BERKELEY - Former Cal field hockey player Shannon Elmitt wanted her honors thesis to focus on social welfare in a developing country. But she didn’t think she would be afforded the chance to actually go to that country.
In the it-all-worked-out department, Elmitt is joining nine other students and two faculty members on a service learning trip to Cambodia. The group leaves Wednesday for the 10-day trip in which they will serve as school tutors and visit various social agencies to learn about the types of services they provide and get educated on the kinds of problems Cambodia faces.
“It kind of fell into place really nicely,” Elmitt said.
Cal’s School of Social Welfare organized the trip in September, with about 25 interested students attending an orientation. After going through a series of interviews, Elmitt, who is double-majoring in social welfare and media studies, was one of 10 students chosen to make the trip, and only one of four undergraduate students.
“I just thought it would be really an interesting experience to go,” said Elmitt, a three-time NorPac All-West selection who completed her Cal career in the fall. “I thought it would be really neat to see what it’s like in a developing country.”
Elmitt is now doing her honors thesis on Cambodia. She will be working with School of Social Welfare lecturer Paul Terrell, who is leading the group on the trip. Elmitt will focus specifically on health education and welfare services.
“She has a pretty good and realistic understanding of what this trip is all about,” Terrell said. “She strikes me as a mature young woman who certainly has an academic bent.”
Elmitt, who hails from West Vancouver, B.C., said she came to Cal originally intending to major in social welfare. But the proliferation of social media steered her toward media studies. It wasn’t until her junior year that she added social welfare as her second major.
“I took a social welfare class in the summer before my junior year and got really interested in that,” Elmitt said. “There are a lot of interesting topics with social welfare and a lot of challenges with it that would be good to tackle. They are the courses that I have been really interested in.”
Elmitt said she is leaning toward making a career out of social welfare, and plans to attend graduate school.
“I like helping people,” Elmitt said. “I think that it’s kind of an overlooked profession that is vital. I’m not sure if I want to become a social worker. I just think it’s interesting working with people and talking with people one on one.”
But first, Elmitt will spend 10 days immersing herself in Cambodian culture. The group will be based in Siem Reap, the capital city of the Siem Reap Province the Northwestern part of the country. Vans will transport the group to nearby villages each day.
“I hope that it will be challenging and that we will be doing work that is beneficial to the people there,” Elmitt said. “I hope that I get to learn things about other people. We’re going to definitely learn an international perspective on social welfare.”