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From Cape Town to Community Health - CIEE Alum Emma Louise Backe

Emma Louise Backe studied abroad with CIEE in Cape Town in 2012, and served as a Community Health Empowerment Volunteer for the Peace Corps in Fiji from 2013-14. 

Emma Louise Backe - Cape Town

Emma (right) at an excursion organized by CIEE during her study abroad semester in Cape Town. 

For Emma, the Peace Corps was a way to combine her interest in cultural studies and her desire to engage in grassroots, impactful activism on the ground. "I'd wanted to join Peace Corps ever since I was a child,” says Emma. “I've always felt very thankful for the opportunities that were available to me, and subsequently felt compelled to pay those opportunities forward, either internationally or locally. I want to devote my professional career to humanitarian work, and I admired Peace Corps' approach to international development, which emphasizes sustainability and capacity building.” 

Emma Louise Backe - World AIDS Day

Emma in Fiji during her Peace Corps service. 

Emma’s CIEE study abroad program was her first experience living in a foreign country for an extended period of time, and she says it helped her to prepare for her Peace Corps service. While studying abroad in Cape Town, Emma discovered the subject of Medical Anthropology and “absolutely fell in love with” the specialty – she plans to ultimately pursue a PhD in the subject. Her studies in South Africa, along with her internship with the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit while in Cape Town, exposed her to the complexities of public health, and triggered her desire to work in the health sector.

While studying abroad in Cape Town, Emma discovered the subject of Medical Anthropology and “absolutely fell in love with” the specialty.

As a Community Health Volunteer in Fiji, Emma developed and implemented a sexual and reproductive health curriculum for primary and secondary school students. Her projects included teaching sexual and reproductive health in schools, working to eliminate the stigma surrounding contraception, and conducting training sessions with Fijian doctors. She also served as the editor for Peace Corps Fiji's publication Coconut Wireless and Secretary of Peace Corp's Gender and Youth Development Committee. 

Emma’s background includes interning at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt Program, helping to run a creative writing workshop with female inmates at the Duchess County Jail, and blogging for The Geek Anthropologist and on her personal blog site.

Are you a CIEE Alumni involved with service, international development, or global health?

Share your story by emailing alumni@ciee.org

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