There’s No Place Like Home

*Sigh* I know. I know. Can I get anymore cliche with the title of this post as I sit in my limestone house, on a farm, in the middle of Kansas?  Although I passionately despise the movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy couldn’t have stated a sentiment more beautifully. There truly is “No Place Like Home,” at least, that’s what I’ve come to realize in the last two months living in my hometown before I move to Africa.

I’ve spent the last two years bombarding my Facebook and Instagram feeds with photo after photo of my obsession with the beauty of the Natural State and have done a seemingly poor job of depicting how lucky I was to have grown up in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Although I have always appreciated my roots and the area of this country I was born and raised in, I often take it for granted for the simplicity of life it represents.

The town I call home, Alma, Kansas (The City of Native Stone), represents everything one would imagine a small town in rural America is like. Founded in 1858. One main street. No stoplights. No grocery store. Tractors and combines strolling through town. Farmers with their Levi jeans and cowboy hats. One gas station and five churches. Rolling Flint Hills and the most captivating sunsets on Earth. It’s America in its’ purest sense.

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The town itself boasts under 900 people, so yes, we are undoubtedly outpopulated by cattle in the area. While the town may not house large numbers of families, it makes up for it in the quality of people. You see, when you live in a small rural town, that sense of community is vital. There is always a surplus of generosity whenever it’s needed. Whether its needing help with baling hay, carpooling children to sporting events, or supporting local kids in FCCLA or FFA fundraisers at Wabaunsee High School; the community always comes together to support each other.

It has been 8 years since I lived with my parents in Alma, but it often feels like I never left. I’m still greeted by name at every place I go to in town and it never fails that I end up having long conversations with anyone that I come into contact with. I am consistently waved to by every driver down Main Street and even on the gravel roads that lead to my house. At times, it seems as though the town has somehow excluded itself from the fast paced life that that I’ve experienced in large metropolitan areas, but that’s also why it’s so incredibly charming. You will never experience community like living in a small rural town.

In a sense, coming back to live in Alma before I move to Morocco was the best decision I could make. I’ve been forced to take a deep breath and enjoy the simplicity around me. It’s something I am not accustomed to after the excitement of living in Granada, Spain and Kansas City. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I will inevitably be placed in a small rural town in Morocco. Although I feel incredibly alive when I’m in the hustle and bustle of cities, I know that I am adequately prepared for my journey in Morocco because I can appreciate the beauty of rural living.

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“The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.”

I am undoubtedly the person I am today because of how and where I was raised. The importance of service was ingrained in my very being since my participation in countless community projects in high school and it continued well into my time at Baker University. There are many reasons that people choose to live in more urban areas, whether that be differing socio-cultural views, the lack of amenities, or just the sheer size and seclusion of living in a rural area. I may have developed a more liberal perspective than the majority of my hometown, but we ultimately all want the same thing – to build strong and loving communities. I am beyond grateful and thrilled to use the skills I learned from my hometown to help promote world peace and friendship in a town far from the prairies of Kansas. At the end of the day, the world is full of communities who desperately want to flourish and we can achieve this by simply saying hello or lending a helping hand to members in your community.

Love,

Kayla ❤

 

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Keeping Fayetteville Funky

 

I won’t lie – I never gave Arkansas two thoughts before I moved to Fayetteville in 2014. The only time I ever heard anything about the state was from proud Arkansans, who I went to Baker University with. Ethan and Evan – take this as my official apology for not believing you when you told me Arkansas was a mini oasis in the United States. I won’t ever doubt you again!

Funky.

Energizing.

Eccentric.

Fresh.

These words only partly describe to you a sense of what the city of Fayetteville is truly like, but one thing is for sure – it has never disappointed me. The city itself is a rapidly growing college town, so it’s persona changes periodically with the seasons. In Autumn, you can feel the excitement of thousands of incoming students becoming acquainted with the city, ready to begin the fall semester. For most here, the beginning of the school year represents one thing – Arkansas football. Now if you’re geographically challenged, Arkansas is located in the South and the only thing that Southerns love more than Jesus, BBQ and sweet tea is SEC football. So if there is one piece of advice I can give any newcomer to the area during football season – DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE ON A GAMEDAY. Just don’t.

In Winter, the Fayetteville Square illuminates with thousands of Christmas lights and sleigh rides. In the Spring, hikers are out in full bloom experiencing nature in the beautiful Ozarks. There is a reason that Fayetteville was recently named the 3rd best place to live in the USA by the US News and World Report. I mean – who doesn’t want to live in an active, supportive community?

