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Tech Alumna Returns from International Service Project


Arkansas Tech University alumna Leslie Miller Harris is back in the United States this week after spending eleven weeks in Central Europe serving others.

Harris is obtaining a graduate degree in public service at the Clinton School of Public Service and spent the summer serving abroad to complete an international public service project as part of her coursework.

“The goal is for students to apply the concepts learned in the classroom regarding public service to an international setting," said Harris. “The Clinton School is very focused on fieldwork because it takes learning from theoretical to practical.”

Each student completing a service project had the opportunity to select an organization, a location and a project.

“My role this summer was a research consultant with Youth With a Mission. I worked with the Youth With a Mission Central European office, which is located in Budapest, Hungary,” said Harris. “The organization is expanding its services into Sarajevo, Bosnia, and I conducted a needs assessment of the greatest problems facing Bosnians. My tasks included interviewing Bosnians about their needs and analyzing secondary data that I compiled into a report.”

Harris says one of the biggest challenges she has faced is interacting with those who speak a different language.

“The greatest challenge is definitely the language barrier because Hungarian is a very difficult language to learn,” said Harris. "You just think of creative ways to communicate whether it’s writing things down, acting it out, or, best-case scenario, finding someone who speaks English.”

Harris says her service project has given her a “deeper appreciation for the life I am blessed with in Arkansas” and empathy for those who relocate to new communities.

“Going forward, I will always try to reach out and include newcomers in our community because a simple hello can take someone from isolation to inclusion,” said Harris.

Harris says the experience has also helped her gain a new perspective of other ideas and cultures.

“This experience has taught me that just because something is not what I’m used to doesn’t make it wrong, it may just be different,” said Harris.

In addition to her travels in Hungary and Bosnia, Harris took advantage of her free time and traveled throughout Europe.

“My favorite part of the experience has been the travel," said Harris. "I’ve been able to see Budapest, Sarajevo, Prague, Split and Rome.”

Over the course of the coming year, Harris will complete her final requirement to obtain a graduate degree from the Clinton School of Public Service, and she will graduate from the Clinton School in May.

Harris is also seeking a law degree at the University of Arkansas School of Law and anticipates earning her Juris Doctor in May of 2014.