This story is reprinted from The Fresno State Alumni Association as written by Elisa Navarro. Originally published in the July 2016 issue of the Fresno State Alumni Association Newsletter.
Adventure, traveling and learning about other cultures are things that Jenna Smith (2013) has dreamed of doing since she was a little girl. This dream became a reality when she moved to Paris after graduating in 2013 with her Bachelors in Recreation Administration.
Smith said, “I wanted to live around the world after I graduated and the idea was to kind of live in each continent for a while…”
After spending a year bicycling through Europe, Smith moved to Madagascar in February 2015, going to work for The Peace Corps.
Smith has had to adjust and has emerged within the beautiful cultural community of Madagascar — like learning the local language in order to communicate in her current everyday life.
“When I go to the market or whenever I have to teach a class it’s in Malagasy,” Smith said, “But sometimes you get tripped up by things being so different, but then you have to take a step back and remember that you are from different places and that people do things differently. So having to get used to things like that is challenging.”
Smith teaches kids and family’s ways to slowly adapt to a healthier and cleaner lifestyle. Living in the small village of Tsarasambo, gives her the opportunity to experience the daily life and struggles that Malagasy’s live working when the sun is out, boiling water to bathe and not always having a toilet. That experience helps Smith approach her teaching.
“My job is also to encourage and teach them how to eat a more colorful diet with vegetables, but is a struggle because people cannot afford anything different and most grow rice,” Smith said, “I teach health and my main objectives are to teach the prevention of malaria. Like encouraging people to use bed nets.”
Smith also teaches about water hygiene and sanitation. Families do not have running water in their homes, and kids often get sick from the bacteria on their hands, that they later touch food with and eat. Simple things that many people in Madagascar do not think about and are used to…but Smith explains to them why they get sick and how easy it can be prevented.
“I hope to encourage people to make these changes very, very slowly over time, because it is important to remember the way their culture is about things and to try and do everything in the most culturally appropriate and friendly way,” Smith said.
So what plans does Smith have after Madagascar?
“My personal plan is to continue living abroad. I want to travel through Africa then live in Asia and travel through Asia. Then live in Australia and keep traveling, which coincides more with my original major in college, which is recreation. I think ultimately I’ll end up working in the travel industry,” Smith said, “But right now… what I want to do is live around the world and get to know people from the bottom, to build relationships and experiences around the world so that when I go back to doing more professional work I will have a better understanding of different cultures and the way people do things differently around the world.”
To read about Jenna’s amazing adventures follow her blog “Chasing rainbows around the world”. You can also follow her on Facebook, and on Instagram and Twitter (pinkguacamole). View more of her photos here.
View the original Alumni Association Story in full at the LINK.