Richelle Pennington is a Junior Pre-Physicians Assistant, Biology major from the State University of New York at Geneseo. In her free time, she is the volunteer coordinator for Geneso's Outing Club, the Charity Chair of Phi Lambda Chi, the secretary for Biology Club and an EMT for the Geneseo Fire Department. Richelle traveled to El Sauce with the Summer Service Learning program in 2013. Her experience, she explains, is one that will say with her for her entire life:
In regards to traveling abroad, I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot in my lifetime. When I was younger I lived in Geneva, Switzerland, which gave me the chance to understand another culture besides my own outside of the United States of America. Since then, most of my trips outside the country have been for leisure, to see new place or visit family and/or friends. I have learned a lot in my travels but in the end I’ve realized nothing compares to being fully immersed in a totally new culture.
When I initially applied to journey to El Sauce, Nicaragua I planned on working at a rural health post so that I could give back to the community since I really enjoy patient care. I know Nicaragua has its issues in the health care world so I saw this opportunity to be right up my alley. I was aware I was going on a “service-learning” trip but I continued to tell myself this was more of a volunteer trip and focus on that. I never thought about the fact that I would be taken on a journey. I met new friends, slid down a volcano, listened to music, traveled to cities and mountains, spent quality time with my host family and learned a new culture as well as a language. I was given the chance to help out, which I did. I was able to assist with vitals, help calm down patients and even preform a few pap smears. I was able to give a little but in reality I ended up learning so much more in the end.
I now see how to immerse myself in a culture, which is to live how everyone else does. I also see how back at home I take many things for granted such as water, food, transportation and my family. After my experience I now feel much more fortunate for all I have been given and will use this to help me realize what issues are and are not realistically important. I will use the experience and knowledge to tell others how important service is, but in the end an adventure like this will ultimately change your thinking and how you live for the better. I may have stayed only one month in El Sauce, Nicaragua but my involvement there has made a lifetime impact on me.