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What does good learning look like?

Beyond the Classroom

By Global Studies Program Director Jen O’Brien

Beyond the work we do in the classroom, the students in the Global Studies Diploma Program learn from experts off campus when we attend talks at universities,  the World Affairs Council, as well as local organizations. Our annual New York City trip with CAP provides the students with the opportunity to expand their connections with people dealing with global issues daily. For example, in the past, we have done briefings with United Nations officials working on genocide prevention and the UN’s sustainable development goals. This year, we visited the NYC headquarters of Doctors Without Borders (also referred to as MSF based on their French name). Many of the current GSP students have been on our Dominican Republic trip where we work at medical clinics in the sugar plantations, while several students are interested in a medical career, the day deepened all of our understanding of global health. 

In addition to a tour of the offices, we were able to talk with three women working in different capacities: fundraising, communications, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. The students  listened intently to every word during the visit and asked incredibly insightful questions. Ultimately, the impact of the day is best understood through the students’ reflections below.

I learned a lot about the inner workings of the organization, which opened my eyes to just how complicated it is to run a global effort like this. One interesting thing I learned was their criteria for accepting donations: They don’t accept donations from any corporation or entity that holds values that contradict their mission, or that profits from tobacco, alcohol, arms, or pharmaceuticals. 

The tour of the Doctors Without Borders building was amazing. It was fascinating to see the scale of operations the organization requires. I had no idea how important the logistical elements of such charities like that are. The fundraisers and donations are just as important as the actual work. It was also interesting to learn how closely DWB works with the communities they operate in. I always had the impression of aid organizations flying in surgeons and cargo loads of medicine and supplies but the majority of people working on the ground are native to the country. It was also interesting to see the vast diversity of skills and expertise that the organization employs: a marketing graduate, PhD student, and passionate volunteer all have their place in running the charity. The work done by Doctors Without Borders is inspiring and they are an essential part of making the world a better place.

We had the privilege of listening to a few employees talk about their experience not only working at the organization in NYC but also working “in the field” in other countries. I was inspired by them, because the way they talked about their work was so selfless but also thoughtful. They knew that the people they were helping were not below them or worth less, and they were aware of what their place is in that space. 

I was interested in their insight into the different roles they often take, especially the ones outside of the fieldwork. The idea of having to stay truly neutral, even though they may disagree with someone’s side of a conflict, and still treating them with respect shows the purpose of the organization. They are truly just taking care of people. 

I am not necessarily interested in going pre-med in college, so I was not sure what I was hoping to get out of the experience, but I was delighted when we visited the different sections of MSF. I was surprised by how many different roles a nonprofit organization needs in order to be successful, some of which are topics I am much keener to know. Specifically, they spoke about the importance of data scientists and statisticians when first examining an area with a crisis where they hope to help. As I am thinking of future jobs, I am glad to see that organizations that aim to better society rely on fields I am interested in.

After this inspiring and educational visit to MSF, we went to see the new Broadway musical, Suffs, about the early suffragists and the fight for women’s voting rights (highly recommended by the GSP students!), and explored Greenwich Village with a globalization-themed scavenger hunt around dinner time before we headed back to Watkinson. Learning beyond our Hartford private school campus is an essential part of understanding how our world works, how to understand others, and how to best effect change. We can’t wait to see what next year brings!

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