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A Different Spring Semester

Julianne Connors

As this semester comes to a close, I thought I’d update y’all about what I’m doing next semester since I won’t be at Vandy.

When I first came to Vandy, I really wanted to study abroad. Every person that I talked to who had studied abroad said it was the experience of a lifetime and loved it. As an engineer, my study abroad options were slightly limited, so I took classes early. This allowed me to not have to take any engineering classes abroad, and thus, I could go wherever I wanted. The plan was to go to Cape Town, South Africa the spring semester of my junior year.

Two of my friends studied abroad in Cape Town this fall, obviously a gorgeous city!

Then last January I talked to a friend who had taken a semester off from school to do missionary work. I didn’t even know taking a semester off from school was possible, but I started thinking about going back to Guatemala. I went there last August for a week to an orphanage called Fundaninos with my church. I was torn between studying abroad and taking a semester off and spent basically six months trying to decide.

A few circumstances made it clear that Guatemala was where I wanted to be. I emailed the volunteer coordinator in Guatemala in August and she said they would be able to use me and it would be really cheap for me to be there for three months. I talked to my parents and they were surprisingly supportive. I would still be able to graduate with my class because I took so many classes early (AP credit definitely helped). I had wanted to spend a lot of my time volunteering in Cape Town, and this way I could volunteer all the time. I spent a lot of my time this summer interacting with kids at Dollywood and I was reminded how much I love them! So I talked to the engineering school to figure out the details. It was actually surprisingly easy to take a semester off, or the technical term “a personal leave of absence”.

If I don't come home with one of the adorable babies, it will be a miracle.

Probably the hardest part was choosing not to be at Vandy for a semester. I am going to miss all my friends so much! But I would not even have considered going on this adventure if I hadn’t attended Vandy. My experiences on Alternative Spring Break the past two years have given me a passion for service and education (I will be teaching at the school in Guatemala). I’m also planning on doing science experiments with the kids, like what I’ve done with Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science. Every person that I tell is so supportive, and I’ve even gotten a few people wishing they could take a semester off from class too.

The hillside across from the orphanage, Fundaninos. It's pretty rural.

Overall, I’m really excited! I’m going to be in Guatemala from January until May 1st. I haven’t gotten a ton of details about what I’ll be doing yet, but I know I will be teaching English. My dad is coming with me for the first week to calm his nerves and help me get settled in. I won’t be a student, so I won’t be blogging here, but you can check out my personal blog, which I’ll update about my adventures. And no worries, I’ll be back at Vandy for my senior year and ready to graduate May 2015 (the real world is way too close).

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