Holiday gift ideas from Behrend faculty and staff members

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It’s crunch time. The holidays are nearly here and there’s only so much time left to grab the perfect gift.

Still need some help? No worries, Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members are here for you.

Here are some suggestions for gifts that are both fun and educational:

Idea provided by Tom Noyes, professor of English and Creative Writing

2018 Pushcart Prize XLII. The annual Pushcart Prize anthology gathers the best fiction, nonfiction and poetry published in America’s literary magazines and small presses over the course of the previous year, making it an ideal gift for any book lover on your list. The newest edition, 2018 Pushcart Prize XLII, contains a special treat. The poem “Praying Mantis in My Husband’s Salad” by Laura Kasischke was chosen from the pages of Lake Effect, Penn State Behrend’s award-winning literary journal. $13

Idea provided by Mary-Ellen Madigan, director of enrollment management

BRIXO. Enjoy LEGOs? Then you’ll love BRIXO, which is similar but with even more customization. Some of the things that young people can create include vehicles, wacky lamps, remote-controlled lighthouses and motorized quadcopters. If someone on your list has a big imagination, this gift is for them. Prices vary.

Ideas provided by Tracy Halmi, assistant teaching professor of chemistry

Bath Bombs. It’s a chance to bring chemistry to the tub. Bath bombs are hard-packed mixtures of dry ingredients and give off bubbles when wet. They can be purchased from the web, or young chemists can use this Bath Bombs guide to make their own. $19

Amigurumi Chemistry Set Pattern. This crochet chemistry set pattern is perfect for the person on your list who is crafty but loves science, too. $14

Organic Compounds Cutting Board. Know someone who likes to cook with spices? This cutting board displays all the molecules that add the fragrance to spices. $38.50

Reactions: An Illustrated Exploration of Elements, Molecules, and Change in the Universe. The third and final installment in the trilogy of visual books developed by Theodore Gray, this book details chemical reactions with a set of stunning pictures and stories. $30

Ideas provided by Richard Zhao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering

Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini. Who wouldn’t want a personal assistant that can tell the weather, order pizza, play music, control home appliances and more? These home automation gadgets from Amazon or Google are also on sale this holiday season. $30

Themed Night Lights. While this makes a nice holiday gift, the lights can actually be used as a home decoration all year round. Prices vary.

Catan. Able to be played by up to four players, this popular board game can be enjoyed by both family members and friends. It’s also easy to learn and fun to play. $49

PLET students explore Austria and Germany

Guest Post by Haley Palys, senior Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 12th, a group of PLET majors embarked on a 10-day trip to Austria and Germany. We asked student Haley Palys to keep a travel log and tell us about her trip. Here’s her report:

Oct. 12-13 — The Journey Begins.

Our bus to Toronto-Pearson Airport left at 9:00 a.m., so a few of us in the group decided to enjoy the Breakfast Place’s food one final time. We later arrived at Toronto early, leaving ourselves PLENTY of time to enjoy the airport’s free Wi-Fi and long lines. A couple hours later, and we were off to Austria (not Australia).

As soon as we arrived in the Vienna Airport, I knew this city was beautiful. Unfortunately, the jet lag wiped out majority of the group. I decided to walk to the famous Museum-Quartier square, and in the Volksgarten, enjoying the perfect weather and sunny skies. Others in our group opted to check out the Natural History Museum and explore.

Everyone got to experience the famous Viennese food, including my first bites of the wiener-schnitzel (and my favorite now)! Meat, cheese, bread, and Italian food were on menus across the town, yet it was all in German, so we couldn’t read it anyways. Later into the night (7:30 p.m.), I was fighting the jet lag while others were still getting to know the city.

Oct. 14 — Exploring Vienna

Everyone met at 8:30 a.m. after a refreshing breakfast of orange juice, sliced meats and cheeses, and bread. Within 30 minutes of walking through the fresh air, I was awake and feeling good.

