Agricultural Education student, Caleb tenBensel, reflects on his time abroad in Rwanda

Agricultural Education student, Caleb tenBensel, reflects on his time abroad in Rwanda

ALEC Students, 2019 study abroad, Africa Mount Bisoke, photo courtesy of Caleb tenBensel

In May, a group of students led by Dr. LJ McElravy and Dr. Nathan Conner traveled to Rwanda to learn about the history, culture, agricultural and environmental practices of the region. In addition, the group explored and studied how arts-based digital storytelling techniques can be used for engaging public audiences in positive change movements.

Junior Agricultural Education major, Caleb tenBensel, from Cambridge, Nebraska reflects on his time abroad.

"Traveling to a country like Rwanda was exciting to me because I got to witness firsthand the transformation of a country which only a generation ago experienced such crippling devastation and is now one of the safest countries in the world with one of the fastest growing economies."

Ruminating on his time in Rwanda, Caleb found that there is more that connects us than could possibly divide us.

"We are all human, and stereotypes some may hold about small African countries are no longer valid. Rwanda and the East African Community are striving to become more competitive on a global scale, and in my mind have been largely successful through the implementation of progressive policies and investment in their people."

In addition to research and cultural exchange, the students had the opportunity to visit national parks, genocide memorials, historic cultural villages, and many local businesses and organizations.

According to Caleb, the most memorable experience of the trip was the group's excursion to Mount Bisoke in Volcanoes National Park.

"Our guide had told us that the hike would not be too hard, in his words, "No problem!" As our intrepid group of twelve began our hike, not even an hour in did we have to don our raincoats as the clouds, which were concealing everything above the base of the volcano, began pouring rain down on us. After a grueling four hours of hiking through dense, misty jungle on paths made muddy by running water, our group of now six finally reached the summit. We maybe stayed five minutes as the brisk wind blew freezing air at us and whipped at our jackets. It took us three hours to descend; by the time we reached the bottom, our bodies were physically exhausted and emotionally drained from the journey."

But above all, his greatest takeaway "circumstance does not determine what you can achieve."

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