Education Without Boundaries
By the time Sofia Jasani came to Goucher, she had traveled the world extensively and developed a strong commitment to social justice along the way. By the time she leaves, she will have helped to create a new community service partnership for Goucher in the city of Baltimore—and gone abroad three more times on programs that linked academics and community action explicitly.
Jasani’s mother is from East Africa, and Jasani had visited Kenya and Tanzania when she was younger. They have family in London, so Jasani had been there before she came to Goucher, too. She had been to Mexico, Canada, and Indonesia, and she knew that when she got to college, she would want to travel more.
“I was really interested in studying abroad,” Jasani says. “And I was looking for a small, close, politically active, and interesting kind of campus to use as a home base.”
She found it in Goucher College, and she went on her first study-abroad program in the summer after her sophomore year. That program took Jasani back to England for a course called “Law in Action” at the London School of Economics—and an accompanying internship at a nonprofit organization called Rights of Women, editing research on survivors of sexual assault.
She followed that up in her junior year with a semester in India, where she studied at Loreto College in Calcutta and cared for disabled children as a volunteer in a Mother Teresa home.
The two experiences were worlds apart both literally and figuratively, but they shared a common thread in enabling Jasani to live and breathe the things she was studying.
“In London, I felt like a real professional,” she says. “I wore professional clothes. I rode the tube to work with all the other Londoners. And I was literally applying the things I was learning in class at the LSE.
“In Calcutta, I lived with a family,” she continues. “I ate the food. I sweated the sweat. I traveled on public transportation, and I worked among the poorest of the poor. I saw what poverty and desperation really are. I was living it. It was in my consciousness all the time.”
Jasani has brought her experiences home quite literally by getting involved in the community both on Goucher’s campus and in the city beyond. She co-founded Goucher’s Psychology Club with her roommate, and through that organization has connected Goucher students with internships at a Baltimore nonprofit called Family Tree. She’s also completing an internship with Goucher’s service-learning program, and through the Old Goucher Neighborhood Collaborative (or Co-Lab), she has helped to coordinate a partnership between the college and an elementary school in the Baltimore neighborhood where Goucher was originally located.
In her first semester with the program, she worked with a representative from AmeriCorps to set up an after-school program for city kids that ran one day a week and drew on students in Goucher’s psychology classes for volunteers. The program will expand to run two days a week in its next semester, and Jasani hopes the facility will eventually become a community school where city kids can come for after-school activities and their parents can continue their own education and take advantage of other services.
Add to all of this Jasani’s position on Goucher’s cross-country running team, her service to the college’s House Council and Judicial Board, and her participation in yet another study-abroad program—a three-week intensive course abroad in South Africa this past January—and you might wonder how Jasani manages to fit it all in. She just looks at it as making the most of her time at Goucher.
“I think I’ve taken everything out of Goucher that I could possibly get,” she says. “I think that’s the kind of person you have to be. Goucher is a place that’s globally aware, and you have to be open to all that it has to offer.”