Our group of six got to the Schloss Schönbrunn as it opened and began to walk the yards. The entire estate was jaw-dropping, especially how large it was. Then we learned it was only a summer-house for the royal family. We then toured thirty-six of the rooms in the palace, which all were stunning—my favorite being the ballroom and porcelain room. Out of the whole experience though, the pretzels and fresh-pressed orange juice at the café blew our minds. We were all done sooner than expected, giving us time to head over to the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. There we toured the catacombs, saw some bones, and then climbed 343 steps for a gorgeous view of the city. After a long day of walking, we found a spot on the Danube River to sit and watch the river boats do 180°s.

For lunch I had a grilled salmon with hollandaise sauce, while the others enjoy more traditional dishes like bratwurst. Some even opted on trying out the non-alcoholic beers, and I struggled to avoid ordering “fizzy” water. Later for dinner, we shared some laughs at a nice outdoor-patio café and wine bar.

Oct. 15 — Saying Goodbye to Vienna

At 8:30 a.m., we were all packed and ready to head out to start the day. After locking up our stuff, we headed off to the Technology Museum. It was located close to the Schönbrunn, and had gorgeous views of the palace.

The exhibits were awesome, and the whole place was huge! We were enjoying the interactive exhibits along with the kids for a while, then realized just how much information there was. The whole museum was about four stories high, with about ten different areas ranging from Energy to Media based technology. After rushing through to get a look at everything, we enjoyed some delicious pizzas and pastas before heading back to pack up. We hopped on the train, and got a stunning view of the countryside and Alps.

Oct. 16 — ENGEL Tour

Our group started the day with some more cold cuts and cheese and bread, then an hour long bus ride to Schwertberg. We were lucky enough to be touring ENGEL, a global injection molding machine manufacturer. We spent the morning there and were served the fanciest lunch plates I have ever seen, with of course sparkling water and orange juice.

After touring the Schwertberg headquarter plant, we set off to the Dietech plant where the automation, or robot, equipment is manufactured. It was a quick tour, but we got to see a lot.

Afterwards, we left for St. Valentine where the big machinery is manufactured. This was truly incredible to see, because everything was bigger than anything I have seen or worked with. Tommy Vervoort and Joe Donofrio were familiar with these large tonnage machines thanks to past internships, and were able to ask questions to the engineers. At the end of the tour, my group was allowed to step inside the machine platens for a picture—that’s how big it was!

We said our thank-you’s and goodbyes, and headed off to the train station. We then left for Munich, enjoying even more views of the Alps along the way to Germany.

A small portion of the group will spend tomorrow in Innsbruck, Austria to spend some time on the slopes of the glacier, so they left to catch their own connection train. They stayed the night there and will spend the next day skiing until their train to Munich arrives.

PLET in germany3

Innsbruck, Austria

We who went straight to Munich found their way to our own hostels. After the long day of traveling I needed some comforts of home—so we went to the KFC down the block for dinner, while the others spent a little more time trying to find a good place to eat and walked around Munich.

PLET in germany2

ENGEL tour, Austria

Oct. 17 — Munich Adventures

Today was another free cultural day, and I had planned to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. Our group arrived close to the opening time, so the already somber camp seemed even more chilling and empty. The actual museum was moving and gave an in-depth look into life at Dachau. The grounds were serene, despite the immense history surrounding us.

After the solemn tour, I wanted to cheer myself up, so we wandered through Munich past the Marienplatz, and ended up at the Hofbrau Haus for lunch. We each enjoyed some traditional Bavarian meals and drinks, and I was ready to buy all the pretzels I could find.

Image result for german pretzels

With our stomachs full, we decided to walk it off and check out the famous English Garden. Specifically, we wanted to see the Eisbach, or the man-made “perfect surfing wave” in the streets of Munich.

On the way there we ran into some others in our group at an art museum. Ryan Bauer then clued us in on some architectural history of the museum. It was once a Nazi headquarters, and was converted to an officers’ mess hall after WW2, but evidence of its origin, swastika tiling, could be found on the ceiling right outside the front door.

