Alumni Spotlight: Rebecca Kuntz

Rebecca is 20 year old DePaul University student from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and is majoring in Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies with a focus on Africa. She has lived in Africa for over 7 months, spending 3 months in East Africa on the Carpe Diem Education service-learning college semester, and the other 4 months working for a non profit in Ghana, West Africa. Rebecca will be moving permanently to Ghana in early 2014 to continue working on the Education Center she is helping build there.

Carpe Diem Africa students bond with the community

Why did you decide to study abroad with Carpe Diem?

Rebecca: After looking into other study abroad programs I knew that Carpe Diem was the one when I read their mission and vision on their website. One of their main philosophies is that volunteering, working side by side with a community, is the best way to bridge the cultural divide, and by doing this you are communicating something that words simply cannot. Before Carpe Diem I spent 3 months volunteering in Ghana, West Africa where I had the opportunity to see many different non profits at work. One of the main things I came away with was the strong feeling that non profits and volunteers must work alongside communities, they must not put themselves on a pedestal and come in with the “I know everything” mentality. When I read that this was one of Carpe Diem’s main philosophies, I knew this was the organization I wanted to go with.

Carpe Diem students and local children

What made this experience unique and special?

Rebecca: What makes Carpe Diem unique is their focus on community and personal development. Carpe’s program is set up so you are never sitting in a classroom for 9 hours a day, they embrace the philosophy that the world is your classroom. We learned about farming in the highlands of southern Tanzania, ocean life on the island of Zanzibar, and rhino poaching in central Uganda, these are things you would never learn inside a four walled classroom. The communities that you work with become your teachers, friends, and mentors and end up teaching you some incredible lessons.

Your group leaders and other students become your family, and push you outside your comfort zone like nobody else can. Outside your comfort zone is where personal growth and development takes place, whether that be teaching in front of a 60 student class, ordering dinner for the group in the local language, or planning transport from point A to point B.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Rebecca: Personally, my experience in East Africa brought me 6 people who I now consider my closest friends and people who inspire and motivate me daily to dream bigger and take leaps of faith. Besides best friends, Carpe Diem East Africa helped solidify my future plans. As mentioned before, I spent 3 months in Ghana the summer before I did Carpe Diem, and knew I was planning to spend my life in Africa working on community development projects, but throughout my time in East Africa we volunteered with amazing organizations, individuals, and communities, and I left knowing this is the field I will spend my entire life in. Since Carpe Diem I’ve been back to Ghana, broke ground on an Education Center I’m building there, developed a non profit, and will be moving there within a year. Carpe Diem set these plans into motion with lots of support, guidance, and encouragement.

Carpe Diem students in East Africa

What is one piece of advice you'd give future Carpe-Africa students?

Rebecca: One piece of advice I’d give to future Carpe Africa students is to come into the trip with an open mind ready for new experiences and opportunities. The trip will not be like anything you’ve experienced before and you should be open to that. You will be put in situations that will make you uncomfortable and nervous, but you will learn a lot about yourself from those encounters. In my opinion, the East Africa trip is very unique and special because of the environment, communities, destinations, and the extremely welcoming and friendly East African culture.