Non-traditional student first to study abroad at Africa University

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March 06, 2012

Last fall senior Christian Hall became the first McDaniel student to spend a semester at Africa University in Zimbabwe. McDaniel developed a strategic partnership with the school in September of 2010, which includes exchanges between students, faculty, administration and trustees.

Hall’s advisor, professor Debbie Johnson-Ross of the Political Science and International Studies department, knew of his interest in Africa and notified him about the study abroad opportunity. While there, he took graduate classes in Peace Leadership and Governance, and volunteered at an orphanage home over the weekends.

In Africa, Hall enjoyed learning from a different perspective and witnessing things first hand that he has only read in textbooks. He also made friends from all around the African nation, ensuring he always has a place to stay while traveling the continent.

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“You realize that people are more similar than they are different,” he said. “You find common ground, make the same jokes, watch the same TV shows. We’d all get together to watch soccer in the common room.”

Hall’s journey towards studying in Africa started when he was just 9 years old after his father talked with him about the Rwandan genocide of ’94.

“That was my ‘aha’ moment when I grasped that the world was bigger than I thought,” said the Political Science and International Studies major from New Windsor, Md. “I just wanted to help people.”

This led Hall, a non-traditional student, to become interested in AIDS research and vaccines. In high school he interned at the Southern Research Institute working with topical microbicides and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). However, he quickly realized that this type of closed office work wasn’t for him.

After a semester at the University of Maryland, he worked for three years at a geo-technical drilling company and sustained an injury while on the job. This prompted his decision to go back to school and, after receiving an associate’s degree in General Studies from Carroll Community College, transferred to McDaniel for his last two years.

“I did General Studies because I wanted to see what’s out there. I had no idea when I got here that I would have these kinds of opportunities available to me, that I could do a January term and spend a semester abroad,” he said. “DJR (Johnson-Ross) knew me well enough to bring the opportunity to me. McDaniel is that kind of place.”

Hall plans to pursue a master’s degree in Disaster Management and work for a non-government organization overseas.

In September 2010, Dr. Fanuel Tagwira, vice chancellor of Africa University, traveled to Maryland to meet with McDaniel administrators and discuss opportunities for this partnership. Over January Term in 2011, nine students, two faculty members, friends of the college and trustee Charlie Moore ’71 visited Zimbabwe to distribute malaria nets at a local medical clinic and refurbish, with students from Africa University, a classroom building at a local school.

Africa University opened in 1992 and is among first fully accredited higher education institutions supported by United Methodist congregations worldwide. More than 1,200 students representing 22 African nations and 27 countries enroll in bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in agriculture and natural resources, education, humanities and social sciences, health sciences, management and administration and theology.

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