Leave terms take students on adventures

by Andrew Sosanya | 1/17/17 2:20am

Eliana Mallory ’18

Mallory didn’t have a plan for her junior fall leave term initially until she heard a National Public Radio report about Care4Calais, an organization that distributes aid to a refugee camp in Calais, France. The camp serves mostly Sudanese, Afghan and Iraqi refugees. While she was there, the French government was in the process of shutting down the camp because it was considered an illegal settlement.

The refugees lived in horrible conditions, and some had traveled for upwards of five months attempting to reach the United Kingdom in search of a better life. Mallory describes the camp as a “tent city,” with refugees setting up their own makeshift restaurants, coffee shops and convenient stores.

Mallory traveled alone and commuted to the camps daily from a youth hostel. She would be on her feet from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Organizing and providing food, clothing and essentials to 7,000 refugees wasn’t easy, but Mallory said that, because refugees have had so many of their promises broken, it was important for her to give it her all.

“That was our mission,” Mallory said. “If they asked for something, we could give it to them.”

When she got back to Dartmouth, Mallory found it difficult to share her experience with others because the camps of Calais were overshadowed by the Syrian refugee crisis.

Working with Care4Calais exposed Mallory to immigration and refugee policy, which are fields she is now considering as possible career options. She hopes to spend her last off-term this summer volunteering at a refugee camp in Greece.

“There are greater issues in life,” Mallory said.

Max Farrens ’20

After graduating from high school, Farrens initially started his gap year at his parents’ house, recovering from neck surgery. However, he persuaded his doctor to let him rest up in Patagonia, Chile, where he traveled through South America until he met some German citizens in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. The strangest thing that Farrens recalls seeing in Chile were star-gazing drug users.

Farrens then reinjured his neck and was forced to return home to spend two months doing “glorified” water aerobics with senior citizens, he said. To pass the time, Farrens started working on his photography and music skills, teaching himself digital audio and writing songs.

But Farrens wasn’t done yet. He and a friend remodeled the insides of a caravan and went on a three-week, 6,000-mile winter road trip through 10 national parks on the West Coast. He said his favorite memory was staying in a blizzard overnight in an isolated park in Montana and making banana-coconut pancakes the morning after. With some extra money in his pocket, Farrens headed to Iceland and made it into the Arctic Circle.

“There were some times we had to turn around on the road, because we could [have] actually died [if we went further],” Farrens said.

The next stop was Europe. Farrens used a couch-surfing app to find places to sleep in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was matched with an old, eccentric art collector who owned a self-portrait of himself committing suicide off a building.

“But he made me salmon and served wine,” Farrens said.

His last stop was England, where he spent some time with distant relatives who owned a forest called “Long’s Wood.”

While he has had an exciting year, Farrens could not wait to start at Dartmouth. While there were new adventures all around him, the moments were fleeting.

“You don’t get the chance to establish yourself or real relationships [when adventuring],” Farrens said. “It’s nice to be where you can grow as a person and see others grow around you.”

Malcolm Salovaara ’17

While others often use leave terms to pursue something new, Salovaara returned to the job he always had — a farmer. Salovaara grew up on a 60-acre farm in Bernardsville, New Jersey and has been tending to farm animals since he was a child.

This time, Salovaara approached the business side of farming. He says that the one aspect of being a farmer that most people forget is that farmers are also entrepreneurs and salespeople. Salovaara strikes deals with the locals and sells produce and meat to various restaurants.

Salovaara says that one of the biggest benefits of working as a farmer is that most of the work varies depending on the day, much like a “park ranger or a land manager,” he said.

Salovaara says that farming has taught him to be more patient in life.

“The way we do things requires more time and labor,” Salovaara said. “The lesson there is that things that yield more quickly are relatively hollow.”

Simone Schmid ’17

Schmid’s leave term in Rwanda last summer was sponsored by the Davis Projects for Peace, an initiative that funds student grassroots projects around the world. Schmid initially planned to design a well-water system for villagers to access water during the six-month dry season. However, the plan became impossible to implement, so they designed an irrigation system to supply water for a three-acre cooperative in the same region. While she was there, Schmid realized helping build the irrigation system would not solve the problem. She had to make sure that the villagers could effectively sustain themselves through the whole year.

“My role was to give people a job — to help people help themselves,” Schmid said.

While Schmid didn’t speak the community’s language, she connected with the locals through religion. She observed that the locals were very invested in their faith. She was able to better understand her host mother through sharing their favorite Bible passages. After the trip, Schmid says that her work in Rwanda inspired her to pursue a career working for an international nonprofit.