This summer, Bowdoin students traveled to destinations at home and abroad to participate in nonprofit organizations, broaden their fields of interest and gain hands-on experience.
Julia Jacobs '10
After watching three hundred surgeries at the Instituto Dermatológico de Jalisco in the span of two weeks, senior Julia Jacobs was prepared to perform a surgery all on her own: the removal of a small cancerous mole on a woman's chin.
Jacobs, who recently decided to pursue a career as a doctor, spent the month of August living with relatives in Guadalajara, Mexico and reporting to the dermatological teaching hospital each morning to shadow and assist doctors in the surgical ward.
Speaking entirely in Spanish, Jacobs found that the doctors—most of whom were scarcely older than she, since many medical students enter training after high school—were eager to teach her.
"It was just so cool knowing that I could never have this experience in the States—being around doctors who were my age," she said.
Though Jacobs conceded that operating after only two weeks of observation might seem rushed, her confidence and ability to learn quickly was boosted by the volume of patients that the surgical unit received.
"The hospital sees 650 patients a day," she said. "I probably watched 200 to 300 surgeries before I did anything."
In addition to working at the hospital, where a consultation costs the equivalent of four U.S. dollars and a surgery costs the equivalent of 40, Jacobs also assisted at a private practice in plastic surgery, as well as at an acupuncturist's office.
Though Jacobs does not yet know whether she wants to specialize in dermatology, her experience in Guadalajara has confirmed that she does want to work in medicine.
"I wanted to do something intense and make sure that it was really for me and that I would like it," she said. "My expectations were exceeded in every way."
Rashá Harvey '12
Though Rashá Harvey '12 was 300 miles away from Brunswick this summer, as an intern at the Harlem Children's Zone in New York, he was never far from Bowdoin.
The Harlem Children's Zone, the brainchild of Geoffrey Canada '74, is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide comprehensive educational, social, and medical services to the youth living within a 100-block radius in Harlem. The program follows youth from early childhood through young adulthood, providing critical support for these at-risk members of the community.
According to Harvey, the Harlem Children's Zone is "crucial to the community." He called the Countee Cullen Community Center, located in central Harlem, where he worked as an education intern, "a site in transition."
"We see clients with the most pressing problems, from kids with behavioral issues to their unemployed parents. We are definitely a full service agency," he said.
Harvey spent the first half of his internship working with students in grades six through eight in a program called "Mathletics," designed to enforce math skills, as well as teamwork.
"In the morning, the kids would learn a math skill, like percentages, and then in the afternoon, they would apply that skill on the basketball court," he said.
Harvey spent the second half of the summer working in the Future's Academy program at Countee Cullen, mentoring ninth graders about everything from sex and relationships to college prep.
Harvey cited founder Geoffrey Canada as his main attraction to the Harlem Children's Zone.
"[Canada] has spent his life trying to improve the lives of those who have been marginalized by society, and that's inspiring to me. He's created a model that works."
Harvey said he came away from the experience feeling "thankful and blessed."
"I learned never to take things for granted. I dealt with kids that were angry because they didn't have breakfast that morning," he said. "It made me reflect on my own hardships and appreciate what I have."
Emily Tong '11
Though junior Emily Tong returned from her internship in Varanasi, India, several weeks ago, photos taken by her students have just started their circulation around Europe in the form of postcards.
Tong, who interned with an organization called FairMail, spent two months in a Varanasi slum teaching teenagers how to use cameras and take photos. Though many of the teenagers had never seen film or held cameras before, Tong worked with the students to create images that would be sold as postcards.
Tong said she geared activities towards photos that would be suitable for the postcard industry. The students' images were then sent to an office in the Netherlands to be printed. After the postcards are sold, the revenue is returned to the teenagers to help of improving their quality of life.
"They use [the money] primarily for schooling, but if they're not in school, then housing and clothing," she said.
Though Tong taught her students the basic principles of portraits, lights and framing while gearing their projects to the postcard industry, some of the students' ability to take good photos was innate.
"They're pretty bold. They'll take pictures of anyone, anywhere," she said.
In addition to teaching her students how to take photos, Tong also got to know her students and their families during her off-hours.
"They all lived in the same neighborhood and I got to go to their houses," she said. "I kind of felt like I belonged in Varanasi because I would walk down the street and see someone I knew."
Despite the fact that the language barrier between Tong and her students sometimes hindered communication, they still enjoyed each others' company.
"One time when the first monsoon rain came, some of the kids came to the office and knocked on my door and said 'Hey lets go play,' so we went up to the roof and played in the rain," she said.
Emma Cape '09
Emma Cape spent three months in one of the poorest communities in Cape Town, South Africa, implementing a curriculum that would give students the leadership and knowledge to eliminate the illegal waste dump located adjacent to their school.
Funded by a grant from the Omprakash Foundation, Cape worked with The South African Education and Environment Project, a nonprofit group, to develop a new program.
"I wanted to show them how environmental issues were relevant to their lives," said Cape. "These students are living in very crowded and impoverished conditions."
Though the program was multi-faceted, Cape said she saw a great need for teaching students community organizing skills.
"We were wanting to reinforce their school curriculum, to teach them about environmental issues, and show them how they could become leaders in their home community," said Cape.
"Students are aware that wealthier people in Cape Town live a very different lifestyle, but there isn't really a lot of knowledge about how to go about organizing the community," she added.
In addition to working in an office to develop the curriculum, Cape also visited students at the high school twice a week. On one occasion, she took a group of students to the botanical gardens.
"Cape Town has all these huge mountains in the middle of it and there's breathtaking scenery, and a lot of these kids had never been to the botanical gardens," she said.
While Cape enjoyed her time in Cape Town, she would have liked to stay longer and see the progress made by students.
"I wish I could have stayed longer because I could have accomplished more," she said. "There was a lot I found rewarding."