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Faces of Gallaudet - Internships

One Soothing Street

by Teresa Ezzell

For most of us, palm trees, tropical weather, and the Pacific Islands easily evoke visions of beach life and vacation, but for one Gallaudet student, these visions evoke a passion for the people of Marshall Islands.

Daniel DiDonna had a choice of two countries to do his internship: Kenya or the Marshall Islands. His career consultant, Daniel Veit, challenged him to go for the less explored, an area where Gallaudet students have interned. So, Daniel picked the islands.

"I knew it would be challenging. And that was exactly what I wanted."

The senior communication studies major wanted to learn a different culture, a different lifestyle and that meant sleeping in a simple hut made of mud, palm tree leaves, and sticks.

"I slept on palm tree mats, ate with my bare hands, and learned that what meant the world to the natives are family and friends."

During his 12-week internship, Daniel taught 30 students from three different island/atoll schools, but primarily 18 deaf high school students on the Majuro Atoll, the capital.

"The people of Marshall Islands use both Marshallese and English language; however, with the Marshallese language, it’s structured in a way that you have to learn how to speak it before you can write the language. Deaf children are at a disadvantage when it comes to learning the native language," said Daniel.

In the mornings Daniel taught American Sign Language (ASL), English, and independent living skills daily to students and ASL to teachers and parents three afternoons during the week.

"I had to think about how to empower the teachers there with the tools to teach deaf children. Instead of giving trees to harvest from, I hope I gave seeds for them to grow, nurture, and harvest from."

Every morning enroute to the school, he rode on what he calls "one soothing street."

Blogging from the Pacific, Daniel wrote, "…on this drive, I can see everything in Majuro. One Soothing Street Seeing both sides of the sea, the Oceanside and lagoon plus the morning rush of the Marshallese as people go to work or shop for breakfast food..the sun is way up in the sky with clouds beaming across the sky. I find myself gravitated to the beauty of the Pacific life. I start my mornings and end my late-night workdays with the 20 minute drive, reflecting upon my own life and what had happened earlier that day…. Quite a soothing street!"

Daniel hopes to go back to the Marshall Islands after graduating this May under WorldTeach — a Harvard University program, similar to the U.S. Peace Corps. He wants to work with Gallaudet’s Career Center to ensure a steady feed of Gallaudet’s student teachers to the Pacific Islands, especially the Marshall Islands. After that, he says, he’ll explore a possible career in international development and settle in another country and pursue graduate studies.

Seth Gore, Class of 2011, contributed to the article.