Blog Post #1 – Melissa Bougdanos – Binghamton U. Trip to Malawi

Bougdanos graduation capI am so excited for this trip. From the moment I came across the summer abroad program to Malawi, I knew it was something I wanted to do. The class offered a unique experience, integrating service learning with working with a wonderful NGO: Malawi Children’s Mission, and working with the Young Woman’s Initiative. Having the opportunity to travel to Africa and experience it through a different perspective is just what I was looking for. This trip was the perfect way to end my undergrad college experience, as I have just graduated on May 22nd!! When I was looking for inspiration to decorate my cap, I found the perfect one. Next stop: Africa! Let the Journey begin!

When I told my family that I was interested in participating in this program and had applied, they were extremely supportive and proud. My family and friends were so helpful with contributing whatever they could to the fundraiser our class started. Little by little they put some money away for the fund and we managed to collect a good amount!! It makes me so happy to see my loved ones pull together to support what I am doing and make it possible for me to participate in such an amazing program.

Bougdanos maskAfter graduation, my dad gave me a little gift; it was a really cool wooden carved mask. He told me it was a Malawian Chief of Justice Tribal Mask and that he and my mom couldn’t wait to hear all the stories and see tons of pictures when I get back home. My heart filled with joy, it was only about a week until my departure and I was excited, anxious, and couldn’t wait to get over there already!!!

Everything was going great until my luck suddenly changed. I had my graduation commencement and moved all my things back home to NYC… just in time to experience my worst nightmare. I discovered that my passport was missing. I had sent my passport to Washington D.C. in order to get a visa for Malawi and it appears that the passport had been lost in transit. What are the chances of that happening to me? My days became hectic, frustrating, and stressful. Overwhelmed with massive amounts of stress, anxiety, and tears­, I didn’t accept the possibility of not being able to go Malawi and sprang into action. After making about a billion phone calls, I found out that if you are travelling within two weeks you are eligible to get a new passport within 24 hours. I managed to obtain a new passport BUT, without a visa, you are not guaranteed entry into the country. I was reassured by plenty of helpful resources that everything should go smoothly, but the fact that there is a possibility of being denied entrance is so frightening. I have remained positive and hopeful that it would all work out. How could I get this far for it not to? This is a trip of a lifetime and I have been determined from Day One to make sure that I would make it to Malawi. Now we just wait and see… Malawi here I come!!

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