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Ashley Freytag '12 with her young American students in Mali.

BW Graduate Working a World Away

International Studies and French double major, Ashley Freytag '12, follows her heart to Mali, Africa.

By Paige Greene ‘14

What started with an “uneasy feeling” has ended in a perfect dream for BW alumna and Wauseon High School graduate, Ashley Freytag.

An International Studies and French double major, Freytag knew she wanted to volunteer abroad after her graduation in May 2012. “Ready to gain some perspective,” she applied for the Peace Corps, and was ecstatic to find she was accepted to teach high school English in Africa. Shortly after her acceptance, however, she felt uneasy with these plans, saying, “Something inside of me was telling me that the Peace Corps was the wrong decision.”

Answer Comes From Home Church

Freytag went to her home church, Crossroads Evangelical in Waueseon, Ohio, to seek counsel from her pastor. There, she discovered that the congregation had just started an outreach mission in southwest Mali, a French speaking country in Africa, through the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches. Realizing that this was the opportunity she had been waiting for, Freytag said, “the turn of events and the timing was all too perfect to have been planned by anyone than God himself.”

The trip is funded entirely by churches and donations. One stage of the process that Freytag continuously returns to is “support raising”- sending letters to friends and family, or visiting churches, and sharing what she has seen and learned while in Yalunka in hopes that they will be inspired to support her mission.

Ashley Becomes “Awa Dembélé”

For her internship, Freytag is homeschooling two American sisters whose parents are learning French before moving to southwest Mali to minister to the Yalunka people. When she isn’t teaching, she works to make personal connections with her Malian peers, and, as a result, was renamed “Awa Dembélé” because her Malian friends couldn’t pronounce the name “Ashley.”

BW Experiences Provide Firm Foundation

Freytag praises BW for preparing her for this experience, giving credit to Dr. Judy Krutky, Professor of Political Science and International Studies, for encouraging her to join the National Model African Union Conference, which was “the best learning experiences I could have had… It was great because I learned to think like an Algerian diplomat and I met people from all over the world.”

Even with that experience, the reality of African city life initially challenged her expectations. After spending a month in Bamako, Freytag reflected that “I had many skewed ideas of Africa and that I am still in the process of “unthinking” and relearning.”

A Experience to Apply "To the Rest of My Life"

Freytag also has a message for current students at BW. “I would definitely recommend an experience like this whether it is study abroad or a mission-oriented trip. Like everyone says, it is best to travel when you are young because you may not get to do it later in life. Plus, I hope to take the perspective and all that I learn here and apply it to the rest of my life.”

 Posted November 2012

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