For the past two years, I’ve tried to explain to my friends and family why Fayetteville holds such a vital place in my heart. I don’t think I can ever adequately describe how and why this college town turned me into the happiest I’ve ever been, but I will never stop trying to explain its Southern charm. For those of you who have expressed interest in experiencing Fayetteville for themselves, here is a list of my favorite stores, restaurants, and attractions located in the Fayetteville city limits.

1. Fayettechill

Website: http://www.fayettechill.com/

Instagram: fayettechill

Created by a former University of Arkansas graduate, Fayettechill is easily one of the most widely known brands coming out of Fayetteville. The company caters its outdoor products to the adventure junkie, vagabonding, nature-loving enthusiasts of the world. I personally love the brand because of its engagement with the community as a whole. Whether its a trip to Yellow Rock trail for sunrise yoga or a group bike ride down one of Fayetteville’s many trails, Fayettechill is always looking to spread their positive vibes across the city. You can find one of their essential t-shirts, Kammoks, or hats at the Basecamp store on Dickson Street, the Smokehouse near Mt. Kessler, or online. If you decide to follow their Instagram page, be prepared to fall in love with all of the beauty the Natural State has to offer.

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Photo by: Rush Urschel

2. Arsaga’s Coffee Roasters

Website: http://arsagasdepot.com/

Instagram: arsagasdepot

If you’re ever in town and looking for a local coffee shop to fulfill your needs, look no further than Arsaga’s Coffee Roasters. While the business boasts several locations around town, my favorite go-to spot is the Depot located right off the Frisco Trail and Dickson Street. This location is known for their sweet and savory crepes, live music, and thirst quenching drinks. In the mood for toast instead? Visit their newest spot at the corner of Church & Center for a taste of their homemade sourdough toast variations.

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3. Dickson Street Books

Website: http://www.dicksonstreetbooks.com/#dsbs-set

Instagram: dicksonstbooks

Looking for a good book to read this summer? Do you enjoy spending long walks through a maze of bookshelves? Or love the smell of dusty old books? Go visit Dickson Street Books for the best and most versatile selection of used books in the heart of Fayetteville. Whether you’re a history nut, a sci-fi addict, or enjoy the Classics, this store will not disappoint. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to browse through the shelves when you stop by!

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4. Fayetteville Farmer’s Market

Website: http://www.fayettevillefarmersmarket.org/

If you’re a veggie lover like me, more than likely, your Saturday mornings will be spent at the award winning Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. Voted Favorite Large Farmers Market in 2012 and voted #5 in the nation in the 2011 American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Market Contest, this weekly event is a favorite amongst thousands of locals every April through November. If you’re a fan of fresh produce and flowers and want to support your local farmers, stop by and interact with this lively bunch.

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5. Alchemy Macarons and Tea

Website: http://www.alchemymacarons.com/

Instagram: alchemymacarons

If you have a sweet tooth while shopping around Town Square, go check out the new dessert boutique, Alchemy, for the best French macarons in town. Make sure to get there early though, this popular spot sells out of their delicious macarons quickly on a daily basis. FYI – their fine teas are as good as their sweet treats! Try the ginger peach green tea and the lemon or honey lavender macarons for a summer treat worth every penny.

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6. Mount Kessler Greenways

The Fayetteville community certainly embraces living amongst the Ozark mountains through the beautiful trails located throughout the city. One of my personal favorites, based on the foliage and scenic views, runs though Mount Kessler right off MLK Boulevard. This easily accessible trail boasts more than 1,500 acres of forest within Fayetteville’s city limits. This trail in particular is a popular route for many mountain bikers and trail runners in the area. Be sure to schedule a hike up Mt Kessler in the Fall to see the beautiful leaves turn amber.

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7. Lake Fayetteville

Lake Fayetteville provides local families with countless outdoor activities. Whether you’re interested in playing sand volleyball at Veterans Park, want to take a shot at Frisbee golf, or decide to challenge yourself with running or biking the 6 miles around the lake; Lake Fayetteville is a popular destination for the outdoor and fitness lovers of the community. If you’re an early bird like myself, put it on your bucket list to wake up and watch the sunrise over the lake for views that don’t disappoint.

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8. Mount Sequoyah Overlook

What I can only imagine has been the location for many high school dates or the best spot for romantic marriage proposals; the overlook at Mount Sequoyah is a hidden gem that grants full views of the city. You’re not a true member of the Fayetteville community until you capture a breathtaking photo of the sun setting behind the mountains in the distance.

