Community Service Highlights

This semester, students have been working diligently to complete one of the Global UGRAD Program’s most meaningful requirements: community service. From supporting children in the foster care system to tagging sharks for important research, our students have served their host communities in a variety of ways. We are proud to feature a sample of some exceptional students’ volunteer experiences.

Ajla Fiku | Albania | Kansas State University

Ajla Fiku sorts food for Mobile Food Distribution, an activity organized by the HandsOn group at Kansas State University

“During my time at Kansas State University, I joined HandsOn K-State, an organization created by students of K-State with the single goal of making Manhattan an amazing place to live. While working with them, I had the opportunity to meet so many volunteers and members of the Manhattan community. I was active in volunteering in the library, mostly dusting the shelves and organizing books, which resulted in bonding time with other volunteers too. An activity I really enjoyed was the Mobile Food Distribution, which I am willing to do again as much as I can. Our job was to stock the members of the community with groceries and I had the chance to meet so many amazing volunteers and create lasting friendships. Volunteering was not something I had the chance do often in my home country, but volunteering here has completely changed my mindset, because it is so much more than just “working” as many would see it as.”

Hao Anh Bui Nguyen | Vietnam | Maryville College

Hao is taking a psychology course on child trauma and resilience this semester. His professor connected him with an organization called Tennessee Kids Belong, which provides support for foster kids and recruits potential foster and adoptive parents. Hao regularly spent time with kids at the organization’s center, playing games and talking with them, learning about their lives and about American culture.

“I ask them questions and I think that is what they like about me. My personality gives them a sense of authority because I am new. I am also in a vulnerable position as someone who is not from here. I don’t know a lot of things and depend on people’s help. [The kids] can sense that.”

Hao hopes to use the lessons and insights learned from this volunteer experience back home. He wants to help bridge the gap between knowing social theories on an academic level and addressing real-life needs in the community.

Jesslyn Santos | Guatemala | Florida Gulf Coast University

Jesslyn Santos and her classmates tag sharks for research through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“Who would have thought that tagging sharks would be part of my community service hours? Certainly not me! But here I am, immersed in this marine adventure that has turned out to be an incredible experience. It all started in my humanities and social issues class, where we were asked to collaborate with a non-profit organization. A classmate spoke about his previous experience with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tagging sharks, and from that moment on, I knew I wanted to be part of that project. Currently, we are a group of 7 students, each with different majors but united by the same passion for marine animals. Our work has an important purpose: to help NOAA collect data on sharks, such as their migratory and population patterns, which maintain balance in marine ecosystems and in the fishing economy. In this process, I have learned a lot about the care and proper handling of sharks. I have also been able to help the community with something I really enjoy and it has professional benefits for my career as a marine biologist and aquaculturist.”