Study Abroad Trip Confirms Social Work Passion for First Generation Student, Deijah Barnes

Deijah Barnes is a senior majoring in social work. Barnes studied abroad in Botswana during the summer of 2017. Read her interview about her study abroad experience in Botswana and how it confirmed her passion for social work.

What sparked your interest in studying abroad?

Coming to NC State as a freshman, I never thought that I would have the opportunity to study abroad. As a first generation college student and coming from a low-income family, the idea of traveling outside of the country seemed beyond my reach. Being from a need-based home, I assumed that my financial and social situations would limit me from being able to study abroad much less go to college. However, after discovering all the resources NC State provides for its students and seeing how incredibly doable it was, I took the plunge and opted to study Public Health and Community Program in Botswana, Africa.

Why did you choose the Botswana study abroad program?

I’ve always known that I wanted to travel to Africa, being that half of my heritage originated there. I had heard about Botswana through safari documentaries, but never in a million years did I think I would be studying abroad there! Originally, I planned to participate in the Ghana study abroad trip (which had Africana studies based courses) but the Ghana trip was canceled. I knew that I wanted to travel to Africa and Botswana seemed interesting. The course topics were public health and communications, so which were a little out of my comfort zone. Despite that, this trip and these courses were the best decision I could have made! I was able to see how social work applies across so many disciplines!

Can you briefly describe your study abroad experience?

It was certainly a life-changing experience as everyday was a new adventure and full of excitement. I learned as much as I could, from whoever I could, anywhere I could. The people, the culture, the customs, and knowledge systems were completely different from anything I could have imagined. Experiencing Botswana and stepping out of my comfort zone inspired and humbled me. It intensified my passion to travel, to continue my education, and most of all continue to pursue my passion in social work.

What was your favorite part about your study abroad experience in Botswana?

People often ask me what my favorite memory from abroad was, but it’s hard to answer because there are so many! However, visiting the village of Maun and the Mogoditshane orphanage, traveling through the safari on a 5-day excursion and camping each night amongst nature’s most beautiful animals like elephants and giraffes, and taking a terrifying 111 meter plunge at the Victoria Falls bridge are at the top of my favorites list. As mentioned, it was during these encounters that I was able to practice mindfulness and appreciate the beauty of the culture I was immersed in.

You said that your study abroad experience intensified your passion for social work, can you elaborate on that?

While visiting the orphanage, I was reminded why I chose to take on the superpower of being a social worker. As many social workers tend to do, I questioned whether or not I was ‘fit’ for the labor that comes with the resiliency of our profession. However, it was during the Mogoditshane orphanage visit that a local social worker reminded me why our work is important. The social worker there told us how important it is to have someone who is willing to go above and beyond for the betterment of those who lack the resources to provide for themselves. It was inspiring to meet a social worker while abroad who reaffirmed why I was called to this profession. I was able to find peace in what I was doing and realize that the change is in me. It was through these experiences that I was able to discover myself and finally step out of my comfort zone and immersing myself in something new.

What were some of the challenges? Was there anything that surprised you?

I never thought I would say this, but, I was really homesick while I was in Africa and I struggled with it. I was rarely able to speak with my parents and I usually talk to them everyday. One unexpected thing was that I got severely dehydrated received my first IV and first hospital visit in Botswana! It wasn’t funny at the time, but it’s a pretty funny story now. Another thing that surprised me is how Westernized the Botswana people are. Botswana it was similar to the U.S. in regards to language and atmosphere. Despite this, I experience a little culture shock. Additionally, I was surprised that monkeys roamed around the Botswana Universities on campus similar to the squirrels at NC State.

What are your future plans and professional goals?

In the future I plan to attend and complete a MSW program hopefully at NC State and pursue my LCSW. As for my professional goals I hope to work on the micro level with international families and affairs. This may change with experience, but either way I’m sure I’ll be a social worker!

One response on “Study Abroad Trip Confirms Social Work Passion for First Generation Student, Deijah Barnes

  1. S Cogdell says:

    I am extremely proud of Deija! I hope she keeps sharing her stories and encouraging her peers to adventure outside of their comfort zones to experience new cultures! They will never be the same and the people they will touch will forever be grateful!

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