Angela Dao (WCAS 2012)
Major: Biology, Global Health
Current Location: Dakar Senegal
Hello hello! I’m Angela, a recent 2012 graduate from NU, studying Biology and Global Health. Currently, I’m working as a Program Coordinator for HIV/TB activities at the regional level for the Millennium Village Project, www.millenniumvillages.org. Based in Dakar, Senegal, there are a total of five Millenium Village sites that I work with in West and Central Africa.
What is the Millenium Village Project?
Millenium Village Project is an effort to end extreme poverty by supporting those in low resource areas, in order to lift themselves above the poverty line. Our approach is not to focus on just one aspect, but to improve all areas of development, outlined by the Millennium Development Goals, simultaneously. Although this may seem like a daunting task, it is a necessary one, as each sector directly affects the rest. Improving child mortality does not end at improving health care, but also food sustainability, sanitation, and infrastructure. This in turns requires education and business entrepreneurship by the people themselves. All aspects are integrated and must be considered in order to make a lasting impact from a community to global scale.
How did you find the position and what was the application process like?
I found this position while scouring the web for job postings. A good resource and where I found this NGO is www.eldis.org. It has a range of areas, locations and levels, yet all are geared more or less towards development work. I sent a cover letter and resume, and went through a series of interviews before being offered the job.
How did your studies at Northwestern influence what you’re doing and where you are right now?
At NU, Global Health studies certainly got me interested in global development work, but it was studying abroad in Uganda that really solidified my determination to work in this field. Even though I only had a BA in Biology as a recent college grad, I had the support of professors both at NU and in Uganda to give me the confidence to put myself out there for what I was actually passionate about, instead of taking the safety of a research job I wasn’t excited about. Now I’m in a country I’ve never been before,learning a language that I was novice at best, doing work that I’m actually interested in. Sure, it certainly was a leap, but I don’t regret my decision. I’ve realized if I never challenge myself to get the things I want out of life, I’ll never reach them, and probably just bore myself to death in the safety of monotony.
What’s next? Do you already know?
I’ll be around West Africa until the end of July before returning to the states to attend medical school in the fall. That is unless some other amazing opportunity comes up, and I’ll consider deferring a year. For those out there wondering about a gap year, my advice is to go for it. If you’re already considering it, you’re likely benefit from the time it gives you to explore not only what the world has to offer outside of school, but also yourself. I’ve learned more about who I am in these past few months here than I did in college, because I constantly have to question and reflect my actions and their impacts. Being in unfamiliar and challenging situations only helps you discover that. Of course a gap year isn’t right for everyone. But that’s a question you need to answer yourself.