Leaving her team midseason, moving to East Africa, and volunteering at a hospital and orphanage in a village near Mount Kilimanjaro – those are just a few of the items women's basketball junior Emily Young has on the horizon for next month.
A chemistry major and native of Lancaster, Ohio, Young will take a sabbatical from Case Western Reserve University and its pre-medical program as part of a three-month stint with Global Crossroads, a volunteer abroad organization that provides professional, need-targeted assistance in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
"I've been interested in a long-term volunteer experience for quite some time," said Young. "Leaving for a semester as a pre-med student can be very complicated, but I've had a lot of help from my professors that has allowed everything to come together."
Young departs on January 9 for what she estimates is a 26-hour trip between flights and layovers through Europe. When she arrives in Africa, a chaperone will transfer her to Moshi, Tanzania on Saturday, January 10. She begins volunteering on the 12th.
"I don't know anyone in the area, but I'll be transferred to a home base with other international volunteers. I downloaded the Pimsleur application for my phone, and I've been learning general Swahili greetings and basic terms and times to help speed up my acclimation."
In addition to working in a local hospital, which contains only one doctor on the order of 200 beds, Young will teach English at a village orphanage comprised of children affected by extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS and other social ailments. No stranger to volunteer experiences abroad, Young sees the trip to East Africa as another step in her ultimate career path.
"I've been to Honduras twice on short-term volunteer projects. Those trips sparked my interest in international medicine. After med school, my plan is to pursue opportunities abroad like Doctors without Borders."
Missing an entire semester in a pre-med program can present plenty of issues, but Young is well prepared for the situation.
"I came in with a lot of AP credits in my major, so I'm already a year ahead. That's important for keeping on track. I need 20 more credits to graduate, and I could have graduated early. I'd rather have this experience and be here for senior year of basketball."
Young is in her third season with the Spartan women's hoops team, and she has seen the most significant playing time of her career. The opportunity to play basketball and the school's academic reputation were two of the main factors that drew Young to CWRU. Now, the two have gone hand-in-hand in making her experience memorable.
"I never thought coming in that I would be best friends with everyone on the team. These are the people I'm with 98% of the time. Even when we're not practicing or playing in a game, we're hanging out on weekends, going to team dinners or studying. It's also been helpful from an academic perspective. My freshman year, we had a few pre-med majors on the team who provided me with so much advice."
With the first semester of school officially in the rearview mirror, Young is experiencing plenty of mixed emotions in anticipation of next month's journey.
"As the semester has gone on, this has become more real for me. My anxiety and excitement levels have certainly increased. I'm traveling halfway around the world, I've never been there, and I don't know anyone. So, there's definitely a mixture of anxiety and excitement."
With just a few weeks remaining before the trip, Young will remain with her teammates as long as possible. Not eligible to compete because of her second-semester sabbatical, Young will still travel to Williamsport, Pennsylvania on December 28-29 as the Spartans play in Lycoming College's Hoops for Hounds Classic. The team then returns to Cleveland for home games on December 31 and January 3.
"That's one of the hardest parts about taking this semester off. With seven seniors on the team that will be graduating, it's like saying goodbye early. But the whole team and all of the coaches have been incredibly supportive. We're all so close, and I know those relationships won't end here."