Traveling abroad, building houses from scratch and making family-like bonds are what came of University of Cincinnati graduate student Megan McDonald’s various volunteer experiences.
McDonald graduated from UC in April and is currently taking graduate classes in the Speech Language Pathology program.
McDonald, who has accumulated more than 1,500 volunteer hours as an undergraduate, took her first service trip to Guatemala in 2008 during her junior year of high school. Since then, she has visited four countries and has gone on service trips every summer break.
“This will be the first summer that I won’t be able to take a service trip, due to school,” McDonald said. “But I’m hoping that I can resume and use my degree to help people in these countries.”
McDonald is also conducting research related to her program with students and professors in Jamaica.
Through Service Beyond Cincinnati, a non profit student-run group that she was a former board member of, McDonald has been to Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica and Georgia. On these trips, she typically worked with housing projects, helping to construct and maintain public houses and orphanages.
“We would build houses from the ground up. Make cement from scratch. It was the hardest work I’ve done, but also the most rewarding,” she said.
Aside from the service trips, McDonald has also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, The Ronald McDonald House and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“In 2010, I was in Guatemala working in an orphanage for ten weeks,” McDonald said of her favorite trip. “I lived in the orphanage and really got to know the kids, the culture, everything. I became completely immersed. I felt that I was becoming part of their family.”
McDonald encourages students to become part of the service abroad trips. The Service Beyond Cincinnati organization is currently setting up trips to Peru and El Salvador for the 2014 summer break.
“I feel that service trips abroad are something that every student should experience. I learned so much on those trips,” McDonald said. “I was immersed in so many different cultures and was able to help out. It’s a little pricey, but every student should know what that’s like; it’s really made me who I am.”