After we had out fill of the street surfers, we strolled past a nude park [unexpected], and began our walk back to the hostel. We walked through the Hofgarten and saw the Bavarian State Chancellery, which also had evidence of the war. Along the front columns, large bullet holes painted the façade.

Oct. 18 — Neuschwanstein Castle

Everyone made their way to the train station at 6:30 a.m. promptly, and boarded the train towards Füssen. Half the group got their tickets for the tours of both castles, and we started our uphill trek towards Neuschwanstein. The fifteenth-century castle was stunning from all views, but the scenery around us was even more breathtaking. We climbed the mountain adjacent to the castle for a birds-eye view of not only the castle, but the mountainous landscapes, pristine lake reflections, and miles of farm land.

Once we had our fill of Neuschwanstein, we took a horse carriage ride down the hill and headed to the other side of the valley to see Hohenschwangau castle. And once again the views took my breathe away. After eating some bratwursts for lunch, we met up with another group to head back to Munich.

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Oct. 19 — Rosenheim University Tour

Today we were fortunate enough to spend the day at Rosenheim, a university in which some Behrend students have studied abroad at. We were shown around their plastics lab, and got to see all the machines and capabilities they had. We were then treated to lunch, and then sprinted to catch our train back to Munich. We retrieved our bags, and headed to Bieberach to spend the night and rest.

PLET in germany1

Rosenheim University, Germany

Oct. 20 — FAKUMA Show

After enjoying some more lunch meat, orange juice, and bread for breakfast, we left for the FAKUMA show, a case show for companies in the plastics industry to network to customers and showcase their newest technologies and capabilities. We had about five hours to walk around eight different buildings which were each jammed-packed with companies.

We somehow made it through everything (and still missed a lot), and showed off our gadgets and trinkets with each other. The highlight of this was a watch that Arburg, and injection molder manufacturer, was assembling and giving away.

Oct. 21 — Heidelberg

As this was our last day to enjoy Germany, I decided to relax and just walk and see how much of the city I could see. One group hiked up to a famous outlook of the city and Heidelberg Palace, and discovered some more castles along the way. We even found an American themed bar next to the hostel, and showed everyone there how to properly eat a burger (not with a fork and knife).

Auf wiedersehen, Deutschland!

 

 

 

 

 

Plastics Engineering Technology Students Off to Austria and Germany

Guest Post by Haley Palys, senior Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 12th, a group of PLET majors will begin a 10-day trip to Austria and Germany. We asked them to send us some photos and tell us about their journey. In this blog post, student Haley Palys gives us a preview of what the group will be seeing while overseas.

With the advancement of technology, foreign partnerships are becoming more and more common for many businesses. This is especially relevant for the growing plastics industry.

That’s why faculty members in the Plastics Engineering Technology program try to help us get the experience and be prepared to take on unfamiliar situations and cultures. In order to get the full experience, each year a group of seniors are given the opportunity to spend ten days studying abroad. The destination changes every year, but is often dependant on tours and technical caseshows.

On October 12, twenty-one students will be begin a journey to Austria and Germany. Our group will travel to Vienna, Munich, and Hiedelberg, while also visiting some smaller cities along the way.

The first major tour is at the Engel headquarters, an injection molding machine manufacturer. We also plan to tour Rosenheim University, a college with which Behrend is currently collaborating through an exchange program. The FAKUMA caseshow is another stop on our map. There, we will network and learn about many companies active in the plastics industry.

With about two weeks left before we depart, some of us students—including myself—are bubbly with excitement. For the majority of the group, this will be our first trip abroad. We are allowed a few cultural days, where we can form groups and schedule our own plans to enjoy the cities.

I asked around the group to see what everyone was most excited about, and it was nice to see such a broad range of interest.

