Study abroad is ‘learning you can touch … and feel’

UTA delegation reflects on memorable three-week study abroad experience in Kenya

Monday, Aug 28, 2023 • MEDIA CONTACT : Contact

Photo of UTA faculty members speaking to classroom of Kenyan school students" _languageinserted="true

Lynzie Ferguson’s recent study abroad experience in Busia, Kenya, with her fellow Mavericks was a chance to experience firsthand whether being a traveling social worker is a career she wishes to pursue.

“Seeing what their culture means to them through the experiences they provided us opened a door into their world that you cannot get from a book or by sitting in a class,” said Ferguson, a graduate student in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Arlington. “The care and the concern everyone showed for us in our short time there was like nothing I had ever experienced in my travels before. It felt like we became part of their family.”

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Top row, from left to right: UTA students Wendy Thornell, A'Meicha Hall, Adil Haq, Ezekiel Oluwemimo, Mercy Ogunmoyin, Shauntaya Myers, Juan Suarez and Erica Torres
Bottom row, from left to right: UTA students Anna Ballard, Catherine Brocato, Leslie Barrientos, Lynzie Ferguson and Diana Franco

Ferguson was one of 13 Mavericks who, along with School of Social Work faculty members Eusebius Small, Karla Arenas-Itotia and Tracy Orwig, engaged in a rich exchange of experiences on their trip abroad. The trip was the result of a grant by the U.S. Department of State’s Increase and Diversity Education Abroad for U.S. Students Program that was awarded to UTA last year.

The UTA delegation partnered with the Collective for Orphan Care and Education to provide learning activities, books and supplies to three schools in Busia. For some of the Kenyan students, it was their first experience with technology in the classroom.

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From left: Karla Arenas-Itotia, Eusebius Small, and Tracy Orwig

“One of our students brought their laptop to school,” Orwig said. “The kids don’t have exposure to that in class. The school I was at had eight tablets for the entire school and some of them didn’t work.”

There were also several community engagement events where the UTA group interacted with locals. Events that were supposed to last an hour turned into several hours of enriching conversations.

“There was this beautiful dialogue and exchange of culture and ideas in the most civil and magical way,” Arenas-Itotia said. “We weren’t there to just take. We were there to give and to serve. I think that was something really beautiful about this trip.”

Ferguson encourages all UTA students to jump at the chance to study abroad. This was her second experience, having previous done a year-long program as an undergrad.

“Study abroad has been both enriching and life altering,” she said. “I have had access to experiences I would never have achieved through travel alone. I have gained insight and perspective about myself, my beliefs, my culture and the world.”

Small said study abroad experiences are “different from any type of classroom learning. It is learning you can touch, learning you can feel.”