Mikaela Alexander’s Semester Abroad Experience in Rwanda

By Heather DeRosa (’14)

Mikaela Alexander is a senior Christian ministries major with an emphasis in missions. Mikaela is one of those people who constantly bring joy and love to those around her; her contagious laughter and energetic personality make her someone worth getting to know. She spent time studying abroad this spring in Rwanda, and recently shared about her time abroad and how it has impacted and changed her.

Mikaela thought it was important to study abroad because of her major and its emphasis on missions. In her words, “It would be dumb if I didn’t go. It seemed like a necessary step for me to prepare for life outside of Fox. It was a great opportunity to experience a different part of the world, experiencing a new culture and a new place. It expands your world view and understanding of your own culture and who you are, which is something every college student should grab a hold of.”

This program in particular wasn’t in a university setting like some of the other programs offered. Professors came to the house that she shared with several other American college students to teach them. Mikaela’s homework was going out into a village and talking to families about their lives and then presenting her information to community leaders. “I got the chance to leave the hypothetical realm and was in it,” says Mikaela. “It’s incredible since you can’t theorize but go out and see it, taste it, smell it and be in it.”

Even though Mikaela has been back in the states for several months now, culture shock is still something she’s dealing with. With a busy summer working at camp, culture shock didn’t fully sink in until Mikaela got back to George Fox in August. “I find myself feeling guilty and looking down on American society,” she explains. “It’s hard to think of my friends back in Rwanda and what they eat – rice and beans once a day – when I have plenty of food. It’s an uncomfortable place, but it’s a challenging place. I am feeling challenged to see what my role is. Being an American, I am rich compared to the rest of the world. In America, I’m poor as a college student, but to the rest of the world I am rich.”

Mikaela often finds herself asking the hard questions after her time abroad. Questions like:

  • “How can I support the efforts in Rwanda?”
  • “How can I take care of the kids in Rwanda?”
  • “Whats the right way to give?”
  • “Am I willing to give a lifetime effort to bring people into a sustainable place”

Her time in Rwanda plays an important role in her future. “It enhanced my vocational calling. Getting the chance to work with at-risk, angry and oppressed youth in that area, that’s life giving,” says Mikaela. “It’s what God is bringing me into. I’m not sure if that is working with youth internationally or nationally.”

There’s no doubt that Mikaela will impact the youth that she will be working with in her future. Her heart for Rwanda and the youth of the world will carry her far. Mikaela is one of those seniors that the entire George Fox community will miss once she graduates in December. It will be exciting to watch as Mikaela changes the world around her once she leaves Newberg.