Alumni Spotlight: Nikki Rosengren


Nikki works in the public school system supporting youth with disabilities in mainstream classrooms. Working in education has always been an interest of hers and she continues to study part time in college to obtain her Bachelor's in Community Rehabilitation. Her dream is to work in an education system that is inclusive and inviting for all that attend.

Why did you choose this program?

Teaching has been a passion for me for over the last eight years. I love learning and growing as a person and an educator. I always find immersing myself in as many outlets and opportunities as possible makes me more conscious of my practice and more accepting of change. I chose this program so that I could learn about an education system in a world that is completely opposite of my own.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I had a friend that volunteered abroad previously so she was amazing in helping me through the whole process. My online representative was also incredible. He was so helpful in answering questions even though they were answers that could be found on the web page. He was very patient and replied quickly.

I had to organize my flights, vaccinations and other miscellaneous tasks but he pointed me in the direction for all. For example, STA travel, books flights for you at a discounted rate and the representatives are also great and easy to work with.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I wish I was able to see myself succeed and embrace my time in Tanzania. I could not wipe the smile off my face the whole time I was there and I wish I could have seen myself before I left. I had so much fear and self-doubt before I left that I was not able to feel excited, and only worried I was going to have a bad time.

Had I known I was going to have such an incredible, life-changing experience I would have booked a longer program. Two weeks is NOT enough. It was certainly still amazing but if you have the time to stay longer, STAY!

Also, if you are a solo traveler and have doubts, don't! Just book it and go. The friendships you make are meaningful and lasting ones. I never felt like I was alone once.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I was actually shocked about our day-to-day schedule. I am used to working long days at home so I was a little disappointed but also pleasantly surprised to only be working 9 am to 1 pm.

My placement was quite far away from the volunteer house, so we had to leave early to accommodate for the 90-minute commute. At first, the commute felt daunting and overwhelming but by the third day when we got well acquainted with our surroundings it was no longer stressful but enjoyable. We got to experience the daily commute with locals and ride the Dolla Dolla with goats and chickens which was such a fun experience.

In the afternoons we would meet up with other volunteers and go walk around in town or go for a late lunch. Sometimes we would go back for an afternoon nap as the days are quite exhausting between the kids and the commuting. During dinner, the house filled up again and we would all eat and share stories of our day. It was so nice to share and grow close with your roommates.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I have been teaching for eight years, but the thought of doing my job in a different country seemed terrifying knowing that it would be so different. There were certainly differences however there were more similarities. Kids are kids, no matter where you are in the world.

I had fears about traveling across the world by myself but everyone was so helpful along the way. There was so much stigmatization about Africa being a dangerous place that you would never imagine falling in love with a country like Tanzania. I had so much fear around Africa's reputation that my interpretation of Tanzania was already a negative one and I was expecting the worst.

I now feel guilty and full of shame for thinking that when I felt so safe and so loved when I was there. Everyone I met was very friendly and welcoming. While it is a beautiful country, it is a country with a lot of sadness, struggle and corruption yet the people of Tanzania are some of the happiest people I have ever met. I learned a lot from their passion and tenacity for life that I cherish and appreciate so much being home.

How did your experience abroad change you?

I have traveled a fair bit but volunteering abroad has probably been the best and most fulfilling experience yet. I had a few close friends tell me I would come back a new person and before I left I didn't believe them. How could I come back different? I've traveled before and always felt the same.

Tanzania did change me though. I honestly can't explain the change. In some ways, I feel like it has rewired my brain and I have a brand new approach to the life I live and the way I will teach. My heart felt so full when I was there. It was probably the happiest I have been in a long time. So one thing that I warn you is that you come home feeling a little heart broken. I definitely left a piece of my heart in Africa and it will always be there.