Major: International and Global Studies
Minors: Latin American and Latino Studies, French and Francophone Studies, Anthropology
Graduation: Spring 2012
Hometown: Swedesboro, New Jersey
Previous Education: Kingsway Regional High School
Brandeis Clubs/Organizations: Campus Center Team, Varsity Swim Team, Casa Guatemala (Waltham Initiative), Astronomy Club (co-president), Mountain Club, Surf Club, Cheese Club, Skydiving Club, Photography Club, Aviation Club
Elise Allan is spending her Fall semester in Quito, Ecuador at the University of San Francisco with the IES Abroad Quito: Direct Enrollment program. Over the summer, she had an internship in Panama through the United Nations Population Fund. For the Spring semester, she will be attending Paul Valery University in Montpellier, France with the University of Minnesota: Integrated Studies program. She hopes to continue her experience abroad by staying in Europe to work or intern this summer.
Tell me a little bit about your field work experience. What was it like working in another country?
Panama is incredibly modern and bustling, but in the rest of the country you find quite the opposite: small, often poor towns in the mountains, along the coast, or isolated in the jungle, many indigenous people, dirt roads, and the like. I was able to experience the country as well as the work of the United Nations on many levels. I attended meetings and events with partners, met really inspiring and influential people, and worked outside of the city with an ongoing project concerning the provision of supplies, medical care, and the education of pregnant indigenous women. I worked with population data to identify particular aspects of a society that needs reinforcement. In Panama, the population is highly concentrated in the few urban centers, notably Panama City and Colon, which are incredibly modern, but the rest of the country is rural. Thus a great deal of the population consists of members of indigenous populations. My own research through interviews concluded the most widely recognized problems by these populations was accessibility, as there are few roads throughout many of the jungle regions. What I found is that communication is a key partner to a well-rounded understanding of a society in order to progress and succeed on all levels. It takes communication to uncover a problem, execute a solution, and maintain the support needed for future progress.
What are the highlights of your Brandeis education?
My Spanish class with Professor Scott Gravina this past Spring semester enabled the launch of Casa Guatemala, a tutoring and college support program geared towards for Waltham High School students whose parents are immigrants or who immigrated to the U.S. themselves.
What do you think it means to be a “global citizen”? How might you describe its importance to a friend or colleague?
To be a global citizen is to recognize that you are bound by the commonality of humanity. It is realizing that the problems that may be geographically far impact you no matter where you are. It means to have world perspective, to understand, empathize with, and to be aware of the world around you and the role you play in it.
Which one specific memory/moment sticks out in your mind the most (in regards to your global experiences), and why?
I visited a small village in the Western part of Panama to observe an educational convention for indigenous leaders. I got to sit in on the talks and participate in some exercises, but the best part was that I got to pull aside a number of attendees and interview them one-on-one. I gained so much perspective through the conversations, the live connections.
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
My work abroad has made my perspectives more informed and profound. When you go out into the world, it becomes both bigger and smaller; you realize how much need there is for so many people, which simultaneously emphasizes the closeness and connection you share with all people in this world. You feel the vastness of the world’s problems, but they become more personal, more real.