Three Tigers Amaze Abroad

  • November 5, 2015

BY REBECCAH BARGER

After two and a half weeks in Chennai, India, junior linebacker RJ Paige returned with a stackful of letters to post on the walls of his dorm. It was a collection from the underprivileged children he had taught teaching basketball and leadership skills throughout his time there.

Paige wasn’t the only player to return with mementos from a summer abroad. Senior defensive lineman Ian McGeary returned from his 10 week marathon in Kenya with extensive research on plant defenses for his senior thesis and a burgeoning passion to pursue Doctors Without Borders in the future. Senior offensive lineman Britt Colcolough joined his teammate on the continent, spending eight weeks in Capetown, South Africa developing practical coding and consulting skills.

Paige, a Woodrow Wilson School major pursing a South Asian Studies certificate, knew he wanted spend his summer in India and found Crossover the perfect fit for exploring how international development intersects with sports and physical health.

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Junior linebacker RJ Paige in India working with the children in the Crossover program.

“I’m interested in India because it seems like it’s often forgotten in the global landscape economically,” Paige said. “Everyone talks about China as this growing power, but India is going to be the most populous country in the world in less than 10 years. I think there’s a lot of great things about the country that a lot of people can learn if they just take a look.”

While Paige and other college athletes ran the after school program for the students, the service project also included community outreach. Paige would spend the mornings touring public schools and neighborhoods in India. At night, they would meet with diplomats and businessmen to discuss Crossover’s impact on participating children and why they should invest and expand the project.

“[The kids] get to see a different side of life and what they actually can strive for at some point in their life when they get older,” Paige said. “They are learning different basketball skills like dribbling and shooting, but for the rest of the time we sit them down in the classroom and talk about leadership and communication – these kids come from a place where people don’t talk about that. We get reviews from the teachers that have been in the programs saying the kids in the program get much better grades, and they’re seeing changes. The hope is to expand it beyond Chennai to other cities and eventually around the country.”

McGeary also knew early he would be spending his summer in Africa after pairing with Princeton professor Robert Pringle whom he selected as his Ecology and Evolutionary Biology adviser. McGeary designed his own experiments to determine how environmental conditions such as neighboring plants and herbivory rates effected induced defenses on certain species of plants throughout Kenya.

“I would look at thorn densities and how much these plants were being eaten, and I think I counted over 50,000 thorns altogether for the summer,” McGeary said. “I was out every day 8am-4pm surrounded by crazy amounts of wildlife – there were times I had to run back to the car because there was an elephant that, if it got any closer, could have charged at us. Another thing I did was set up an experiment of over 200 branches, of which I manipulated the thorns on them, and GPS tagged them and 6 weeks later looked at grazing damage. I did it right in the middle of a herd of impala, so everyday I’d drive through it to go to other stuff and I’d see them all eating my plants and I’d be like ‘yeah this is fantastic.’”

McGeary, however, doesn’t plan to pursue his work with plants after graduation. Instead, he has applied to post baccalaureate programs and research positions to gain experience before entering medical school. His experience in Kenya also reinforced his interest in Doctors Without Borders, whose poster already hangs above his bed.

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Senior defensive lineman Ian McGeary in Kenya, where he completed his senior thesis research.

“Doctors Without Borders is something I’m definitely interested in,” McGeary said. “Kenya is such an impoverished area, which was something that triggered me to want to help. I’d love to be able to go and help people and explore the world.”

Colcolough, an English major pursuing a certificate in Technology and Society, pursued practical coding and consulting experience in South Africa through iXperience.

“The basic premise is that there’s not a lot of great immersive coding schools, like in college,” Colcolough said. “They’re very theoretical and not as practical as they need to be, so there’s this gap in the university curriculum, and we basically said: ‘why don’t we have this interpersonal experience with great teachers that actually teach you the skill you want to learn, while you’re living in this great city doing all this other stuff like shark cage diving, sand boarding, climbing mountains and stuff like that?’”

For the first four weeks, Colcolough took intensive courses for coding, but found his passion didn’t lie in coding. In the next four weeks, where students will apply the skill they learned, Colcolough did his internship in consulting. He completed case studies for Uber to test if their new UberEATS and UberRUSH would be successful in Capetown.

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Senior offensive lineman Britt Colcolough in Capetown, South Africa where he participated in a coding and consulting program iXperience.

“We created surveys, collected data and evaluated research,” Colcolough said. “We created some models on the current size of the market and found out what the current competitors were, what the barriers to entry were, how big the market was in terms of how much revenue could they really get from this.”

With this experience and ability to code Colcolough gained by iXperience, he has thought about pursuing a career in both tech and consulting. He has also considered finding a spot at a startup whose vision he can get behind.

“I think I went there over another internship because I hate the idea of checking boxes, which is kind of what an internship is. You’re not really growing much,” Colcolough said. “I thought, if I can go to this cool place and get a skill I’m actually going to use and get more information on what I want to do, then I might as well do that. The experience was fantastic. I met awesome people and great teachers. I learned a lot about what I wanted. If I hadn’t gone there, I wouldn’t have known that I don’t want to develop. I was able to learn a skill and had an amazing time, and I gained data on myself.­”