Alumni Spotlight: Leah Ruehlicke

Why did you decide to volunteer with Global Nomadic in Ghana?

Leah: Basically, all through school I knew I wanted to travel after I graduated, but I wasn't sure where. In the beginning of my fourth year a few friends and I started talking about taking a trip somewhere overseas, but it was all very up in the air and very dependent on who got jobs when. It soon became very clear that if I actually wanted to travel, I was going to have to do it solo or it would never actually happen. I didn't like the idea of wandering the world as a lonely tourist, so I decided to look up volunteer opportunities. The one that caught my eye the most was the Journalism/NGO management position since it somewhat related to what I wanted to do with my life, and since I didn't have a country in mind that I was dead-set on visiting, I figured I may as well pack my bags for Ghana.

Leah volunteering in Ghana with Global Nomadic

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Leah: Each day in my position was very different. Some days I would spend a few hours downstairs in the workshop with the workers helping them cut bags, cut fabric, do the washing, etc. Other days would be spent with the other interns working on the company blog, creating our documentary video, or brainstorming on ways to promote the company. Finally, for a week we were stationed in the mall selling the newest company product; the Trashy SmartBag, which is an accessorized reusable shopping bag. This week was really interesting because you got to see firsthand how differently countries perceive "being green". In North America, it's cool to be environmentally aware. This concept has definitely not yet reached cool status in Ghana.

Fishing boats on the coast of Ghana

How has this experience impacted your future?

Leah: To be completely honest, I don't think this experience will have much impact on my professional or academic future. It was a very short lived internship, for one thing. That being said, the impact it had on my personal life - even only being there for one, quick month - was enormous and easily outweighed any professional impacts it could have had. I learned so much about myself. I've always been a somewhat panicky person and although I can easily go with the flow on a Saturday night out, I have a really hard time doing so when it comes to life in general. This experience made me so much more relaxed and, at the risk of sounding cliche, so much more in tune with what's actually important to me. I won't say I was more scared to come back home than I was to leave, but I was equally nervous - just for different reasons. I have never felt the way I did while I was over there, and I was really scared to lose that person. I'm welling up just thinking about all this, man! GO OVERSEAS.