Off to Rwanda: a giant bundle of emotions

by Hannah Frantz

Editor’s Note: Hannah Frantz is a junior at Gettysburg College. This semester she is studying abroad in Kigali, Rwanda and has agreed to share some of her experiences with the Scholars & Rogues community.


Today I get to start taking my malaria pills, which means that I’ll be flying out to go to Rwanda in two days! Yesterday I finished my assignment and today I finished my shopping, so I suppose that means that I’m ready to go. All that’s left is actually putting everything into a giant suitcase! Hm…it sounds so simple…

I’ve noticed a couple things as I’m getting ready to go. Mostly, I’ve noticed that when I say to someone, “I’ll be leaving for Africa in a couple days,” I usually get a response along the lines of the following:

  • Glazed over eyes
  • “Oh, thats…er…nice.”
  • “Who are you helping there?” (this being the most frequent question)
  • “Why would you do that? Didn’t you think of going to Europe or something?”
  • “Don’t you think you’re going to get yourself killed or something?”

Each one of these responses make me very frustrated for a number of reasons. First of all, I’m not going to Rwanda on some sort of mission trip. I’m going for college. I am taking classes and learning from the country and its people in hopes that I’ll return to the United States a better person. If anything, I’m hoping that the Rwandan people will help me. It’s just frustrating that people think that I’m going to live in some shack in the middle of the jungle when the reality is that I’m going to be in the capital city of a country that has been making enormous progress in the last decade and a half. Of course, I will do my best to be safe. I won’t be intentionally putting myself into any danger, but I also hope that my friends that will be traveling in Europe, etc. do the same.  I’m not saying that choosing to study in Europe is a bad thing – in fact, it’s awesome. I pretty much always thought I would be doing that, but when the time came for me to pick a study abroad location, that just wasn’t satisfying for me. I’ve always wanted to try something different and I’m so grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity. I’m sure all of us will come back with life changing experiences and stories to share.

Yes, of course it’s a little scary. I’ll be in a country in which I do not speak the language entirely, living with people I’ve never met before, in a city with culture unlike any I’ve ever known. But the bottom line is, despite how scary that may be initially, ultimately it’s going to teach me the most. In two days I’ll be flying out to Rwanda, and I couldn’t be more excited!


Hannah Frantz is a junior English major at Gettysburg College. In addition to her academic endeavors, she also works for the Center for Public Service as a Program Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters. She hopes to use her writing skills to further her passion for social justice and community outreach in the future.

Having already traveled to Germany, Ireland, Eastern Europe, and more recently to Nicaragua, Hannah wanted to pursue study abroad in a less traditional destination. The “Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding” program offered by the School for International Training in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali was suitably non-traditional, and it also afforded her the opportunity to visit Africa, a lifelong dream. Her coursework includes a Peacebuilding seminar and an independent study, as well as an intensive study of the Kinyarwanda language. For more on her activities in Rwanda, see her personal blog

2 replies »

  1. I am studying International Social Work as part of my Master’s program, and Rwanda could be a place I end up for a few months next year. I’d be eager to hear more about your experiences. Good luck! You will have so many amazing stories and experiences to teach people once you return to the States.