty in my life. Many nights I was left speechless and emotional, to encounter children
who are clueless to their predicament, children’s whose eyes light up when you tell them how many other
Pringle flavors there is. To play soccer in dirt, no shoes, vicious rocks, and still no one gets hurt! To hand
wash your clothes, to walk miles home, to see a child being born, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for
change, but change was ready for me. I went through the phases and finally opened to the unknown,
the first time in my life a hotel felt like an actual home. To empty my suitcase and give away all my
belongings to those who would cherish them way more than I ever could. To have the intention to teach,
but in return was taught ways to be self-less and burden-free. To know somewhere else someone has it
worse than me, so be grateful. I will never forget how it felt to be one with another, to go without my
wants, to bear fruit with others. I will never forget the kangas, the Swahili, the streets with no stop lights
and how they almost killed me! I will never forget the sunsets, the private islands, the art, and most of all
I will never forget how the people forgot their everyday struggles. The people taught me that your dealt
the hand God gives you, you can’t return them so live and play your hand the best way you can.
I will never forget Africa.