8,000 Miles, Infinite Lessons: Keuka College’s Field Period Takes Nursing Student on a Life-Changing Journey to Laos

Keuka College’s Field Period continues to open doors to global experiences and personal growth.

Monday, March 18, 2024

First-year nursing student Emma Dufair made a point of challenging herself for her first Field Period®.  It paid off in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Emma traveled more than 8,000 miles to the southeast Asian nation of Laos to perform volunteer work with GIVE International. She said the experience was not only educational but life-changing.

“I had fun and I think it showed me that it's OK to just take a risk sometimes,” she said. “You never know what the outcome could be.” Emma spent much of her 10 days in Laos in small villages like Sop Chem, where she taught young children English and helped with farming chores. She said she made meaningful connections with the locals – relationships that altered her worldview and understanding of people.
“Everyone in the village was happy and didn’t seem like they had anxiety or depression with not having much,” she said. “I think it’s because, while they didn’t have a lot, they appreciated what they had.”
Emma said working with GIVE, which organizes impactful volunteer projects around the world, provided her with the type of life lessons that can’t always be learned in a classroom: Empathy, open-mindedness, and an appreciation for what makes people different. 

Among the other experiential-learning activities Emma enjoyed in Laos were meditating with monks and getting her hands dirty on a village rice farm, where she learned the ins and outs of one of the biggest industries in the country (including all 14 steps of the rice-harvesting process).
Emma’s trip was full of surprises. For example, she laughed with the monks, who she thought would be silent and serious. She found they weren’t as different as she thought; that there are parallels between their culture and her own.
Being around people who live so differently opened Emma’s mind and heart, she said.
“Going to Laos was kind of like taking a step back out of your life,” she said. “We don’t get excited or happy about the little things like we should.”
The culture in Laos was welcoming and almost home-like, she added.

“It was crazy that we didn’t even speak the same language, but they still treated me like family,” Emma said. “They were all very welcoming.”

Emma’s father, Jason Dufair, said the trip was a growing experience for his daughter – and an example of the unique benefits that Keuka College’s Field Period opportunities offer.

“As a parent, it’s incredibly fulfilling to see your child embrace such empowering experiences that shape them into conscientious global citizens,” he said. “Emma’s journey in Laos has been a reminder that sometimes, the most valuable lessons are learned by stepping out of our comfort zones and opening our hearts to the different and unusual.”

Throughout her Field Period, Emma benefited from the experiential learning that has long been a Field Period hallmark. Laos was Emma’s enriching classroom, where she learned about herself, others, and values that will last her a lifetime. She leaped into uncharted waters and found herself glad to have had the chance.

“Being around the village and feeling the love made my heart full,” she said. “I learned to appreciate the little things more and not get caught up on stuff that really doesn’t matter.”

Jason said Field Period alone has confirmed the choice of Keuka College for Emma’s education.

“To other parents – and students – considering Keuka College: Field Period is one of a kind,” he said. “No other school requires internships or is as invested in experiential learning as Keuka College is."

“It’s just one of the reasons  Keuka College was the absolute right choice for my daughter.”

Janea Hamilton-Brown is a first-year Writing and Communication Arts major who wrote this story as part of her own Field Period placement.

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