Kevin Orndorf eagerly replied “skiing,” while Mitch Garus said he was just excited to experience the different countries and culture. Joe Donofrio is most excited to tour the Engel headquarters, and to see all the innovative technology they are producing.

heidelbergHeidelberg Palace

Class of 2017: Meet Rachel Rattay

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Rachel Rattay:

Rachel Rattay

Rachel holds a Hololens, a new holographic device from Microsoft. She worked with the new technology during her internship last summer and her capstone project this year. She will continue working with the device when she joins Microsoft as a software engineer after her graduation in May. Learn more about how Rachel’s senior design team put the HoloLens to use for a Fortune 500 company in the 2017 issue of Engineering News.

Major: Software Engineering

Minor: Management Information Systems

Certificate: Video Game Development

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.

On choosing Penn State Behrend: Coming from a small high school, I felt more at home with the smaller class sizes and I knew that professors would know me by name rather than see me as just another student among hundreds.

On choosing to major in Software Engineering: In high school, I was able to take computer science as an elective course and I really enjoyed it. I originally planned to major in Computer Engineering, but realized right away that I liked the software aspect more than the hardware aspect of computing. I immediately switched my major. It was one of the best decisions I made at Behrend.

Scholarships and awards: I received the Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship twice, the Edward P. and Barbara F. Junker Leadership Scholarship, the Allyn and Alice Wright Leadership Scholarship, and the Commonwealth Campus First Year Student Award.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment has been growing the women in engineering community at Penn State Behrend. Before I was elected president of Behrend’s Society of Women Engineers, we had just a few members. I’m proud to say that we now have more than fifty active members who attend meetings, conferences, and networking events.

Rachel Rattay at STEM fair

Rachel, third from left, with other members of Behrend’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers at the 2017 GE STEM Fair in Junker Center.

Campus involvement: During my four years at Behrend, I was involved in and held leadership positions in many organizations. I was a member and treasurer for both Lambda Sigma and Omicron Delta Kappa and a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. I have been vice president of the Association for Computing Machinery and president of the Society of Women Engineers for the past two years.

On mentoring future female engineers: I’m passionate about inspiring the next generation of women engineers. I enjoy speaking and volunteering at outreach events on campus, and have even organized two outreach events with local Girl Scouts to introduce them to engineering. Getting to watch the girls’ faces light up as soon as they figure out how to solve an engineering problem we give them makes all the planning and organizing worth it.

Advice for current students: The best advice I have is to form good relationships with your professors. They are here to help us learn and understand course information, so make sure to utilize office hours! Meeting with professors one-on-one will not only help you in your studies, but could open the door to research or internship opportunities.

Rachel has accepted a position as a software engineer at Microsoft in Seattle, Wash., where she will be working on the new HoloLens technology.

Class of 2017: Meet Mary Beth Burbules (Mechanical Engineering)

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Mary Beth Burbules:

Mary Beth Burbules - first choice

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Erie

On choosing Penn State Behrend: My two older siblings, Timothy and Katie, attended Behrend’s School of Engineering. They both truly enjoyed their experience at Behrend and encouraged me to become a Penn Stater, too. I was also drawn to Behrend because of the smaller size that allows for students to have one-on-one connections with faculty members.

On choosing to major in Mechanical Engineering: Throughout middle and high school, I was involved with Science Olympiad, where students compete in events in a variety of STEM disciplines. I was always most interested in the hands-on events. I like being able to create unique design solutions to problems and the fact that, in Mechanical Engineering, you never stop learning. My sister was an M.E. major and I saw from her coursework and activities that it was the perfect major for me, too.

Scholarships: I’ve been the grateful recipient of several scholarships. I received the Shirley L. Roth Trustee Scholarship all four years and the Irvin Kochel Leadership Scholarship in my first year. I also received the Jake Boyle Memorial Scholarship in my junior year.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: The undergraduate research I was involved in. My work has focused on the design, fabrication, and functional aspects of testing equipment and machines used in the research of direct methanol fuel cells and lithium-based batteries.

Standout research work: In one challenging project, another student and I partnered to design and manufacture a lithium battery test machine to induce internal short circuits by physical cell penetration with increased functionality and precision compared to industry models. Our work was accepted to the ASME 2017 Power and Energy Conversion Conference. I was also honored to have my contribution to the project recognized by a Council of Fellows Undergraduate Student Research Award.

