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Annie Provo

Field Practicum in Public Health and Environment - Kenya Summer '09

Why did you choose the SFS Field Practicum in Public Health and Environment as a study abroad program?

I had always wanted to study abroad, but I wanted to participate in a program that allowed me to take classes in my field of interest. I was extremely excited that SFS offered the opportunity to conduct public health field research as an undergraduate, something there is little opportunity for at a liberal arts college. SFS allowed me gain practical experience in the growing field of international public health. Providence College offers few classes about the environment, so the program emphasis on the relationship between the health of the environment and human health was especially appealing.

What did you gain from your experience on the program?

One of the most important things that I gained from participating in SFS is the serious need for cultural and environmental concern when approaching public health concerns and other development issues. My time in Kenya revealed the many ways in which humans interact with the environment and the potential severity of underestimating these interactions. As Americans, there are certain assumptions that we make regarding the “right” ways to improve health. We are so anxious to go and “do” and to help, but often times the most important contributions can come from just watching and listening. I don’t think I could have come to these realizations in any other way than through practical experience like I had in Kenya.

What is your most profound or lasting memory from your SFS program?

When we first drove to KBC from the Nairobi airport, I thought we were driving aimlessly through the bush. I couldn’t understand how anyone would know where we were going; there were simply NO roads. After the five week program, I knew where the Land Cruisers would turn to get to one place or what the upcoming landmarks were. I learned to look at the world in an entirely new way and had begun to identify the biases that influence the way in which I approach the world and new situations.

What advice would you give to a prospective student of the program?

Be prepared for a very intense experience, both emotionally and academically. Although what we do in the classroom is extremely important, taking time away to learn from the other students, staff, and local people will make the experience and the work all the more meaningful.

Do you know what your plans are after graduating from Providence College?

I plan to take a year off to travel domestically and abroad. I would like to find a volunteer program related to health and/or the environment to participate in. Upon returning to the U.S., I plan to enroll in a Master of Public Health program in the fall of 2011.

How do you think the SFS program will influence and/or help you with future career or educational plans?

I have now done academic research and field research related to international public health and development issues. I learned so much from being in a graduate level program. Between SFS and my program at Providence College, I think I am well prepared to enter a MPH program.

What is one recent accomplishment you’re proud of from the program?

I applied for a Fulbright grant in public health for the 2010-2011 academic year at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. This grant would allow me to conduct independent study and research for an entire school year. My experience in Kenya was extremely influential, both in formulating my research proposal and throughout the application process. The interview committee at my school was very interested in what I had done and learned in Kenya. The ability to interact comfortably in another country is a key component of the Fulbright program, and I was able to demonstrate to the committee my ability to do so.