When Kerri Sadoff ’12 (social thought and political economy) left Falmouth High School, her dream was to put as much distance as she could between herself and Falmouth, Mass. “I had assumed going as far away from home as I could was what I needed... UMass is only three hours from Falmouth, yet I have found it to be an entire, wonderful world away.”
Coming to UMass was, at first, a financial decision, Sadoff says, but it quickly became “ home.” “I was ready for a new adventure and to learn more about the world and myself,” she says. “From the beginning UMass brought diversity to my life and gave me a stable foundation from which I could really question and explore.”
For Sadoff, the STPEC major offered new perspectives on issues in society. “Whether we were studying violence, social uprisings, environmental degradation, economic inequalities, global health or other concerns, I was challenged to see the world in ways I never had,” she says.
The biggest adventure of all came last fall when Sadoff traveled to Ghana for a semester abroad at the University of Ghana in Accra, the capital of Ghana. She describes Accra, which stretches along the Atlantic coast, as a sprawling and chaotic metropolis that is the economic and administrative hub of the country.
Her interest in traveling thousands of miles from home manifested itself during her sophomore year when Sadoff joined the Citizen Scholar Program. “CSP’s ideals of service and leadership are strong. We don’t just talk about world equity, but actually commit to doing something about making it more the kind of world we want to live in,” she says. During this time, Sadoff had her first conversations about race, class and gender. “Never before had I been asked to critically examine my own thoughts on these identities and to see for myself how much they shape social inequalities,” she says.
One of the main reasons Sadoff chose to study abroad in Ghana was to experience minority issues that she frequently discussed with her classmates and in her Women’s Gender and Sexuality courses. “Going to Ghana was, for me, an opportunity to be the ‘other’ for the first time in my life,” she says. “I was the minority in Ghana and while it was an experience I couldn’t recommend more, it was difficult at times to know that I could spend a lifetime and never really belong there. When what you look like is what makes you stand out, there is really nothing to hide behind.”
“Two months before I was due in Accra, I had the chance to live by myself in Agogo, a village in Central Ghana,” Sadoff says. Her opportunity to experience Ghana in this non-university setting was made possible by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ Ansin Study Abroad Fellowship, which she says allowed her to experience the most difficult, rewarding and grounding six months of her life. “Without the Ansin fellowship offsetting my university fees, I would not have been able to spend those amazing months in Agogo.”
For the last several years, Sadoff has volunteered at Capacidad, a multicultural afterschool program in Amherst and as an English tutor at the International Language Institute in Northampton. A member of the Shaha social justice theater group and the Outing Club, she is an avid biker and runner, and makes time to improve her slack-lining and kayaking skills. After a semester away, she is really enjoying her friends, classes, books and guitar. Sadoff notes that UMass has hundreds of classes to choose from, endless clubs to join, and beautiful mountains to hike. “It did not take me very long to become absolutely invigorated by life in Amherst,” she says.
This semester Sadoff is taking two classes at Hampshire College as part of the Five College Interchange. “The experience has broadened my academic and social base and allowed me to participate in a larger community,” she says. “These classes and others along the way have given me a greater understanding of the world. UMass has made me look deeply into myself in an attempt to better understand the human experience.”
Inspired by her engaging experiences at UMass, Sadoff wants to be a high school English or history teacher. The shortcomings of the high school experience motivate her to provide a more wholesome four-year opportunity for high school students.
“I’m fascinated by that important time in life when young people begin to form an identity and plant the seeds that help determine their future,” Sadoff says. “I want to engage students in real world issues, to inspire them to honestly grapple with what it means to be alive and to be lifelong stewards of their beliefs.”
Tyler Manoukian '13 (journalism) is a communication intern in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Dean's Office.