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Life-changing Travels

Meagan McBride '19

Meaghan McBride ’19 

A life-changing service trip to Cameroon inspired Meagan McBride to study abroad in Cameroon and Denmark and also to lead two service trips (first to the Navajo Nation, and this spring, to Georgia, where she and her group helped repair homes through the Fuller Center for Housing). She’s also interned at an organization that assists survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and she’s conducted original research in Yunnan Province, China, on the Bai ethnic group, during a three-week trip she names as “one of the most incredible experiences of my life.” In April, she co-presented original research from that project at the ASIANetwork Conference in San Diego.

Hometown:

Hope Valley, Rhode Island.

Major

Sociology.

Clubs and organizations:

Center for Service, Spirituality & Social Justice (service trip leader), Dog House, Norman M. Eberly Multilingual Writing Center (tutor/writing associate) and Sociology Majors Committee.

Honors/scholarships/awards:

Alpha Lambda Delta and Dean’s List.

Favorite book:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

Favorite movie:

Good Will Hunting.

On choosing a major:

When I took my first sociology course, Social Analysis, during my first semester at Dickinson, it completely changed the way I understood the world around me and my relationship to it. Everything I read and learned fascinated me and challenged the understanding I had of the world when I came to Dickinson. 

Favorite place on campus:

The Writing Center.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Tomato soup.

Favorite class:

Reproductive Justice with [Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies] Katie Oliviero. Her course introduced me to a new discipline and new topics that I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to study. She pushed me to be a better writer and regularly challenged my ideas and assumptions in a constructive and educational way. Her selection of course materials was excellent, and the topic is incredibly relevant and important, especially during our current political climate. I felt as though this class prepared me to engage in current political debates in a very concrete and informed manner, something that I am always looking to gain from my Dickinson courses.

Favorite professor:

[Associate Professor of Sociology] Dan Schubert. His Contemporary Sociological Theory class introduced me to a whole new side of sociology that I instantly fell in love with. His passion for social theory has compelled me to consistently engage with theoretical material, even when that means challenging its merits and purpose in our discipline. Over the past few years, he has constantly been a resource to me in school and in life. He has challenged me as a thinker and a writer, and he has pushed me to be a better student, all of which I am incredibly grateful for.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

… a veterinarian.

On studying abroad:

I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Yaoundé, Cameroon, during my junior year. This was my most difficult, challenging, worthwhile year of my college career. I learned so much about myself and the world in invaluable ways that have enriched my life both as a student, and as a person. Out of all my experiences in these two places, the highlight of both was living with host families. In both countries, my host families helped me learn things about local life and culture in ways that I never would have been exposed to had I lived on my own. They also gave me incredible opportunities to learn a new language and become close with a new family. Even though we were strangers when we first met, both families supported me as if I was their own throughout my entire stay with them. I am still in contact with my host families and am planning to hopefully visit my Danish family after graduation.

Little-known hobby/talent:

I like photography, but I mostly just do it for fun. My late grandfather had a passion for photography, so it’s a small way for me to continue to connect with him. I use my mom’s old film camera that she took all my childhood photos on. It’s not fancy, but I think using film makes me a little more intentional about what I photograph because it’s costly to purchase and develop.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… my late grandfather.

About my internship:

I interned at Safe Futures, an organization in New London, Connecticut, that assists survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. While interning there, I learned about advocacy, using local, community-based resources and trauma-informed counseling. This internship gave me the opportunity to work with a diverse group of clients, cater to each of their needs and adapt to different situations. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life, but I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to work alongside the incredible women that I met during my time there.

Proudest accomplishment:

Living with a Francophone host family while I studied abroad in Cameroon.

About my research:

In fall 2017, along with five other students and two professors, I had the opportunity to help write and apply for a grant for a research project in China. After several months of planning, Skype meetings and emails, we sent in our application and found out the following February that we had been awarded the grant, and would travel to Yunnan Province, China, for three weeks in August 2018. The title of our project is “The ‘Stay-Behinds’: Village Labor and Sustainability in the New Era of Migration in Rural China.” Our work took place in Fenyu, a village in Yunnan Province where the Bai ethnic group live. Since 2008, approximately one-third of the population of 8,000 have migrated out to work in nearby cities such as Dali and Shanggelila. Through our research, we sought to learn how, in the face of mass out-migration, the work of villagers who stay behind—usually, the elderly, mothers, and children—contributes to the sustainability of the local faming ecology and village cultural traditions. We spent our three weeks in Fengyu interviewing villagers to learn about how their lives and community have changed since this mass migration.

This was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I had the opportunity to collaborate on a research project with incredible students and faculty, conduct research in a cross-cultural context, work with interpreters, come up with my own questions and practice a research method that is crucial for my field of study. We then presented this research at the ASIANetwork Conference in San Diego in April 2019.

Biggest influence:

My mother. She’s one of the most selfless and compassionate people I know. She also happens to be one of the funniest. She always makes me laugh, and she has taught me the importance of doing something in life that you absolutely love, even if it means sacrificing other things.

About my service trips:

As a first-year, I participated on a Dickinson service trip to Cameroon, which absolutely changed my life. Not only did I end up studying abroad there, but I also applied to be a service trip leader due to the powerful impact my service trip leaders had on me while I was a participant. As a sophomore, I led a service trip to the Navajo Nation, and this spring I led my second service trip over spring break to Georgia. While there, my co-leader and I worked with the Fuller Center for Housing, an organization that builds and repairs homes for individuals in need.

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Published May 11, 2019