Maryville College in Cape Verde was an opportunity that I was blessed to have as a college student. Studying abroad with Maryville College allows you to travel the world and expose yourself to different cultures and opportunities, and as a student you are able to study abroad for an affordable price. The goal of this trip was designed to follow the service rationale of the Circle K organization, which is to “do good on the largest possible scale.”
Creating this service abroad trip was a chance for us students to do hands-on service in Cape Verde and to learn about the African culture. This was done by visiting Forte Real de São Filipe and the Tarrafal camp. These are just a couple of the many historical sites that we visited to learn more about the Portuguese colony that originated in Cape Verde.
We took in a lot of information, but we also shared our U.S. experience with the students in the community during our panels. At these panels, we were able to connect with the students one-on-one and made some awesome new friends. It was fun to switch roles and for us to be the international students for a change. We learned so much about the universities there and were able to compare and contrast our experiences with the other students.
What bonded us the most was the big soccer match between MC and CV. This was a time where both groups from each country could work as a team and also have individual conversations. The MC community also became more of a family on this trip. Each night we did a talking activity called “flowers and thorns” where we talked about our bad (thorns) and good (flowers) parts of the day.
With us being in a new environment, there were more thorns than flowers during the first couple of days. As the week went on, it turned to everyone only having flowers and no thorns. The metaphor of flowers stayed with me this whole trip because each student and travel advisor blossomed in their own way by opening themselves to new things physically and emotionally. In addition to that, we saw how the country is always blossoming with beautiful smiles and the amazing melanin I saw all around me.
On the very last night, as we had our discussion, Claudia said, “All we want is for people to see us and to actually be included on the map like other countries.” After that comment, we all realized we did what we came here to do.
Even if it didn’t include a lot of physical volunteer work, we saw the people for who they really were. This wasn’t just an ordinary fun on the beach tourist trip; it was a trip where we cried, felt emotions, and experienced new things together with the country.
We’re very thankful that Claudia’s family and hometown welcomed us with open arms and never let us leave the house hungry. We are also very thankful for Circle K and Maryville College. Without these organizations, we would not have been able to have such an awesome and unforgettable experience.