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9. George’s Majestic Lounge

Website: http://www.georgesmajesticlounge.com/

Instagram: georgesmajesticlounge

George’s Majestic Lounge is one of the longtime music venues located on Dickson Street. It’s unique charm has brought in talented musicians from the local and national stage for over 40 years. Whether it’s Dirks Bentley or Fitz and the Tantrums, there is no artist too big or small to hit their stage. As the oldest and longest-running club  in Arkansas, you can always count on George’s for great live music.

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10. The University of Arkansas

Website: http://www.uark.edu

Instagram: Uarkansas

International Admissions Website: http://international-admissions.uark.edu/index.php

UARK International Admission Instagram: uarkintladmit

Now I might be a little biased, but the University of Arkansas is undoubtedly the main attraction in Fayetteville. Founded in 1871, the U of A continually boasts the Carnegie Foundation’s highest research classification among U.S universities. When you visit campus, be sure to snap shots of the iconic Old Main, the newly renovated Chi Omega Greek Theatre, the Fulbright Peace Fountain, and of course the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The University of Arkansas is also home to over 1,500 international students from over 113 countries. If you’re an international student looking for a place to study in the U.S, please seek out guidance from the Office of International Admissions for any questions you may have. The staff is highly knowledgeable and caters greatly to the needs of their international students.

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If there is one piece of advice I can give – don’t judge any city before you get there. You never know how charming it may be.

Other notable places around town:

Hammontree’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese – http://hammontreesgourmet.com/

Savoy Tea Company – http://savoytea.com/

Riffraff – http://shopriffraff.com/

Puritan Brew Co – http://puritancoffeebeer.com/

Little Bread Company – http://www.littlebread.com/

#GoodVibesOnly

<Yellow Rock Overlook after a thunderstorm – Sunrise Yoga with Fayettechill and Yoga Deza>

Isn’t it the most spectacular thing when you randomly encounter human beings who you immediately connect with? The ones that literally make you ache to learn more about and to hear their perspectives on life. The ones who force you to question the complexities of this world together. The ones who thrive on experiences rather than material things. The ones who encourage you to go on adventures to the deepest and highest parts of this Earth. The ones who challenge you to ignore societal norms and enjoy what nature has to offer. The ones who want to wake up before the sun, hike 3 miles, and appreciate the rain as it falls gently down onto our skin, as we practice yoga amongst the magical Ozark Mountains together. The ones who give warm embraces as you part ways. The ones who send a constant stream of good vibes into the world. Yeah – those are the ones you keep as part of your tribe.

#GoodVibesOnly

Where is the love?

My head has been spinning with questions since I posted the following on Facebook a couple of nights ago.

“Three bombings hit Baghdad today. One killing at least 64 and wounding more than 87 people at a market, the second killing 17 and wounding 43 others, and the third killing 12 people and wounding 31 others. Where is the turmoil? The news coverage? The temporary Facebook photos of the Iraqi flag? I understand that as Westerners, we tend to turn a blind eye to places that are unlike our own environments – but come on – Baghdad was once easily the most intellectual city of its time. Baghdad has contributed immensely to the world through the House of Wisdom, advancements in medicine, algebra, etc. It was the heart and soul of the Islamic Golden Age from the 7th-13th centuries – and now it’s one of the least hospitable places in the world to live because of the Iraqi War and countless insurgency attacks since. I pray that someday humanity will realize that whether someone is from Brussels or Beirut or Baghdad – tragedy is tragedy. Can’t we give just as much compassion towards the Iraqis today as we did to those in Brussels and Paris months ago?”

For years, I have struggled to understand why humans tend to empathize only with those who appear to relate to themselves. I mean, I get it to an extent. I can easily put myself in the shoes of most 25-year-old women in the United States or Western Europe and connect with them on some level. Clearly, we don’t all have the same experiences, but in general, I can relate. Lately, I’ve questioned my ability to relate to women my age throughout the rest of the world. I cannot sit here and act like I know what it’s like to live in extreme poverty, or have a lack of education, or live in a city that has fallen to terrorists. I’m not going to act like I’ve been through the atrocities many women face across the world, like the humiliation of female genital mutilation in Africa or the horrors of sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. No – I have not experienced anything remotely as detrimental to ones’ mental and physical health compared to the things so many men, women, and children go through on a daily basis across the globe. So how is it that I can possibly relate?

