As she reflects on her four years at Penn State, Dierdre Carlson gives us a look at how Global Brigades has evolved over the years on our campus.
PSUGB: When did you join Global Brigades/ what attracted you
DC: I joined Global Brigades during the Fall semester of my
freshman year. As much as I wish that I could remember exactly
how I heard about the organization, that piece of the puzzle slips
my mind. That being said, I can remember my first meeting.
In 2011 when I started, Global Brigades at Penn State existed
as separate chapters and not the current, overall structure.
My first meeting was with Water Brigades and there were maybe
about twenty to thirty people at the meeting with about five
executive members. The execs led us in an icebreaker that
embarrassed the entire room and then sat us down to a presentation
on Global Water Brigades and the work that they had previously
completed in Honduras (at this point there had only been one
trip before this meeting through Penn State and we hadn't expanded
Water Brigades to Ghana). This initial meeting left me feeling in
awe of how little I understood about the world, particularly with regards to sustainable development, and I called my Mom on
the walk back to my dorm to tell her that I was going on the trip
whether she wanted me to or not. There really wasn't any looking back
PSUGB: Which brigades did you travel on?
DC: My first trip was to Honduras with Water Brigades during Spring Break of 2012. We worked on a gravitational water system in Palo Verde, just slightly farther up the mountain from El Zurzular (the first holistic community that Global Brigades transitioned out of). Over Winter break of 2013-2014, I led a combined Water/Public Health Brigade to Ghana and I attended a Medical/Dental and Water Brigade hybrid to Honduras in May of 2015.
"This initial meeting left me feeling in
awe of how little I understood about
the world, particularly with regards to
sustainable development, so I called
my Mom on the walk back to my dorm
to tell her that I was going on the trip
whether she wanted me to or not.
There really wasn't any looking back
PSUGB: Favorite brigade experience?
DC: Every brigade offers such unique experiences, but if I had to choose a favorite trip I would most likely choose my first Water Brigade to Honduras. Before attending Penn State, I hadn't done much traveling and didn't know very much about international development. GWB prepared me well for that first brigade, but I was still amazed by everything that I saw and experienced in Honduras. Although the work was strenuous and the group ended every day covered with dirt, sweat, blisters, and sunburns, my community expanded from the microcosm of a small town in the United States to a global macrocosm. The way that I viewed and analyzed life changed dramatically to be considerate on a global scale; I changed my major upon returning from Honduras that year and continued working with Global Brigades throughout the rest of my career at Penn State, ultimately going on to become Campus Chairperson for all of Global Brigades at Penn State during the 2014-2015 year.
PSUGB: What would you tell members who are interested in applying for Campus Chairperson?
DC: For anybody that is interested in applying for Campus Chairperson, I first congratulate you on all of the hard work that you have put into the "behind-the-scenes" aspects of Global Brigades at Penn State to qualify for such a position; the role of an executive member requires such a dedication to the organization and the members that we work with on a daily basis. That being said, this position holds an even greater amount of responsibility, organization, and dedication than any other. If I had to provide advice or aspects to keep in mind when applying for Campus Chairperson, I recommend that you go in with a large amount of patience, understanding, dedication, and passion for the organization. This role requires you to communicate between both the international organization and the university, and going in with these four key features will prepare you to be the best motivator and moderator that this position of leadership requires.
PSUGB: Suggestions for members who will be going on their first brigade this year?
DC: For anyone attending their first brigade this year, welcome to an experience that you truly won't forget. With this in mind, the individuals that you work with in the communities won't forget the experience either, so be sure to remember that they are people with families, jobs, and lives. Treat them with the respect that you would treat those around you and be open to experiencing their lives with them!