May 06, 2016
Sitting in her last Introduction to Fiction class junior year, Abby Johnson '15 heard the words that would have a lasting impact on her life.
"'Go, see your mysteries and live with them, let them be thick with elation, then write about them,'" she remembered Catherine Dent, associate professor of creative writing, saying.
Johnson, a neuroscience major from Granville, Mass., described Dent, as well as Ann Piper, associate professor of art, as her greatest mentors.
"Dent's words are still continuing to change my life," Johnson said. "As my awareness and sensitivity to the world expands, their meaning also expands to greater inform and challenge."
Johnson is in South Africa volunteering with Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) through the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She lives with a family in a rural, farming town where she teaches art at a local school, prepares meals at a center for orphans and vulnerable children, and participates in a local Lutheran church.
"Instead of entering a society to change or fix attributes, my intention is to build relationships through sharing in the daily life of marginalized communities," Johnson said. "The amazing people who I live among are what make my time here a life. They are teaching and shaping me as much as I am assisting them."
Johnson is documenting her time abroad in her blog and newsletter, both titled African Elation, which she originally started while on her Global Opportunities (GO) trip to Ghana and relaunched in South Africa.
Johnson cites the GO program as a major factor in her choosing to come to Susquehanna, though she began traveling internationally as a child with her parents. She has traveled to more than 15 countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Central and North America. Some trips were for service or education, some vacations, and others were solo backpacking ventures.
"I believe now more than ever that cross-cultural experience is an essential part of a complete education," Johnson said. "Some of us are able to acknowledge adversity without having to live with it, but once we do, being ignorant feels like betrayal. Then we know that we are all connected."