I find myself going back to three factors (in my opinion) that result in some Americans inability to relate or to empathize with others across the globe.

  • Lack of education
  • Isolationism
  • Media Coverage

How many times do you hear the phrase, “The news is too depressing, so I don’t pay attention to what it going on overseas,” because I hear it ALL OF THE TIME. Now don’t get me wrong, the news can be disheartening because frankly, humanity is scary. Lately, it appears society has gone down a path in which fear has overtaken our senses and we have decided it’s much easier to ignore problems in the world than confront them. However, education is the key to understanding the many facets of this world. Of course, for me, it’s easy to be interested in these issues because this is one of my passions. I realize that not everyone feels this way about politics, humanitarian crises, or foreign policy like I do. I don’t expect you to because we all have our own passions in life. I do believe though that it is our responsibility as citizens to familiarize ourselves with major events that occur on a daily basis despite its geographical location. The better informed we are, the better prepared we may become if we pay attention to what other societies go through. If we want to identify the root causes to the atrocities across the globe, we must take a step outside our bubbles and acknowledge the injustices in this world that inevitably lead people into desperate situations. Don’t we want the world to stop perceiving Americans as ignorant? I know I do. We are so incredibly lucky to live and thrive in a country where we have such visible freedoms. Knowledge is power – seek it, understand it, act on it.

But maybe there is more to this – maybe it’s difficult for Americans to relate to the rest of the world because they want to become isolationists again. Isolationism is based on two main beliefs – the idea that “the United States should avoid any political commitment that ties American policy and action to the policies and actions of other nations” and “the belief that the central aim of American foreign policy was to avoid foreign wars at all costs.” Can I blame Americans for wanting the country to revert back to the policies of the Monroe Doctrine and to focus more on domestic issues (mainly the economy)? Since the 1920s, our country has been in a constant state of war from World War I, to World War II, to the Cold War, to Korea, to Vietnam, to Desert Storm, to Bosnia, to Iraq and to Afghanistan. We always seem to be intervening in conflicts far from our own soil.

According to a 2013 Pew poll, 52 percent respondents believed that “the U.S should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” I must say, this statistic doesn’t surprise me. Is American society simply tired of this war stricken mentality that we have been faced with for decades? Do Americans choose not to engage and to ignore the tragedies that occur in non-Western countries because they don’t want to be sucked into another conflict? The United States, in a sense, is fortunate to be geographically isolated from a large portion of this world. Perhaps, we feel inherently safe in the comforts of our own homes in America, that we don’t feel the need to worry about what is going on in less fortunate countries. Or perhaps, we aren’t compassionate because the majority of us have never even come close to experiencing the kind of danger that we tend to see only in war movies. I can only assume that for most Americans, if it isn’t on US soil, we simply follow the concept of “out of sight – out of mind.” And even so, perhaps we don’t consciously decide we want to be isolationists, but our society pushes us to react this way in order to avoid disrupting the stability of American society.

Perhaps the biggest culprit of all though is the media. Why is it that we can have day and night coverage of the Brussels and Paris attacks, but the CNN writes only two paragraphs dedicated to three separate bombings in Baghdad yesterday? Does anybody even realize that 93 people died and more than 161 civilians were injured in one city? Why was there a massive media frenzy when the Boston Marathon bombings happened, yet, we barely touch on the fact that well over 250,000 Syrians have died since 2012? Why do we hardly ever hear about the most deadly terrorist group in the world? If you think its ISIS, think again. Ever heard of Boko Haram? In 2015 alone, Boko Haram killed more than 11,000 people according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker. In over six years, the terrorist group has claimed more than 30,000 lives in Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, but you probably don’t know that because it’s hardly ever addressed in the media.

Did the media decide they spent too much time talking about the pointless Iraq War for eight years; so therefore, Americans shouldn’t have an interest in the Middle East? Did our government decide the media shouldn’t show how much of a mess we left the region after our presence there and the war? How and why does the media get to choose to cover only certain tragedies for expanded coverage while ignoring so many others? Is it all a matter of political interest? Do we really place more significance on American and Western European lives than our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world? We all know the answer is clearly yes. And as painful as that reality is, there is undoubtedly uneven coverage on even the most horrific atrocities say in Africa compared to much smaller tragedies in the US or Western Europe. Just take the attack at Garissa University in Kenya last year. Haven’t heard of it? Well that’s my point.

