Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

Eight Students Participate in WCE’s First Field Experience to Ethiopia

Monday, January 04, 2016

On December 12, WCE associate professors Heidi Higgins and Michele Parker and eight students enrolled in undergraduate, MAT and doctoral programs at the Watson College traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to collaborate with teachers, provide instruction to children and to learn about the history and culture of the country.

Higgins has traveled extensively to Africa, including an exploratory visit to Ethiopia in 2014 with WCE international programs director Susan Catapano, but this marked the college’s first faculty-led student field experience to the country.

The group spent the first three days at the Deborah School, a private English-speaking school serving tuition-paying students in pre-K through 12th grade. Then, they spent two days at the Fregenet School, which opened its doors in 2004 to serve young children in a small and impoverished community in Addis Ababa. The school now serves nearly 300 students in pre-K through 4th grade.

The schools have very different student populations, and both experiences were wonderful, Higgins said.

Parker described the Ethiopian people as “very open and loving.” Although students at the Fregenet School don’t speak English, language wasn’t a barrier because they communicated through body language, songs, smiles and hugs, she said.

While in Addis Ababa, the faculty and students visited museums, traveled and explored Entoto Hill, experienced music and dance, participated in sports and enjoyed a traditional meal in the home of their Ethiopian host, Zac Mengestu.

The days were full and the trip was “exhausting, exhilarating and extraordinary in ways I could never have imagined,” Parker said.

WCE doctoral students Emily Mountford and Beth Edwards, MAT student Mary Grace Frump and undergraduate students Victoria Burgess, Amelia Gouillon, Katie Koller, Colleen McLean and Kayla Pulliam participated in the inaugural field experience.

Higgins said faculty and administrators at both the Deborah School and Fregenet School want to continue to develop the partnership with UNCW, and she hopes that Ethiopia will become an annual field experience opportunity for Watson College students.

A story authored by Higgins about the UNCW experience was posted on the Fregenet Foundation’s news page on Jan. 4. View the story here: http://fregenetfoundation.org/uncw-at-fregenet-school/.

For student profiles, photos and digital stories of the students’ experiences visit: https://uncw.edu/ed/international/ethiopia/index.html.