A group of graduate scholars from the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program recently embarked on a trip to the Semien National Park to observe and enjoy the natural environment and its conservation. The scholars, accompanied by Program staff, spent the day hiking, observing wildlife, and participating in educational activities led by park rangers.
The Semien Park, known for its diverse flora and fauna, was a perfect setting for the scholars to learn about the importance of natural habitats, the benefits of the tourism sector in Ethiopia and taking time off to visit new sights. The guides provided information about the park’s ecosystem and the challenges it faces, such as preserving the natural environment and helping the endangered species that are in those areas.
The Scholars were able to see first-hand the effects of human activities on the environment and learn about the steps being taken to protect it. They also had the opportunity to ask questions and engage in discussions with the guides, further deepening their understanding of Ethiopia’s landscape and beauty.
When speaking to Somaliland’s Ugbad Reshid who is a first-year graduate Scholar studying psychology, she expressed her amazement of the experience she had gained. She shared that everyone has a responsibility of helping other scholars with disabilities because in such cases their inclusion must be a priority. She not only expressed her delight in visiting the sites, but also stressed the joy in helping those blind scholars who could not see and describing the views to them was an absolute “thrill” for her.
Ugbad shared that she had googled the Semien National Park on the internet and would scroll through the endless photos. However, seeing the park first hand and interacting with all of the wild animals gave her a whole new insight into wildlife and the beauty of country as a whole.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program office at the University of Gondar, made the trip a priority to showcase the value of taking the time to see the vast scenic beauty of the country, relax, and bond with other scholars and staff members. Learning about the environment, the trip also provided a fun and exciting time for those who have never experienced wildlife.
According to Tirengo Misganaw who is a second-year sociology graduate Scholar, the trip was a way to get away from all of the week’s stresses and work load. “I for one needed the time to relax and find out ways to put my mind at ease,” shared Tirengo, “for the last couple of weeks research has taken most of my time and to be given the opportunity to get away and explore the great beauty of the Semien Park was a chance I could not refuse.”
As a blind individual Tirengo also expressed that her inability to see was not a hinderance to her overall experience at the park. “Even though I am a blind person, I had the time of my life. I got the chance to hear the tour guides mesmerizing history, feel the cold breeze of the mountains and hear the exotic noises of the wild animals that were around us. I really felt like I saw everything that was around me,” shared Tirengo.
The trip was a success and received positive feedback from both the Scholars and the staff who attended. It was a great opportunity for the scholars to learn about the environment in a hands-on and interactive way, but at the same time also allowed them to bond with fellow students and work hand in hand with Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program staff, who were assisting in all possible ways to make the day a success.
Some of the advantages of the trip and some of the feedback that was gained from the scholars included gaining exposure to natural beauty and diversity of wildlife, opportunities for outdoor recreation and adventure, appreciation for the environment and improved physical and mental health through immersion in nature. The program office plans to continue organizing similar trips in the future to provide students with the chance to explore and learn about the natural world.