And Here We Go

Study abroad is a fantastic way to spend a summer. I highly recommend it. Although, my class just began today and I haven’t actually started the “abroad” part yet. So, I am speaking hypothetically, of course. I hope I can make the same claim a month from now.

Yes, I graduated. Yes, we had a big party. Yes, I received gifts and praise from my friends and family. Yes, I could be conducting a job search. But two semesters ago I made up my mind that I really, really wanted to participate in the anti-human trafficking study abroad program before making any career decisions. Here is the reason why:

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery — a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom. –

During that semester, I read Kevin Bales’ book, “Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy” and Louise Shelley’s book, “Human Trafficking, A Global Perspective,” and frankly I was completely overwhelmed and depressed. That is until I realized that I did not have to figure out how to do all of the jobs for international counter-trafficking response. I only had to choose an area that made the most sense for my skills and tolerance level for dealing with the scum who buy and sell humans for sex and forced labor. Yes, the people who pay to have sex with children are scum. They don’t care if I call them scum. They know they are scum, and they don’t care. Yes, the people who, through fraud and coercion, enslave human beings are scum. They don’t care if I call them scum. They know they are scum, and they don’t care. As you may be able to tell, my tolerance level for scum prevents me from pursuing some jobs.

The U.S. Department of State publishes a Trafficking In Persons Report for those interested in reading more about the subject. To say that studying human trafficking is a challenge is an understatement. Students participating in this program will no doubt look poverty and violence square in the face. At times it may seem overwhelming, but each student in this class knows the value of meeting a challenge. We know there is value in helping others. We know what we bring to the table is valued by our professor as well as the organizations with which we will be working. It is a privilege for me to participate in this program. I only hope that I can live up to my own expectations. I will keep you posted.




28 thoughts on “And Here We Go

  1. You are a hero, both for graduating and for your pursuit of the next big challenge. Congratulations for both. I am in awe of you, this is not hyperbole but my honest reaction. I have no doubt you will find your tolerance level and then make big waves.

    1. Val, your remark made my heart swell. The hero is the person who lives to tell their story. Like you, the strong, the fierce, the determined, you are the hero. You, my friend, and people like you who make us all want to be better people.

  2. Human trafficking is horrible (and as you say, much closer to home than people realize) and needs as many people working to stop it as possible. Good on you for doing this. Best of luck, and big congrats on graduating! How great you must feel to cross that finish line. 🙂

    1. Hi Carrie. The reality that I have crossed that finish line hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Maybe because the race continues. It will be a whirlwind summer. Thank you for your constant encouragement.

  3. Mazel and way to go Stephanie! So excited for you; I know you’ll soak up every opportunity and adventure, as you work on this incredibly important project. I know a woman who is very involved in this work, and travels all over the world in her role. It is deeply challenging, and deeply meaningful work. Brava, they need you!

    1. Thanks, Dawn. I have been surprised by the number of people who have dedicated their life to the counter-trafficking response and by how many people don’t know the facts about this global plague. Your encouragement is much appreciated.

  4. Congraduations! (I got that from an episode of “Three’s Company.” Thanks, Chrissie Snow.)

    I would love to study abroad someday. I wouldn’t even care where, as long as it was somewhere that ends in “ROPE” and starts with “EU.”

    1. Mr. Petruska, always the kidder! How the heck are you? I hear ya on the studying abroad in Europe. I’ll be sure to post pics of my journey. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. It makes perfect sense to me that you would graduate (kudos) and then head off to do something challenging, different and productive. Wow that will be an adventure. The little I know of human trafficking is horrendous and so worthy of your time and energy. Hats off …

    1. Thank you, Lyle. It made perfect sense to me too. Now all I have to do is keep myself from saying “What was I thinking?” Seriously, human trafficking is horrendous. There are many dedicated abolisionists working on this transnational problem. It’s only right that I do my part to educate people and dispel the myths of modern day slavery.

  6. Congratulations! Thank you for putting hands and feet to the process of freeing those who are unable to help themselves. I look forward to your follow-up. Godspeed!

  7. You know, until about 5 years ago, I thought that human trafficking was just a plot device for fiction writers. Talk about naive. 😦 This modern day horror is real and I applaud you for trying to make a difference.

    1. There have definitely been moments when I wished I did not know all the things I did not know before. I can’t unknow them now. Thanks for the encouragement!!

  8. congratulations on completing your degree, woman! It is a good feeling, isn’t it? Secondly, I applaud your choice of cause and for bringing it to our attention. Good luck with this endeavor!
    (Nice to see you posting and updating us.)

    1. Thanks, lady. It is a good feeling. There is almost nothing better than turning in that last paper and then sipping that much deserved adult beverage.(or two) Hopefully there will be time for me to browse the blogs I’ve missed and maybe rant a little. (Just a little) 🙂

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