KOURTNEY HANNAWAY : AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

Young children learning in a class at school
Young children learning in a class at school.

I have to admit I had no idea what I was getting myself into, or what I agreed to when I confirmed my ticket for India. All I knew was that I desired a challenging, interesting experience where I could use some of my newly learned skills to help others. But I got much more.

I am a student at the University of Oregon, in the summer between my third and fourth years. It has been my goal to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can during my undergraduate experience, and I always knew that one of those opportunities would be studying abroad. I wanted to go somewhere I had never been, and somewhere that I would be able to see a beneficial outcome of my efforts on the lives of real people. So my university gave me some options, and the needs of Educate Girls matched well with my skills and what I could offer.

During my two and a half months here I have had the opportunity to learn about the gender disparity in education in India, and to interview and photograph EG employees, rural families, students, and their surroundings. I have been welcomed into villages and homes like I was family, even though I was a stranger.

I have been challenged to understand the feelings and struggles spoken in a village language, then translated into Hindi, then roughly into English, all while the original message was loaded with a culture and context very different from my own and perhaps impossible to express into words. I have had my knowledge of everything questioned, and shown that I do not know as much I as previously assumed.

But I was involved in finishing a new website, improving EG stories and reports, and creating content that appeals to a wide, international audience. I got to witness girls being re-enrolled, and families convinced for the first time that their daughters should go to school. Merely because of where I’m from and the kind of education I am able to have, I was a positive example to girls, showing them what is possible through school, and also simply that they are important, that they matter.

I came to India with the plan of helping others, but I feel the people here have given and taught me more than I can repay. I truly appreciate the opportunity to come here and experience a distinct culture, diverse ways of life, different challenges and new success.

Twitter: #educategirls #education #impact

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