Domenica Blasucci (Class of 2016)

photo of Domenica Blasucci

  • senior Nutrition major
  • minor in Global Health
  • from Chicago, IL
  • participated in trips to Tanzania to help build a school and tutor English (2014 and 2015)
  • climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro
  • accepted a job as a lead guide with Growth International Volunteer Excursions (GIVE)
"It's important to take a look at everything, all the opportunities. You can be interested in so many things, but you won't really know what you want to do until you take a serious look!"

Why Miami?

"My favorite part about Miami is the location. It's a place where you can really get to know one another — to the point where you're comfortable with familiar faces and still meeting new people. It's definitely very different from my hometown of Chicago. Going back and forth, I feel like I've been living two different lives.

"In high school, I went on an immersion trip to Kenya that truly changed me forever. It was an experience that has opened many doors for me and led me to have many more life-changing moments throughout my four years at Miami.

"As a first-generation college student in my family, my original goal coming to Miami was a classic one: major in Chemistry and become a doctor. My trip to Kenya, though, made me more interested in working abroad and exploring the things I didn't know. Halfway through my freshman year I officially switched my major to Nutrition and added the Global Health Studies [GHS] minor my junior year. I found a balance between maintaining my interests and the hopes of my parents."

Best Miami Experiences

Domenica Blasucci and a primate friend in Tanzania

"Miami has given me a lot of background knowledge on how I want to live my life. When it comes to nutrition, no matter what I do, I know that I need to be healthy and the best person that I can be before I go out and do things in the world. It's bringing me to understand what health means for me, and I've been figuring out how to apply that in the greater world so that everybody else can be their best.

"At the same time, I didn't want to limit myself to my Nutrition major; I wanted to be versatile and work outside it, being able to incorporate it in whatever I'm doing but not necessarily with just nutrition. One way I found to do this at Miami is my pride and joy: an organization called Growth International Volunteer Excursions, or GIVE.

"I discovered GIVE through a flyer outside my chemistry class, which led me to a whole train of events: volunteering for 3 weeks in Tanzania, returning there for a summer internship, and finally getting involved on GIVE's executive board here on campus.

"In Tanzania we worked with a tutoring program run by GIVE in the local school that we were helping to build. During my final week I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro! Then, when I returned the following summer, I was able to go back as an intern for two months and continue my tutoring work."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"Through the liberal arts you get a new perspective and atmosphere, which makes the learning experience at Miami different and more personal. You learn to take in all different types of perspectives by learning from your classmates and working with your teachers.

"My Global Health Studies minor was set up to allow me to work with professors from different departments, giving me a mix of everything. I learned about relevant issues and connected information with classes that I may have never even taken.

"For example, in GHS 101 [Introduction to Global Health] we had a professor talk to us about water sanitation, which was a topic that I didn't know much about. If communities don’t have fresh clean water, the results are intertwined with many other issues and current events, which makes these issues very complex and difficult to solve. However, I have learned the importance of transdisciplinary teams in addressing global issues.

"My GHS minor led me to take my favorite class, Social Justice, Globalization, and Human Rights [SJS 487], with Professor Rodney Coates. Through this class, Dr. Coates helped me gain confidence in my work and realize my abilities — how much I can really accomplish and learn."

Study Abroad in Tanzania

Domenica Blasucci comforts a napping toddler in Tanzania.

"GIVE focuses on sustainability and sends volunteers to Tanzania, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Laos, where various projects are carried out.

"In Tanzania, GIVE started building a school in 2013 in the small village of Cairo in a tourist area of Zanzibar Island, which is just off the Tanzanian coast. Before GIVE got involved, there had been no school there.

"Although the focus was on building the school, some local students had asked the volunteers to help them with their English. In order for them to move into higher education, students had to complete forms and entrance exams that are in English, which is difficult for many to do. That's how the ball got rolling for the organization's tutoring program.

"I was an intern in GIVE's education program in summer 2015. When I arrived, the school's basic infrastructure had been finished, but the education coordinator and I had to sit down with the students on concrete floors covered with mats, near some giant bags of donations. We tutored kids from two years old through adults in their 40s or 50s. We really saw everyone. It was a crazy, crazy ride!

"The village of Cairo is nestled in the middle of several tourist resorts, and the population is predominantly Muslim. We didn't have any prep time before leaving that summer, but by the time I left, we had desks and bookshelves in separate tutoring rooms. This allowed us to organize students based on gender and proficiency — it was a really big milestone for us.

"Because there was no running water, it had to be delivered by the village early every morning. One of our first projects, in 2013, was creating a well as a source of clean water. We had volunteers mixing cement and rocks, along with members of the local community, and later in the morning the volunteers could choose to do tutoring or construction.

"Living there for two months, I did everything with the locals, every day and all day. It was a totally different life, but at the same time, I was very comfortable, content, and motivated. I grew tied to the community and loved building upon my relationships there. It felt like home.

"Reverse culture shock had a big effect on me when I returned to the U.S. — living abroad just changes you because you're immersed in a totally different life. At first I felt bitter because I could not understand how we as Americans value certain things more than something else. Although I'm normally very outgoing and fun, after Tanzania it took me a while to readjust to American culture. I focused on taking what I learned in Tanzania and letting that influence my decisions here."

Advice to Students

"Volunteering in an overseas program like I did is a lot of work, but you gain perspectives that I do not believe you could get in a regular classroom. A lot of students come to Miami with a certain idea of what they should be doing. My advice is to dive out of that and look into new experiences.

"Never in a million years did I ever think that I would be going back and forth to Africa three times since high school. When I watched a video on an immersion trip in my high school ethics class, I knew that I was going — something just triggered my determination. That's why it's important to take a look at everything, all the opportunities. You can be interested in so many things, but you won't really know what you want to do until you take a serious look!"

[March 2016]