Updated: Mar 26
"Honestly, I think this sitting in a classroom stuff is for the birds. You don't learn! I'm telling you, you don't learn as well as when you're out there living this life." (Stacy, Episode 28)
Happy New Year! We're back! I'm so glad that the first episode of 2019 not only features such a passionate and spirited person as Stacy Nganga, but was also made possible thanks to a friend's help. A few months ago when I asked Brian Batayeh (from episode 14) if he knew anyone to recommend, he gave me Stacy's name and contact info. Thanks, Brian!
Stacy was born and raised in Kenya until she moved with her family to the United States when she was 13 years old. Thankfully, she didn't experience any culture shock or bullying at school due to her being from somewhere else. Initially aspiring to become a doctor, she did her undergraduate studies at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, where she earned a Bachelor's degree in neuroscience. By the time she finished her degree, however, she realized that she didn't want to be a doctor anymore. Her intentions for becoming a doctor had been to help people, and while in college she became interested in global health, though she didn't fully grasp what it was at the time. And at the same time, she was itching to go abroad because she was tired of the same old, same old at Lafayette.This led her to the International Honors Program (IHP), which is organized by the School for International Training (SIT). One of IHP's study abroad options is a 4-month public health program that takes students to India, South Africa, and Brazil, and this is the one that Stacy chose.
She and her cohort of students spent at least five weeks in each country, splitting their time between urban and rural areas in order to compare health systems from both standpoints. In India their activities were focused in Bahraich and New Delhi, in South Africa it was Zweletemba township and Bo-Kaap (Cape Town), and in Brazil it was Barra do Turvo and São Paulo. Stacy was exposed to so much natural beauty and so many warm people, and she credits IHP with changing her ideas on how learning works. But of course, the experience was not without some disappointments. Due to her host family arrangement, the Indian food she had wasn't as flavorful as she'd anticipated (she left feeling like the Indian food in Kenya is better); a couple rude awakenings in South Africa made her realize how inescapable ideas of white supremacy and white beauty standards are; and she was not impressed by the city of São Paulo. Yet and still, even today she can't deny the many ways in which her IHP experience set her on the path that she's on now.
"If I had not asked those questions before, if I had not said, 'This is what I want', then they never would've known."
Having received such a comprehensive initiation into what public health is (after some years she's now very vocal about poor communication, savior complexes, and other issues that hinder valuable work from being done), she realized that she wanted to make differences at a policy level and that she couldn't really do that as a doctor. So after graduating from Lafayette she enrolled in a Master's of Public Health program at Emory University. In 2017 this enabled her to do a practicum in Kenya. Though it was initially based stateside, it was altered to allow her to spend part of that time in Kenya because she was transparent about her desire to return to her birth country for the first time in nine years. Which was a lesson in itself, because, "If I had not asked those questions before, if I had not said, 'This is what I want', then they never would've known." And since, as Stacy explained to me, a significant portion of global health research is conducted in Kenya anyway, more opportunities were available to her when conducting her own.
As I write this, Stacy is now preparing to move to Ethiopia to begin a position that she found there. Unless the date changed, moving day is January 15th (which, fun fact, would have also been Martin Luther King, Jr's 90th birthday) so by the time anyone hears this episode or reads this blog post, her new beginning will have already started! Good luck and best wishes to her! Stacy can be found on Instagram (@necessarynoise), or contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So glad to be back! Be sure to listen to this episode, "Y'all Don't Know Flavors? (KENYA/INDIA/S. AFRICA/BRAZIL)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
IHP/Multi-Country programs (SIT Study Abroad)
Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care - Spring 1 (SIT Study Abroad)
Applied Practice Experience Program (Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University)
Black Ladies in Public Health (FB group)
Danielle G. is the creator and host of Young, Gifted and Abroad. You can find her other writings at DeelaSees.com.