Campus involvement: I’ve been greatly involved in Behrend’s Society of Automotive Engineers Supermileage Team since my first year. I’ve served as the secretary and am currently the vice president of the club. I have a unique role in the club as I’m one of the drivers of the high-efficiency vehicle the club designs, fabricates, and races each year. I’m also a member of Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honor Society.

Lifelong love of learning: From the time I was a young child, I’ve loved to learn, whether from books or after-school activities. College further strengthened that passion. Engineering is unique in that it is a continuously evolving field, and I know that as a professional engineer, I will always have the opportunity to develop my knowledge and skills.

Sister act: I’ve always looked up to my older sister, Katie. She’s taught me to be a compassionate person and demonstrated to me the necessary dedication to studies. A degree in Mechanical Engineering is one more thing I have in common with my best friend.

After her graduation in May, Mary Beth will be attending graduate school. She would ultimately like to find a job in industry in the area of product development and design.

Class of 2017: Meet Aizat Fadhil (Mechanical Engineering)

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2017 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Aizat Fadhil:

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Major: Mechanical Engineering

Home country: Malaysia

On choosing Penn State Behrend: The Mechanical Engineering program is accredited and highly regarded. I also liked the environment at Behrend; it’s diverse but not too large.

On choosing to major in Mechanical Engineering: I’ve been mechanically inclined all my life. I’ve always been more interested in how things work than what that particular thing can do. Mechanical Engineering is a versatile degree that covers a lot of different sectors and gives me a wide skill set.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: My proudest accomplishment was reviving the Diverse Organization of Photo and Video Enthusiasts (DOPE) club. I am president of the club, which had been dormant for three semesters when I took it over. The workshops and services we organized were unique and fun.

Campus involvement: In addition to being president of DOPE, I have been involved with the Multi-Cultural Council, Muslim Student Association, Model United Nations, and Makerspace during my time at Behrend.

Avid shutterbug: I’m passionate about photography. Capturing that perfect moment is priceless to me.

What inspires him: Sacrifice inspires me. The act of doing something for the benefit of someone else is very sacred, especially when it is done anonymously. There are people in my life who deserve to claim my achievements as their own because, without their sacrifices, I might have taken a different path.

After his graduation in May, Aizat plans to return to Malaysia and begin his career in engineering.

Engineering Grad to Serve in Peace Corps in Africa

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

Alex Laffey - first choice

This is the time of year that graduating college seniors are making decisions about their future. Should they accept the job offer in Baltimore or the one in Chicago? Should they go to graduate school or pursue a research position?

For Alex Laffey, a senior Mechanical Engineering major, there are no questions. She has known what she’s wanted to do after college since her first year of high school.

“I learned about the Peace Corps in my freshman history class, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it,” Laffey said. “Former president John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps as a means for individuals in America to volunteer internationally, and I figured this was the best way to go to combine my passion for traveling and service.”

Laffey, a Pittsburgh native, will leave in July to serve for two years as a secondary math education teacher in Sierra Leone, Africa. We caught up with her to ask her about the exciting adventure she will embark on after her graduation in May.

What solidified your decision to volunteer with the Peace Corps?

Last summer, I traveled to India for two weeks to visit a friend. It was the first time I had ever been away from my parents and home in a completely new environment, and I loved it. I loved trying all of the new foods, being a minority, and even learning a little bit of the language. Seeing the country also showed me how much the rest of the world needs our help. As soon as I came back from India, I immediately started my application.

Did you choose Africa, or does the Peace Corps decide where you go?

When I applied, I was asked to list the top three places I would like to serve. Sierra Leone was my first choice. It stood out in my mind from a book I had read—A Long Way Gone. I didn’t even put a second and third choice because I figured that if I couldn’t go to Africa, I’d be happy to go wherever they needed me. Luckily, it worked out that they needed math teachers in Sierra Leone and the Corps had a new group leaving in July.

Has anyone in your family ever served in the Peace Corps or do they volunteer?

