Climate Change and Human Health in Ethiopia with Alexander Vue ’25

3 April 2023
Alex Vue

Alexander Vue ’25, a Biology major studied abroad during winter break 2022 on the Carleton Climate Change and Human Health in Ethiopia Program.

Hi! My name is Alexander Vue and I am a sophomore biology major on a pre-health track.

Last fall term, I was introduced to improved cookstoves by professors Tsegaye Nega and Deborah Gross. In summary, these electric powered cookstoves provide a clean and sustainable way of cooking by increasing the efficiency of cooking foods and reducing carbon emissions within households and the atmosphere. I also worked with my peers, Ariel Alexander and Anna Ursin, and we developed a project designated towards understanding both cultural and socioeconomic factors which may influence the adoption of improved cookstoves within households in Ethiopia.

Following fall term, I left for Ethiopia for two weeks. It was my first time out of the country and I didn’t know what to expect. I started off the trip a bit nervous, but found myself opening up later into the trip. I absolutely loved working with my translators Lidya Gebrehanna and Danayt Abebe. From jokes to deep heart to hearts, we laughed and cried together, supporting each other every moment of the trip. To me, they felt like family as they guided me around Addis and Wolkite, sharing with me their unique perspectives on the world and cultural wisdom. In addition, having conversations with families in both Merkato and Wolkite was truly a humbling experience. Being able to hear the stories of the people I interviewed and speak to them on a personal level about their daily lives, dreams and struggles is something I will never forget. Following my two weeks in Ethiopia, I spent my winter term with my group looking into trends in our survey responses and using qualitative interview data to help interpret these trends in cookstove adoption and propose further steps in helping families use improved cookstoves in their households.

In retrospect, this program changed how I viewed myself and the impact I want to make on the world. Before this OCS I found myself so stressed and concerned about the courses I was taking that I had myself questioning why I was even on the pre-health track. I was at a moment of time where I was really lost and didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. It was through this trip that I realized that I really do want to become a doctor and help people. The people I saw, families I spoke to and conversations with Tsegaye and Deborah made me realize that I have the tools to help people and make a difference within my communities.

This trip also changed my perspectives on what a doctor is. Everyone knows a doctor is supposed to be someone who heals and cures symptoms, but from physically being in another country, talking to so many different people and experiencing different views on medicine and healthcare, it made me realize that there’s so much more than having strong knowledge in the sciences and medicine to help someone. It showed me the importance of forming interpersonal relationships, having empathy for the people you are trying to help and to consider someone’s experiences and how they view the world in order to help that person.

While the two weeks I spent in Ethiopia were short-lived, I felt like it was a journey that helped me understand who I am and reaffirmed my goals in becoming a doctor. It not only gave me a world changing perspective, but memories to look back on and cherish.