PAU Students Reflect on Recent Trip to Rwanda

September 25, 2014

During the 2014 summer, PAU’s Provost, Dr. Bill Froming, three clinical psychologists and nine Palo Alto University (PAU) students traveled to Rwanda to learn more about the 1994 genocide, visit mental health facilities and exchange ideas with Rwandese mental health professionals.  The students described their travel and work in Rwanda as ‘life-changing’, ‘once in a lifetime’, and felt that it strengthened them as graduate students, future clinical psychologists, and human beings.

Here are some excerpts of the reflections of the students:

  • “To say these experiences have had an impact on my clinical work would be a grave understatement.  During our time at PAU, we have all taken diversity classes, clinical classes, and perhaps even trauma-focused classes.  We have learned and studied about clinical populations and worked with them in a variety of settings.  However, no experience that I have had in a classroom could begin to compare to any one of the experiences I had while in Rwanda.”
  • “In many ways, the more I have experienced, the less I know. I found it important to be humble and open to learning, particularly when it comes to understanding culture. These experiences have taught me to be less rigid in my conceptualizations and to search for deeper meaning.”

PAU stresses the importance of diversity within the classroom, research opportunities, and clinical experiences. This helped to prepare students for their journey to Rwanda and gave them internal resources to draw upon while in Rwanda, but the opportunity to travel abroad and work in an international context gave them a deeper understanding of:

  • World-wide trauma
  • Struggle
  • Survival and resilience

Some lessons that a classroom setting has not and will never be able to convey.  In their reflections, the students discussed the importance of understanding that there are various ways to approach trauma and that it is important for clinical psychologists and researchers to work together to come up with multi-modal treatment approaches in aiding trauma survivors all over the world. 

Learn more about other PAU efforts in Rwanda.