By: Maxwell MacCarthy
Monday, June 21, 2010
My name is Maxwell MacCarthy, and I recently joined EAYI as a Research Associate to help in the expansion and evolution of the organization this summer. With this being my first blog article, I would like to keep things simple and write about something I have thought a lot about recently: what EAYI means to me.
My freshman year at college was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. After transitioning from rural Vermont to the urban life at Boston University, I was overwhelmed by all the new resources and opportunities available right at my fingertips as part of my new life as a college student. For me, this meant reading any piece of writing I could get my hands on and being utterly engrossed by every class lecture I went to. The whole exotic notion of academia, scholarliness, and learning gripped me, and I felt like I had truly started living my life.
My spring 2009 semester, however, spent studying and working abroad in Niger as part of an international development studies program changed my perspective on what it meant to be a student. Going into the semester, I wanted to study abroad mostly as an excuse to travel, and the classes I would have to take there seemed mostly a formality – a break from academics and intellectual engagement if you will. And yet looking back, the entire 3 months was a learning experience, more so than any semester spent in Boston in fact. Working with a local microfinance organization and teaching basketball to young girls in Niger allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and not only learn so much about the country and the people but learn a lot about myself. Being in one of the poorest countries in the world also really makes you question a lot of your life views and values, and thus discussions with my fellow participants in the program allowed me to reevaluate a lot of things that I had taken for granted. It was an experience that cannot even compare to a semester spent at college.
Now after 4 years at Boston University and a few life experiences behind me, I have grown past this extreme notion of only connecting learning and academia. This summer, a time spent reflecting on the college experience as well as coinciding with my start at EAYI, I have finally begun to understand how much learning really occurs outside the classroom. Textbooks and articles are fine but limiting oneself to pages and computer screens misses the biggest picture. As crazy as it sounds, you do not need to lock yourself in a stale, air-conditioned library and pour over thousands of textbook pages to learn about some subject. Life is incredibly dynamic and diverse; all you need to do is engage it in a new way, like I did, to learn and foster personal growth.
For me then, this summer with EAYI is a lesson in applying myself outside the classroom. The Ethiopian American Youth Initiative allows me to not only engage the Boston-area community but also the wider Ethiopian community and EAYI members around the world as we work together toward common goals. EAYI means interacting with new people to expand my horizons; my first conversation with EAYI’s founder, Samuel Gebru, showed me the power of youth engagement and gave me a welcome reminder of how short life is. It is these life experiences that I hope to take away from my time at EAYI. As I transition out of college and into the real world, I hope to use EAYI as a way to move smoothly into the next chapter of my life and continue to expand beyond the walls of Boston University.
Maxwell MacCarthy is a graduate of Boston University and serves as a Research Associate of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative.