Seth Semmelrock ’19
My program at UNE did a really good job of teaching me about both small and big business, by showing that there are many pros to small business and “keeping it local” while simultaneously encouraging us to question everything.
In Maine, there is definitely an emphasis on small business across the state. It’s evident in the sheer amount of small business in Maine and how strong that community is. I think that it's very important to keep small business around and not allow big business and major corporations to become overbearing.
The local feel here in Maine is genuine. When you go into a local shop or restaurant or whatever it may be, it is an exponentially different experience than when you walk into a cookie-cutter corporate office or even a chain restaurant. The atmospheres, people, and experiences at small businesses are unique and refreshing.
Beyond the Classroom
In Community Health and Environmental Development in Kenya, we learned about what goes on in Kenya politically, environmentally, and developmentally in the classroom here in Maine. The ultimate goal of the class was to travel to Kenya to put our classroom learning to use in a hands-on setting. We did just that.
We fit into three weeks the amount of activities that you could have done over the course of two or three months. We worked with numerous different NGOs and other organizations that are all focused around healthy community and environmental development in Kenya. We also got to do a bit of touristy stuff, like visit a museum, we went to an elephant orphanage and giraffe center, and we went to Nairobi National Park. Every experience that we had was deeply educational. We were doing different bits and pieces, learning whatever we could about this place that was new to us.
One day, we were all going out in a big group for a tour on foot. We had some very young Kenyan students along with us for the trek. I was tapping my metal water bottle along the way, and it was making a tinny, ringing sound. One little Kenyan girl — she couldn’t have been more than four — turned around and stared at me, mesmerized by the sound. We don’t speak the same language, so I had no way of communicating to her in words, but I could see that it was the sound that she was interested in. I bent down, held out the water bottle, and kept tapping at it. She kept looking at it, entranced. Eventually, she reached out and tapped it too. She smiled so big. It was this special moment of communication between us. We hadn’t spoken a word to each other, and I felt like we had had an entire conversation. There was a mutual understanding that felt really cool and was a moment that made my decision to go [to Kenya] worth it.