Nobody in my family has ever served in the Peace Corps, but my parents always taught me to help others. Not only have they helped me with everything tremendously, but they also go out of their way to help others. They are constantly volunteering and making a difference in our community and abroad. They were my inspiration for wanting to go.

Do you choose what you will be doing there?

You volunteer in one of six sectors for the Peace Corps: agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health, and youth development. Like with location, I had to rank my top three preferences. I initially wasn’t sure what sector I wanted to volunteer in, but after speaking with a recruiter she suggested teaching because of my engineering degree.

Will you be in the same location for the entire two years?

I will be in the same country for the whole two years, but in different cities. When I arrive in July, I will be staying with a host family for three months to help with cultural integration and adjustment. After those three months, I will begin my two years of service, and the Peace Corps will decide where to place me. So, as of right now, I know that I will be in Sierra Leone. I just don’t know exactly where.

What do you know about Africa? Do they speak English? Do you go to any training to help you before you leave?

When I arrive in July, I will begin with three months of training. This includes safety, health, teaching, and even how to properly do laundry. The official language is English, but throughout the villages, many different languages are spoken so I will get a basic overview of all of those. Right now, I have been reading a lot different books about the location, and the Peace Corps has provided me with a lot of information. They also put me in touch with Peace Corps volunteers who were in Sierra Leone and that has been very helpful!

What are you taking? How does one pack for two years?

I am honestly not sure how I am going to pack all of my stuff! I can only take a carry-on, one personal item, and two suitcases. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, and talking to returned volunteers about what is most essential. I know I will definitely be getting a hammock to enjoy the nice weather, and a bunch of solar chargers so that I can use my laptop and phone while I am there.

Where will you be living? What are the conditions like? Are they primitive?

After my first three months with a host family, I will move to my official site where I will stay for two years. It could be in a city or a village, and I won’t know that until later. Regardless, I will have internet access, so I can keep in touch with friends and family.

How many vaccinations do you have to get?

So far, I have only had to get two shots, but I have had a lot of blood work done. The Peace Corps gave me a list of twenty-some tasks that I must complete to be medically cleared to go. It has been taking awhile to get through all of those. Many of them are to ensure the country I’m traveling to can handle any medical needs I may have, and that I will respond well to medicines commonly available there.

What are you most excited about?

All of it! I cannot wait to meet the people I will be serving with and the students I’ll be teaching and to see the country. I’ve read a lot about the country and the people there and, at this point, I’m just ready to experience it all first-hand.

Is there anything that makes you nervous/apprehensive about this trip?

I am definitely nervous to be so far away from the amazing support system I have at home. It’s definitely going to be hard to do it all alone, but I know that my family and friends are only a phone call away, and that I have other volunteers to lean on while I am there.

What did your parents say when you told them you were doing this?

At first, they were really supportive, but I think that’s because they thought I wouldn’t go through with it. When I was accepted, I was hesitate to bring it up because I didn’t want them to worry. It is a lot for them to deal with. I mean, their daughter is graduating from college and moving 5,000 miles away to living in an African village for two years. But they’ve already planned a trip to visit me, and I think that has really helped ease their minds.

What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

I am hoping to gain a new perspective, and make a difference. I can get caught up in my “problems” and think that I’m having a bad day, but the truth is that I am very fortunate. I also want to teach others and encourage them to keep learning. If I can help just one student while I am there, it will be enough.

Will you get to come home at all? How will you keep in touch with your family/friends while you’re away?

I am not allowed to travel outside of Africa for the first six months or the last three months of my service. Other than that, I am able to come home or go to other countries to sightsee. I receive two vacation days a month and I can save them up for a longer trip. Friends and family are welcome (and encouraged) to visit!

What are you plans when you return to the states?

I have no idea! I am hoping to come back and spend time with friends and family, eat all of the food I will have missed, and then hopefully find a job in engineering.

Laffey plans to blog about her experiences in Africa. Follow her at alexandralaffey.wordpress.com. Read more about Laffey in her Standout Senior profile.