Student Stories: Africa visit altered her perspective

Jessica Preston loves to travel, and she wanted to study abroad. Originally she had hoped to go to Australia, but she ended up choosing to visit Kenya and Tanzania instead, focusing on wildlife management and conservation.

Turns out, that was the right decision for her.

"The program was unique, and I wanted something different that would stick with me forever," said the senior animal sciences major in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

The study-abroad program, which is newly affiliated with Penn State, is accredited through Boston College. Preston, from Hershey, Pa. Preston was only the second Penn State student to participate. She headed to Rhotia, Tanzania, in February 2011 with 28 other students from around the country.

A typical day was full of classes, but once or twice a week the students were given a special day to go to a tourist lodge, take a drive through a national park or do community-service work at a local school.

"The area of Tanzania we stayed in was agricultural, and we were surrounded by a lot of corn fields and green fields of beans and other crops," she said. "During our three-month trip, we also stayed in Kimana, Kenya, for a few weeks, where the climate and conditions were dusty and dry."

She and her fellow students slept in huts in a fenced-in compound surrounded by natural, wild settings. "The only trouble was if baboons came in, because they could climb over the fence," she said, laughing. "One day, an elephant broke through the fence and came wondering through our camp."

The trip changed her outlook and the way she views the world. "It's different from anything I've ever experienced -- it was humbling," she said. "It made me appreciate everything I have. When I was there, I missed things I left behind at home, but I realized I didn't need them."

The people in Kenya and Tanzania taught her important lessons. "They had nothing, but they'd give you everything because you were a guest," she said.

The trip made Preston realize that veterinary school is no longer the path she wants to follow. "I'm now looking for a career in wildlife management," she said.

For more information about the animal sciences major click here

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Last Updated September 09, 2015