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Travels to Ghana: Alumna Recalls How Study Abroad Program Prepared Her for Life’s Journey

February 11, 2016

Janett Perez in Ghana where she is serving two years as a health extension volunteer.

Ever since she was a young girl, Ledys Janett Perez ’13 knew that she had a passion for helping others. Now, after graduating from the College of Staten Island with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, Miss Perez is finally living her dream. This February, the young CSI alumna traveled to Ghana, Africa as a member of the Peace Corps.

“I always had an admiration for people who would go to other countries to selflessly volunteer and immerse themselves in a different culture,” recalls the 25 year old, who was raised in Puerto Rico.

After graduating from CSI in May 2013, Perez accepted a full-time position at Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park, Brooklyn as an intensive care surgical nurse. She started her Peace Corps application process in January 2015 and was accepted in March of the same year to travel to Ghana.  Her two-year appointment as a health extension volunteer in there begins in February 2016, and she couldn’t be more thrilled.

“My goal is to connect with the people there, immerse myself culturally, and build relationships with the people I’ll be serving,” commented Perez, adding that she attributes much of her inspiration to the programs and faculty at CSI.

Having studied abroad three times with the CSI Study Abroad Program, Perez confirms how these trips helped shape and prepare her for her exciting current endeavor. In 2013, she spent a month in Costa Rica with a now popular program at CSI, although she was part of this first group to go.  There, she studied nursing and Spanish.

Janett Perez

“This one of a kind experience gave me an introduction to what it would be like to serve other cultures around the world using the skill set I already had,” she said, stressing that she visited hospitals and clinics, and conducted home health visits there, similar to the work she will be doing in Africa. “This prepared me way in advance for this life-changing decision that I am making now,” Perez said before leaving for her trip.

She also studied Italian in Venice, Italy in 2009 and then Mandarin and Chinese business in China in 2011, both through CSI-sponsored study abroad programs.

Perhaps the biggest impression that CSI left on this young nurse, though, were the academics and student life that she found so inspiring.

“At CSI, many professors were so incredibly amazing and influential. I am honesty and truly in debt to them for life for opening my eyes to new experiences,” she said, commenting, in particular, on two professors: Dr. Marianne Jeffreys, Professor of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, and Dr. Phil S. Sigler, Associate Professor of Sociology.

Dr. Jeffreys was key in the young Nursing student’s academic career.

“She inspired me because she taught with so much passion. It fascinated me because she taught me a whole other side to nursing, which would bring me to where I am now,” said Perez. “I think she saw something in me and she guided me a lot from the time I took her class to this very day.”

The student also fondly remembers Dr. Sigler, her Marriage and the Family course instructor. Perez merely took the Sociology class because she needed to and had also heard positive feedback about the instructor. Her expectations for the class quickly changed, however, as Professor Sigler became another key player in her journey.

“People come out of nowhere and change your life completely,” she reflected, recalling her shock when she learned that her professor had walked across the United States and written a book about his experiences. “I said to myself, ‘that is crazy! Why would anybody do something like that?’  Then I got to talking to him and he said he learned about himself and what he was capable of more than in his whole life.”

In addition to study abroad and notable professors and mentors, Perez also stressed the importance of her student life affiliations. An active member and 2012 President of the Chi Alpha Christian Club, the student noted the importance of campus involvement.

“I really believe CSI is an amazing college, and if you take advantage of what is there, your options in life are limitless,” she said, adding that the Christian Club continues to support her efforts, even after graduation.

Her parting advice to CSI students is simple:  “When you feel that calling in life, go for it. Don’t be afraid!”

“There are so many people to meet and encounter at CSI, and it was so rewarding to be involved while managing classes, responsibilities, and a personal life,” said Perez, stressing that she never lived on campus, as the Brooklyn resident graduated before the CSI dormitories were completed.

Perez will land in Ghana’s main city, Accra, and spend her first three months there in an intensive training program, engaging in such things as language and cultural training. After three months, her strengths and specialties will be assessed and she will be assigned to a particular village; then she will find out where she is living, a hut or a house.

After the two-year appointment, Perez looks forward to possibly writing a book about her experiences in Ghana and returning to school for a Master’s in Nursing.

A few days prior to leaving for Africa, Perez chuckled, “I now get the same questions I asked Sigler years ago. ‘Are you crazy?’ I respond that life is a lot about taking chances and following your heart and your gut. Why am I doing it? My response is that it would be crazy not to do it!”

 

By Sara Paul


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