The more I educate myself about how different cultures live, the more I realize that we are all so much alike. I’m always fascinated by Snap Chat’s videos of how others live in cities and countries half way across the globe. Instagram also offers insights to so many different cultures that I can’t help but say to myself, “I’m dumb, of course 20 something year olds from (insert country) lead similar lives as I do.” We all eat, have relationships, partake in hobbies, have jobs, etc. We all have the ability to feel anger, sadness, happiness, and excitement. We are ALL human. Yes – let me repeat that – WE ARE ALL HUMAN. We can all relate to one another. So why does location matter when tragedy occurs?

 

❤ Kayla

How Hiking Heals…

The cure to loneliness is learning to be content with one’s own company. At least – that’s what I’ve learned after nearly two years of living on my own, hours away from my closest friends and family. When I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in October 2014, I honestly didn’t have any intention on staying here for an extended amount of time. I longed to be in Denver, Colorado with my boyfriend, ready to start a life together. I didn’t go out of my way to make friends because I honestly didn’t feel the need to. In my mind I had already planned my escape out of Arkansas. I had found companionship with my coworkers and with those I played volleyball with and that was enough for me. I was satisfied.

It’s funny how as humans we try to plan our lives in advance, as if we know exactly how our lives will pan out. Well trust me – we don’t. The day after my 25th birthday, I removed myself from my long distance relationship that had already been deteriorating for years. It was long overdue, but unfortunately that didn’t make the heartbreak any easier. You see, that was my first legitimate relationship. My first love, and then, my first real heartbreak. So you can now see why after 25 years of not experiencing any sort of heartbreak – I was sort of a mess. In those dark moments, I sought comfort in professional help. In all honesty, I saw the woman once. She was a great listener and she suggested a really captivating book for me read (which reminds me – I should probably finish it now). And then, I met a fantastic guy. He challenged my thinking on every level (especially science). He was incredibly thoughtful (and easy on the eyes). He was well-cultured, loved to travel, enjoyed talking about politics, and loved to workout. He was literally everything I dreamed of. And best of all, he made me feel worthy of being in a relationship with. But….it was bad timing. I was still dealing with too much drama with my ex and I was honestly beyond exhausted. I couldn’t be the person I wanted and needed to be for him at the time, so we parted ways. That in itself was heartbreaking because I had finally found the comfort of a companion here in Arkansas – something that I didn’t realize I had sought.

For the first time (and because I was completely alone), I finally saw what Arkansas had to offer me (they don’t call it the Natural State for nothing). I found solace in hiking the worn out trails in the Ozark Mountains, feeling the warmth of the sun shine down my face. It was like a battery full of charge, the sun propelling me forward and giving me energy and life as I walked miles away into the wilderness. There is truly nothing more therapeutic then walking along the trails of freshly fallen amber leaves, inhaling and exhaling the clean cool air, and clearing the demons that inhabit your mind. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” And just like Fitz said, it felt like my life had started over.

Throughout the last eight months, it has been nature that has kept me sane. My weekends have often led me to the most beautiful secluded destinations, hardly touched by civilization. I’ve climbed over 2000ft to reach a 200 ft waterfall, walked along a 350 foot bluff with stunning views of the Buffalo River, and practiced yoga on overlooks surrounded by the greenest trees. I have learned how to be wildly and incandescently happy in my own company because I am in sync with nature. I have learned that with every step amongst the pines, I can also let go of any detrimental thoughts that linger within me. The negativity that once crippled me now streams steadily away, like water flowing freely down the Buffalo River.

And that is what nature does – it allows you to move freely without the constraints of the real world that are constantly tugging at you from behind. If you respect it, it will respect you back and give you 10x more than what you ever expected. I hike alone because it is a safe haven for me to escape. I can be in complete control of my actions and not have to worry about anything other than myself. Call me selfish, but after my last three years of emotional torment, I deserve it. My life isn’t always full of dandelions and butterflies – but for now, I’ll take refuge being amongst them.

