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Carolina senior Michelle Kuei had traveled to South America and Asia but had never been to Africa before a trip to Uganda last summer. Prior to her journey, Kuei attended an orientation hosted by Carolina’s GO! Initiative and learned information that proved to be helpful.

A UNC graduate student from Uganda advised Kuei about what to wear, how to use public transportation and what and how to eat. Another student who had traveled to Uganda told her that the women and children kneeled in front of him and advised Kuei to be prepared for the same situation. Kuei also met other students who were going to Uganda at the same time she would be travelling there.

The information Kuei received is exactly the kind of information the GO! Initiative provides. Designed to go beyond information about health, safety, logistics or travel restrictions, the GO! Initiative’s Pre-Departure Orientation brings together undergraduates who will conduct service, service-learning, research or internships abroad for a day of facilitated discussion, workshops and networking with faculty experts and other students going abroad.

During orientation, students meet other students who have already been through similar experiences, as well as with faculty and staff who can provide region-specific information and expertise. Participation in a variety of workshops and activities helps students prepare to transition into a new culture, anticipate challenges, understand cultural norms and address the ethical issues of working in international communities, especially within developing countries. Ultimately, the goal is for students to come away with a new perspective and the ability to set realistic expectations.

The GO! Initiative was presented in February at the 2013 Workshop on Intercultural Skills Enhancement and Conference at Wake Forest University and at the 2013 National Resource Center Evaluation Conference at Ohio State University. Trip Tuttle and Gina Asalon, both of the UNC Center for Global Initiatives, presented the GO! training model to an international audience and facilitated roundtable discussions about evaluating perceptions and improving programming.

Kuei, who won a 2012 Global Engagement Award, spent eight weeks in Uganda as an intern helping with health education sessions on reproductive health and community awareness on child protection, sanitation and nutrition. The biology and nutrition major also helped conduct health assessments, held clinic outreaches and planned community events.

This year’s GO! Pre-Departure Orientation will be on Saturday, April 13. Check the GO! Initiative’s website for more details.

Published March 25, 2013.