It’s my first time service learning!

Service learning is a concept that is pretty foreign to me. As a senior in college I have had my fair share of “service-learning” classes or ‘client’ projects where I have worked with non-profit organizations but I don’t really consider those true service-learning experiences, at least not for me. I wasn’t invested in those experiences; I was working for a grade. I was never very interested in my topics and I didn’t really care if I ended up making a difference or learning anything at all, which makes for some pretty bad service learning. Good service learning requires an effort; it requires a motivation to learn, the desire to grow as a person, learn from your experiences and a drive to help.

As with most people, a majority of my knowledge of genocide is about the Holocaust and I do not know much about refugee resettlement. I feel like most of my classmates registered for this class because they are passionate about helping others and I don’t think I fit with that mold. When I first heard about this class I was not interested but after taking some time to reflect on my college experience and what I have done, I discovered that I have never done anything that is truly out of my comfort zone. I have several friends who have done something along the lines of an alternative spring break and they rave about how much they value the experience they had and how much they learned and grew as a person. I decided to take this class because I do not want to leave college lacking in an experience that is so valuable. For me it is so easy to get caught up in my own life, my own goals and my own aspirations that I often forget about the rest of the world, but I guess that just shows what a privileged life I lead. I grew up in an upper middle class family where I had anything and everything I have ever needed. Reading “One Day I Had to Run” last week really made me think. It seems so unfair. While John was hiding under dead bodies trying to survive I was finger painting in kindergarten and coming home to warm chocolate chip cookies. What seemed even more messed up to me is that there isn’t much anyone can do to stop genocide when it is happening. I had no idea it was ‘illegal’ for countries to invade a country where genocide is happening because it violates that states sovereignty. Last class Aaron mentioned that the UN watched Rwanda happen and did not/legally could not do anything about it. That shouldn’t happen; why do we live in a world that can know about genocide happening and is not able to stop it and prevent it. It’s not fair. Living in the United States it is easy to turn a blind eye because what is happening elsewhere isn’t affecting you, but that’s not fair either. It doesn’t seem fair that I am able to read John’s piece and then just continue living my life.

Honestly, I am pretty nervous about this class. I am nervous about discussing the content. I’m nervous how the content will make me feel. I’m nervous about the opinions of my classmates. I’m nervous about working with refugees. I have never volunteered before and I’ve never worked with a topic so heavy. What I can say is that I am ready to learn. I am hopeful that this class/service-learning experience will help me broaden my horizons and gain a better worldview. Good service learning requires effort, an open mind, and the desire to learn and grow with that knowledge. I know that I will get out of the class what I put into it and I promise to actively engage with the class and the content, as well as promise keep an open mind. I am excited for this class, I am excited to learn, and I am excited for how this class will help me grow as a person.

-Steph

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