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    Unearth the World x Gabrielle Hickmon

    Growing up, I always knew the world was bigger than my own backyard and this knowledge created in me a strong desire to explore. As a child, I traveled all across the United States with my parents, went on a cruise to Mexico, and at the age of 16 ventured to Europe as a People to People Student Ambassador. Enter Cornell University. When I began at Cornell University as a Freshman, I knew I wanted to travel. But, I had no idea the doors that desire would open for me! 

    My love of travel is coupled with a passion for serving others. I can remember participating in community service projects with my church, school, and now my sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (at the time my mom was the member, not me) as a child. But, it never occurred to me until I came to Cornell that I could combine the two through service-learning. Service learning is “a form of experiential learning where students and faculty collaborate with communities to address problems and issues, simultaneously gaining knowledge and skills and advancing personal development (Heri, 2009).” I did not know what service-learning was before I started Cornell. Nonetheless, it has come to define my undergraduate career by shaping the opportunities I have pursued and participated in, as well as, shaping what I am now choosing to do with my time, energy, and life post-Cornell. 

    Through service-learning experiences, I have been blessed to travel to and engage with communities in Panama, Thailand, and Ghana (twice). Of course, as a person with insane wanderlust, I still want to go to more countries and engage with more communities. But, I also feel a responsibility to do more. I want to share with other students the joy, blessings, and lessons that service-learning and responsible volunteer travel have given to me. That is where Kathryn Pisco and Unearth the World come into the picture.

    During the fall of my junior year, in my capacity as a Student Ambassador for Cornell’s Engaged Learning + Research, I met Kathryn Pisco (’05) and learned about her social venture, Unearth the World. After our initial meeting, I sent her an email to set up a phone call to learn more about Unearth the World and discuss potential ways to get involved. After learning more about Unearth the World’s mission and work, I shared my involvement with service-learning at Cornell, as a participant. Kathryn then challenged me to think about ways to step my engagement up even further. She challenged me to consider leading a service-learning trip for Cornell students in partnership with Unearth the World. I accepted her challenge and we have been working together ever since then to bring the great work Unearth the World does to Cornell’s campus. 

    It still astounds me that our work together stemmed from one phone call -showing the power of “informational interviews” (blogged about HERE). In my capacity as College Partnerships Intern for Unearth the World, I support Unearth the World’s efforts to partner with colleges/universities -specifically Cornell. This fall, four Cornell students, including myself will be traveling to Huaycán, Peru to work with the Light and Leadership Initiative (LLI) on projects that will be developed collaboratively between LLI and Cornell students beginning this August. LLI – in collaboration with Unearth the World – works to improve Peruvian education by providing free afterschool workshops and classes. We will be working to support LLI’s education program and women’s artisan project. 

    As the leader of this small group of students, I will help Kathryn facilitate Unearth the World’s pre and post-trip global service-learning training curriculum and help coordinate logistical travel. I will even be making my own visit to Peru this summer to lay the groundwork for a long-term partnership between Unearth the World, LLI, and Cornell students. I feel blessed to be the student leading this trip and to have another chance to do what I love and longed to do all those years ago – travel, serve, and learn – all at the same time.

    If you’re a student like me that loves of be of service to others and wants to see the world while doing it, then I encourage you to not only check our service-learning programs offered at your college or university, but to check out and connect with Unearth the World. They have programs in Peru, Nicaragua, Ghana, and Zambia. If you want to travel and be of service to the greater good while doing it, then Unearth the World and Kathryn Pisco are an amazing organization to connect with (and I’m happy to help facilitate that if you reach out)! 

    Stay tuned for pictures, videos, and blog posts from my upcoming trip to Peru + a blog post on resources for college students that want to travel. I leave on Wednesday, August 19th, and can’t believe my dream/goal of making it to South America before I graduate next May is actually coming true…

    Gabrielle Hickmon
    Gabrielle Hickmon

    Find me on: Web | Twitter


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