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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Unger '11 travels world through Dickey grant

In the quiet mountains of the Sacred Valley in Peru, Emily Unger '11 found a temporary home on her two-month journey around the world. Funded by the Dickey Center for International Understanding to visit Dartmouth students and alumni currently studying or working abroad, Unger traveled to four different countries, documenting both her journey and the stories of the people she met.

Unger departed from Hanover in April to circumnavigate the world, stopping in China, India, France and Peru during a trip that brought her back to Hanover in early June. Prior to her departure, she collaborated with the Dickey Center to map the most sensible and cost-efficient route. Unger's journey began in Shanghai, where she met Anna Bladey '14 who was volunteering with the Baobei Foundation, which provides surgeries for orphans with severe birth defects.

In India, Unger interviewed Sarah Alexander '14, who was working at the Center for Science and Environment, a think tank geared toward pedestrian access and pollution reduction research. She also documented the work of Kashay Sanders '11, a post-graduate Dickey fellow involved in Voice, an organization seeking to empower young women in India.

In addition to spending time with Jina Choi '13 in Paris, Unger participated in several Dartmouth Language Study Abroad and Foreign Study Program activities.

She cited the opportunity to sample an assortment of international cuisines as one of the highlights of her experience, with her favorite foods including falafel found in Paris' Jewish quarter.

"The food was definitely one of the highlights of the trip," Unger said. "It was interesting, though, because I went from spending five bucks for a whole day's worth of food in India to spending five Euros on a pastry in Paris."

As a traveler on the move, Unger said she had to strike a balance between being adventurous with food and not becoming ill.

"I had guinea pig, or qui, in Peru," Unger said. "They skin it and roast it. It's a delicacy in the Andes."

On her last stop, Unger visited Dickey intern Sam Streeter '13 and Tucker intern Ruth McGovern '12, both volunteering at the Sacred Valley Health organization in Peru. Unger said she felt very connected to the place because of the health-related nature of the work that Streeter and McGovern had undertaken.

Director of Outdoor Programs at the College Rory Gawler '05 described Unger as a thoughtful individual highly attuned to social issues.

"She is very pro-active in terms of wanting to do good in the world and active when it comes to women's issues," Gawler said.

Unger's trip around the world marked a "dream come true," as she said she has always aspired to become a National Geographic photographer.

"I had a small dream to have a job that would allow me to go on adventures and take pictures, but I didn't think it was actually going to happen until I boarded the plane to Shanghai," she said.

In addition to taking 7,000 photos and capturing 30 hours of footage during the trip, Unger authored an article for Dartmouth Alumni Magazine and catalogued her experiences on her blog, "Round the Girdled Earth I Roam." Unger and the Dickey Center also selected representative photographs for a three-week display in the Haldeman Center, Unger said.

Prior to Unger's most recent trip around the world, she worked at a maternity ward in Ghana and participated in the Biology FSP in Costa Rica, which fostered her desire to travel. This love for embarking on new voyages made Unger an ideal candidate for the trip, according to Dickey Center Student Programs Officer Amy Newcomb

"We needed someone with an adventurous spirit who was wiling to travel over 26,000 miles and visit one place after another," Newcomb said. "In our conversations, she displayed a genuine interest in embarking on adventure with a lot of unknowns."

Unger noted that students often struggle with loneliness when living alone in a foreign country.

"Students hope that they will go in and make new friends, but being in a new culture is hard, and it is often challenging to make friends and develop a social network," Unger said.

Overall, the students she visited offered positive feedback about their programs and experiences, often describing their journeys as the defining moments of their Dartmouth experiences.

Unger said she believes the world is her classroom, in which experiences such as learning how to do laundry the way Peruvians do become daily lessons.

According to biology professor David Peart, who led Unger's Biology FSP, Unger is attracted to demanding circumstances that enable her to learn and grow as an individual.

Her travels have prompted led Unger to self-examine and reevaluate her appreciation for a sense of home and for individuals moving to new nations.

"I have a lot of respect for people who move to another culture because I understand how challenging it is to put yourself in a new place," Unger said.

Unger's education abroad has allowed her to see the fundamental similarities in all human beings, such as the desire for happiness, health and love.

"One reason I really like playing with kids when I am abroad is because kids are the same everywhere," Unger said. "They just like to hang out and be kids."

Unger said she began taking photographs early in high school with an old film camera she received from her father. The manual camera allowed her to better understand the mechanics of photography and honed her technical skill.

"One thing that I like about photography is that it makes me notice the world a lot more," Unger said. "It is the little things that are beautiful, and I appreciate my surroundings so much more when I am looking for the next beautiful shot."

Alice Bradley '11, one of Unger's friends, said Unger's perceptive nature enables her to take striking photographs and portraits.

"The trip through Dickey was a great experience for her in that it was a way to see parts of the world she hadn't before and she could really use her photography as a way to get around the world," Bradley said.

Although she shied away from capturing "touristy" areas on her trip, Unger said she did observe the obvious infiltration of globalization.

"Shanghai is incredibly modern and a cool combination," Unger said. "In some areas, you see a lot of authentic Chinese culture, and in others, a lot of Western influences."

During her time at Dartmouth, Unger was heavily involved in the Dartmouth Outing Club and served as Trips Director in 2011. She was a WISE mentor and worked part-time at the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science. Unger is currently preparing for the MCAT exam and hopes to attend medical school.