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International Education Aficionado Interacts with Kenyan Students

by Connie K. Ho | November 7th, 2011

Yolanda Espiritu embarked for a trip of a lifetime on July 7. She left Los Angeles International Airport with bag in hand, leaving the smoggy land of southern California to the natural terrain of Kenya. She was departing to a rural village, where she would assist the Engineers Without Border (EWB) chapter of the University of California, Irvine with a project for two weeks. Her goal: teach Kenyan students about health sanitation.

Espiritu, a political sciences undergraduate, has a love of international issues. The previous summer, she participated in the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), an educational trip that allowed her to visit the Middle East and to listen to various speakers who were knowledgeable on the conflicts in the area. Following her trip with OTI, she felt the desire to go on another adventure that would give her an invigorating learning experience.

Despite not studying engineering, Espiritu became involved with EWB and eventually became health education chair. As a student with an education minor, Espiritu had some knowledge of planning lessons and she also sought resources online to prepare for her trip abroad. She would walk a few miles to the school every day to teach the students and she quickly learned to adapt her lesson plans to the students’ progress.

“It allowed me to experience how much preparation is needed to do the lessons and how to be a lot more comfortable in that way,” said Espiritu. “The students are smart and they’re really great to work with.”

Not only was Espiritu able to gain experience in the classroom, but she was also able to interact with people who were involved in Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). She had always considered working with NGOs and her work in Africa allowed her to gain a better understanding of the tasks that an NGO completes. She learned the importance of giving the Kenyans resources rather than making them dependent on others.

After returning from Africa, Espiritu’s passion for international education still lives on. As she looks toward graduation, Espiritu considers the various career opportunities that lie in front of her and how her experience in Kenya affected her.

“It definitely gave me an experience for teaching. It made me realize that I really enjoy teaching. It strengthened my passion to teach,” commented Espiritu. “I’m certain that I wanted to teach after.”

Photos via Yolanda Espiritu

Yolanda Espiritu is a dual-major Japanese and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. She is involved in the international community on campus, including participation in the Olive Tree Initiative, Engineers Without Borders, and International Club. She hopes to pursue a career in education in the future.

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