Chryse Kruse ’19

Hanson Scholarship experience affirmed this double major’s career goal.

Aspiring educator Chryse Kruse ’19 watched as teachers in a rural Romanian classroom seated students based upon their ethnic origin: the Romanian children sat toward the front, while the Romas, or “gypsies,’’ were sent to the back.

“At first I thought, ‘How could they do this?’” she says. “But later I saw that it wasn’t prejudice, but rather two completely different societies, each with its own customs and morals, and neither was assimilating to the other.”

The experience shed light on how the challenges in any classroom might extend beyond the content of the curriculum.

It was one of many lessons Kruse gleaned while serving abroad last summer through a 10-week Hanson Family Learning Lab and International Service Internship Program scholarship. Established by Dan ’75 and Durene ’75 Hanson, the scholarship supports students in pursuing a service project abroad with the goal of serving less fortunate populations and broadening the scholar’s worldview.

Kruse, an English Literature and Religious Studies double major, was the first freshman and one of the few English majors to ever apply for the scholarship.

"A Hanson scholarship requires you to commit up to 10 weeks of your life to go somewhere alone,” Kruse says. “As a freshman, that was intimidating, but I felt it was important to serve and to travel and I knew if I didn’t pursue the opportunity, I would have regretted it.”

As a Hanson Scholar, Kruse lived with a Romanian host family in a 500-year-old home in Brasov, a mountain city in the Transylvanian region of central Romania. Her first month there she taught English in a rural village K-8 school located an hour away. She spent her remaining six weeks teaching and caring for nine children, ages 3 to 13, in a foster home for abandoned Romas kids.

“I never knew I could love someone as much as I loved those kids,” says Kruse. “They just needed someone to show them they have worth as a human being. Often that’s as simple as braiding a girl’s hair or taking them for a bike ride.”

Working with the Romas children taught her about the power of human connection and the influential role of a teacher in a student’s life. In many ways, she says, it solidified her career goal.

Her time in Romania also allowed her to explore the culture through the eyes of its native people. She went on tours with a local family, visited churches and monasteries, and even spent a couple weekends in Bulgaria and Greece. She also befriended other scholars involved in service projects in Romania. 

“I wasn’t a tourist in Romania,” says Kruse. “I lived there. It was a rich experience that allowed me to serve others, grow personally and meet people from France, Canada, Italy and New Zealand. Now I have lifelong friendships and connections all over the world.”