Making the World His Classroom
July 28, 2011
Ever since he was a junior in high school, James Tracy Denholm knew he was destined to travel the globe someday. He just didn't anticipate getting the chance so quickly.
A rising junior at Stonehill, he has already visited Nicaragua and New Orleans to complete volunteer work though the College's HOPE Program. This past June, he spent 11 days in Peru with Stonehill alumnus Mike Cipoletti '99, who now runs an international service program called Friends New England.
While there to distribute anti-parasite medications, multi-vitamins, and prescribe glasses for people, Denholm and Cipoletti pledged to move an entire community of 250 people suffering from catastrophic flooding due to global warming, to a safer location.
And beginning on August 24, Denholm will embark on a semester-long trip that will bring him to four continents. Made possible through Stonehill's affiliation with the School for International Training, the study abroad trip will be a part of its International Honors Program.
His trip to Peru was supported by $2,000 in grant money given to him by Stonehill, $1000 of it coming from Provost and Academic Vice President Katie Conboy after he wrote a three-page grant proposal to her. Another $300 came from a student travel grant, $500 from the Honors Program and another $200 from the Martin Institute.
"Stonehill encouraged me and contributed so much in terms of financial support. That's what I want kids to know: We have one of the best study abroad programs in the nation. If I can do this, anyone at Stonehill can do this."
One of the top reasons he choose to come to Stonehill was because of its renowned study abroad program.
"The Princeton Review ranked Stonehill in the top 20 for Study Abroad programs. That was that," says the Akron, Ohio native.
Denholm first fell in love with the idea of traveling after watching a YouTube his junior year in high school.
"The video was called ‘Where the hell is Matt?' and it featured a guy dancing like a goof and just having fun in countries around the world. And all these people, who can't even speak Matt's language, danced with him in every country. Every time I see that video, I cry- and I don't feel stupid saying that. I saw that video I knew I had to travel."
During his senior year at Archbishop Hoban High School, Denholm organized a trip to Ghana.
The school not only agreed, but he evidently started a precedent: A group of 15 Hoban High students went to Ghana again this past June.
As for his upcoming trip, Denholm will spend two weeks in Switzerland before heading to India, where he'll turn 21 at the foot of the Taj Mahal.
After five weeks in southern India, he'll head to China for four weeks, and then Cape Town, South Africa for five more. He'll return to the U.S. on December 19.
In each country, he will take four classes, all having to do with public health. Each country is a separate case study. For example, in China, he'll examine how the one-child policy has affected demographics. In South Africa, he'll study the AIDS and HIV epidemic. In each country, except for Switzerland, he will live with a local family.
"Academically, it's very rigorous," he said. "On my own, I ordered 18 books on Amazon that I'm in the process of reading now-languages, history, politics, health problems, development. I believe very strongly in reading about wherever you're going. I know the least about India, so I'm in the process of reading a book about Ghandi right now," he said.
Denholm will further quench his thirst for travel during the spring semester when he plans to study in the Middle East.
He will head to Oman where he'll study Arabic and live with an Omani family for ten weeks, while taking field trips to Qatar and the United Emirates.
He chose to study in Oman simply because "people have heard of Egypt and Jordan. I know people who have been there. I want to go somewhere more adventurous, dangerous; somewhere people might not even know exists."
Besides being a globe-trotting student of life, Denholm is a member of the rugby team at Stonehill, maintains a 3.62 gpa, participates in the SURE Program and founded the school's African Service Project.
After graduating from Stonehill, he hopes to earn a master's degree in International Public Health.
"My family is really, really proud of me. We don't have the means to go many places but because of the opportunities available to me at Stonehill, I get to have all these amazing experiences. My parents and I couldn't ask for anything more out of a college" says Denholm.
"My advice for other Stonehill students is: Just do it. There's nothing standing in your way. People at the College want to see you accomplish your dreams."
-by Lauren Daley
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