Alex Schoenberger's African Adventure
To say it's been an interesting term for Dartmouth's Alex Schoenberger, would be an understatement.
After starring on the volleyball court in the fall, the outside hitter has spent the past seven weeks in Arusha, a city in northern Tanzania, teaching math and English to four- and six-year-olds.
Schoenberger, a neuroscience major and education minor, chose to spend her term abroad working with the International Volunteer Headuarters (IVHQ) and Tanzanian Volunteer Experience (TVE).
The Corte Madera, Calif., native is volunteering abroad and traveling outside the country without her parents, Rich and Monica, for the first time.
At first the experience seemed daunting for Schoenberger as she explains, "I had no idea that when I walked in on my first day I would enter a class of 17 kindergarteners and watch the teacher leave."
However, she has accepted the challenge with open arms and learned to cherish her time with the students.
"I couldn't have asked for a program that was more what I was looking for. Had I been sheltered by my program or asked to sit in the back of a classroom everyday, these past weeks wouldn't have been nearly the unbelievable experience they've been for me," Schoenberger added.
The six-foot sophomore is teaching at Jitihada Support English Medium. Despite the language barriers - Swahili is the native language in Tanzania - she hasn't experienced much culture shock. In fact, Schoenberger has grown an affinity for the local cuisine.
"My favorite food here is chapati and lentils, which we have every Tuesday. Chapati is an Indian flatbread and is incredible with the cooked lentils and hot sauce. I look forward to having it for dinner once a week and I'm trying to figure out the recipe so I can bring it back home with me," Schoenberger remarked.
It wasn't long before Schoenberger and her housemates settled into a daily routine.
"My favorite time of day here is 6:30 in the morning. The whole house is up either working out, journaling or eating before we leave for school and it's so peaceful to sit outside on the not-yet burning stone, while watching the sunrise and listening to animals walking around the street."
The trip hasn't been all work for the student-athlete from the Golden State as the program has given her the opportunity to chose how to spend her time in the classroom and out of it as well.
Schoenberger recently had the chance to do something, she didn't ever think she'd get to.
"I certainly did not see myself ever climbing six hours in the pitch black and literally freezing cold, but I convinced myself that it would be fun to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and that was just the beginning of summit day," Schoenberger stated.
Besides extracurriculars like her trek up Mount Kilimanjaro she has also found herself facing situations she would never in the States. One such instance found Schoenberger confiscating a razor blade from a student who was using it to sharpen a pencil, an experience she found almost surreal given the rudimentary fashion in which basic tasks are performed on a regular basis there.
Throughout her nearly 50 days abroad, Schoenberger has made the most of her experience.
"Even though I certainly have not had what might be considered a typical sophomore winter term for a Dartmouth student and the classroom I've been spending my days in is different than those of my peers, but I have learned more than I could've ever imagined."
As her African adventure comes to a close, Schoenberger is looking forward to a return to her routine at home. However, she realizes that saying goodbye to her students and friends in Tanzania is going to be hard.
"I'm excited to get back to school to see my team and the rest of the people that have made me miss home, but leaving is going to be bittersweet when I have to say goodbye to my kids and the incredible people I've met here."
As hard as those goodbyes may seem, she's ready to get back to her life in Hanover and with the Big Green.