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Centerpoint Trail to Goat Trail – Overlooking the Buffalo National River

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Hawksbill Crag or commonly referred to as Whitaker Point

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Yellow Rock Trail at Devil’s Den State Park

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Pigeon Roost Hiking Trail – Beaver Lake

Love,

Kayla

Oh the Humanities…

“She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.”
Roman Payne

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment where I knew traveling the world and becoming a humanitarian would become one of my greatest passions in my life, but the idea undoubtedly unfolded at an early age. Some kids loved math or science – I loved what most kids my age would consider the ‘boring’ subjects – geography and history. Whether it was participating in the local geography bee or sitting in the back row of Mr. Wagner’s history class secretly trying to memorize and locate every country on a blank map, I constantly wanted to learn more about the world around me in every facet. So much so that I would even spend my Sunday afternoons with my history teacher in the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, Kansas just because I thought it was fun. Talk about dedication. In high school, I veered from the idea of going to college for history, instead I wanted to become a journalist. I imagined a life traveling around the globe as a photo journalist for National Geographic photographing wild animals on African safaris, climbing the Great Wall of China, and roaming the Roman Underground for lost treasures. When it finally came time to enroll at Baker University, I once again surprised myself and foolishly decided that there was ‘too much’ writing to go into the Journalism program. I clearly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I declared International Studies and later on, History, as my two majors instead (You know because those two subjects don’t require ANY writing or anything – I blame you – Ortiz, Richards, and Beasley). As much as I probably complained about the gruesome amount of work in those four years, I was led to exactly where I needed to be – in the humanities.

The humanities change you. Is there really anything more compelling than attempting to understand the human condition through history, religion, language, art, and philosophy? You don’t actually need to answer that. Too often have I heard the arguments that suggests that the humanities do not contribute to our vast knowledge base like the STEM fields do. Too often have I heard that the humanities will not provide job security or a healthy stream of income. Too often have I been belittled by those who believe that my Master of Science degree in Global and International Studies is ‘less worthy’ compared to their Engineering and Math degrees. Luckily, I won’t stay up at night feeling diminished by their ignorance. I’m damn proud of my education. My degrees emphasized critical reading, writing, and thinking skills, as well as interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving — ALL of which will serve me well as I volunteer abroad.

I’ve known since I was 14 years old that I would apply for the Peace Corps. At that time in my life, I saw life in the Peace Corps as glamorous and exotic. It didn’t hit me until I was in college that volunteering in this capacity was anything but. However, the more I learned in my International Studies’ classes about different cultures and global issues, the more I realized how badly I wanted to help other cultures thrive with the skills I possessed. Although I did not apply directly after receiving my undergraduate degree, I knew I needed to gain more life experience through volunteering, furthering my education, and working in higher education to become a competitive candidate for the Peace Corps (23,000 people applied this year after all). In the past four years, I have worked diligently to become an informed, educated, and hardworking global citizen. I most certainly couldn’t have achieved this without the seven years of burying myself in International Studies curricula.

International Studies literally brings out the humanity in oneself. I mean honestly, how couldn’t it? Try sitting in class day in and day out reading about things like the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, food security, the Rwandan Genocide, female genital mutilation, or human trafficking – it will change you. It will make you question everything you can imagine about the intricacies of your own society and if you’re contributing to this Earth in a positive or negative way. It makes you uncomfortable. No one wants to sit around and think about the poor child overseas being subjected to child labor in order to provide you with your clothing – but we have to. As humans – we have to be willing to question and dig deeper into the things that make us feel uncomfortable in order to enact any kind of positive change. And that is why I have chosen to join the Peace Corps – to promote world peace and gain intercultural relationships at a grassroots level. I would have never truly understood the impact of studying International Studies unless I experienced and witnessed the human condition in a different light, far from the comforts of my 1100 sq ft apartment in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My education has served its purpose and it has undeniably prepared me for MY future.

September 19th, 2016 marks the beginning of my journey as a Youth Asset Builder/Secondary Ed English Teacher in Morocco. The program widely focuses on youth leadership, strengthening youth networks, building capacity of professionals who work with youth, and the promotion of girls’ education. I will spend three months in intensive training learning Darija and everything I need to know about Moroccan culture and how to be the best volunteer possible. During this time I will live with a host family (one that I pray respects my dietary restrictions). For those wondering about my location, I will not find out until the end of those three months where I will be placed for the next two years of service. However, once I’m placed at my site, I will find myself my very own apartment that will become home for the next two years. Frankly, I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m still shocked. I really can’t begin to describe the emotions that come to play when you know you will be in a completely new environment for 27 months. My goal is to keep you all updated as much as possible through this blog, Facebook, and Instagram. Feel free to ask me any questions regarding the Peace Corps or my travels abroad at anytime! I’ve searched for quite some time for an organization that I could develop professionally, socially, mentally, and physically and I couldn’t be more proud to have found that with the Peace Corps.

 

Love,

Kayla

 

Photo taken by the spectacular Gloria Atanmo at The Blog Abroad: