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World class

A semester in Rwanda

Claire Morrow with students at Les Enfants de Dieu in Kigali.

For Claire Morrow, Africa was love at first sight. “There is something about this continent and especially Rwanda that is captivating to me,’’ says Morrow, who is in her third year at Northeastern University, majoring in international affairs and human services. Morrow spent several months in a co-op program in Kigali, the capital, working at Les Enfants de Dieu, a rehabilitation center for boys who have been living on the streets. Her experience there “has made it clear that working with vulnerable children is what I want to do with my life,’’ she says. To read more about her travels, visit her blog at clairemorrowabroad.blogspot.com.

BACK AGAIN: “Before I started college, I came to Rwanda for a gap semester. I had been to Africa once before and absolutely fell in love. So when it came time for co-op, I knew I had to go back. [Africa] has become a second home and will always be a place I cherish, so I came to spend more time in a place I love.’’

LOOKING AHEAD: “The ultimate goal of [Les Enfants de Dieu] is to facilitate reintegration of the children with their families when it is possible and support and strengthen family structure. My role is to teach English in the center’s school as well as work with the center’s social workers as they support and visit children’s families.’’

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AT HOME: “I live in a house really just like any house in America. The only real difference is that when I go to sleep, I have to tuck in my mosquito net so I do not get malaria. My lifestyle is very lavish compared to most as I am blessed with running hot water and a Western toilet. Although it is by no means excess, it is very comfortable.’’

WHAT’S FOR DINNER? “Carbohydrates! Lots of starches and carbs: beans, rice, potatoes, cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains. The food here is very good and extremely practical because it fills you up and is not very expensive.’’

NOT ON SCHEDULE: “As Americans, we do not realize how spoiled we are and how much our society caters to us. We live in a world based solely on convenience. The majority of Americans have access to their own vehicle and can jump into their car at the drop of a hat and go. Here, when you travel, there is more planning and waiting involved, but it means that being late is OK and people do not stress about time. So, while traveling from place to place is not based on convenience or even a schedule, it works and gets you where you need to go. It is also a good lesson in just enjoying where life takes you.’’

LEARNING CURVE: “Not speaking the same language makes everything a bit more complicated. When you need directions or help with something, it can be hard when you can’t find someone who understands you. But mainly, since I am teaching, it is frustrating in the classroom when I am trying to explain something and it is clearly not being understood. Also, a big thing here is to shake hands when you greet each other even if it is a best friend or stranger.’’

MAKING THE GRADE: “Students here take their education very seriously. It is a privilege to be able to attend school and so most students I have encountered work extremely hard. They are engaged in class and study all the time outside of school. It also is much more of a commitment to attend school as most schools are not located right next door. Many children wake up hours before school starts in order to walk to school and make it in time.’’

CHRISTINE MURPHY

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