Eight days after graduating from Indiana University Bloomington in May, Emilly Schroering will embark upon a journey that will probably change her life forever. Her destination is Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa, where she will spend 45 days doing volunteer medical work.
“Oh my gosh. I think about it every day. It’s hard to stay focused with finals and graduation coming up. It’s a matter of prioritizing,” said the B-plus student, who should be awarded an honorary master’s degree when it comes to time management. The 20-year-old will earn her bachelor’s in human biology after attending IU for only three years.
“It is the hardest thing I have ever done. It was a huge learning experience. I went to summer school and took heavy class loads. Some of my friends tell me that I am crazy for not wanting to be here for another year, but I got all the partying out of my system in three years. I am so ready to be done, but I will always cherish my time at IU with my good friends,” said Schroering, who also works part time at a day care center. “It brings me a lot of joy working with the kids.”
The Greenwood High School graduate learned about the opportunity in Dar es Salaam (the natives just call it Dar) through a friend who was impressed with the sponsoring organization, Projects Abroad, and the level of security provided to participants, which was a selling point for Schroering and her parents, Mark and Peggy Schroering.
“I know her safety will be ensured,” said Peggy, who added that the program is a good fit for her daughter. “We are so proud of her.”
Emilly, who has two younger brothers, Ben and Alec, will work in a hospital while also providing medical outreach to local villages and orphanages. She expects to learn more about her itinerary and her host family as the trip nears. “I will get to Skype with them, and I should find out where I’ll be working.”
Dar is the country’s largest (4.37 million population in 2012) and wealthiest city, with the elitist residing in beach side mansions in the northern districts. But Dar, which is eight hours ahead of central of Indian, has a problem with slums. According to a U.N. estimate, 70 percent of the population lives in informal settlements, with the poorer residents crowding into Downtown areas or large slums, many without running water or basic services. The city contains high concentrations of manufacturing, trade and other services. Due to close its proximity to the equator and the warm Indian Ocean, the city experiences tropical weather year-round.
Schroering said she is aware of the lack of running water and unreliable electricity. “I’ve heard that the hospitals only have running water and electricity about half of the time. I can’t imagine running a hospital under those conditions. I’ve been told to take a lot of hand sanitizer because you don’t know when you won’t have running water.
“Their hygiene and methods of sterility are a far cry from what we are used to. It will be a humbling experience.
“For as long as I can remember, my passion and curiosity for science and medicine have never wavered. As I have gotten older I have realized my steadfast need to help others. Mahatma Gandi said, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,’ ” said Schroering, adding that she is absolutely delighted with the opportunity that awaits. Even if it takes about 18 hours to fly to Dar, with a layover in Amsterdam.
Since Schroering has been in a medical bubble in suburban Indianapolis, she says it’s going to be a learning experience being in a Third World country. “With all of the facilities being undersourced, every volunteer will make a difference. I hope to return home with a sense of accomplishment, compassion and a better understanding of global health and patient care.”
She doesn’t expect to get homesick as she hopes her host family will show her the country’s sites, particularly the beaches.
The 16,720-mile round trip will cost her about $5,000. “I plan to contribute a significant portion of my own funds, as well as funding through grants and sponsorships.” Donations can be made by visiting www.gofundme.com/emillyschroering.
As for Schroering’s career plans, she’s going to take a year off of school to work and save some money before applying to graduate school.
“I envision being in an allied health program and working with Doctors Without Borders. If my experience in Dar is a good one, I would like to go back to Africa.”