Elise Leise

Elise is passionate about creating a sustainable global future. She's a junior instructor at her community's Environmental Learning Center and teaches younger kids wilderness survival skills while backpacking, kayaking, and winter camping. An avid runner and robotics designer, she also leads her school's Sustainability Club and interns at a local farmer's market in the summer. This year, she wants to build fluency in French and either Wolof or Pulaar, delve deeper into issues that spark her curiosity, and develop long-lasting relationships within her host community. Her favorite quote is "quality, not quantity." While her track and field coach uses the phrase to refer to 400 meter repeats, she likes it because it reminds her that being loved deeply is more important than being loved widely.



“Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” —- Abn Battuta, Moroccan explorer, 1300s. How was Africa? My feet still hold onto the last markings of fuden, the traditional henna paste my older sister traced into decorations the week of Easter. I still sometimes wear my colorful wrap skirts, and I write my…

01 June, 2018

The Story of A Stranger

Ten kaleidoscopic skulls stare back at me, strung together along the bracelet that now rests in my palm. A present from a stranger, something I would never usually adorn myself with but that I know will remind me of the man seated in front of me for weeks and years to come. He winces as…

09 March, 2018

So Much More

Senegal,  I can't remember clearly what I imagined you to be; what stereotypes I inadvertently packed in my suitcase alongside my solar charger and all-polyester clothing and water sterilization device. Vibrant saturation of color, drums beating deep and low, sun-scalded dirt roads, lions — I'm ashamed to admit it now, but that was the basis…

09 March, 2018

Ndanke Ndanke

After shelling a requisite amount of peanuts with the women of the compound, I found Dé Maraam behind a tin-roofed hut, sitting in the shade and chatting with a grandmother about the weather. As the village chief’s widow, she held respect and authority throughout Bapate and was the woman I needed to speak with about…

15 January, 2018

It’s Not Turkey That Makes Thanksgiving Special

As I walked through the doorway of the kindergarten, a little blur of limbs darted over and wrapped herself around my legs. "Mamedome!" she tried to say, in the garbled language of a two-year old. I laughed in delight and shock and a strange feeling that made me want to tear up a little bit,…

17 November, 2017

Why Rooftop Yoga Makes Patriotism Hard

I fold my legs beneath me, silently stretching my arms up and out to the edge of the periwinkle horizon, where streetlights trace a thin line between city and neverending sky. The half-finished cement buildings create a jigsaw puzzle, cut through with abstract slashes of laundry lines and dirt rectangles of futbol fields. Far below…

17 October, 2017

My Courage Is A Bucketful of Dirty Laundry

My hands plunge into the bucket of soapy water in search of the next piece of clothing. Grabbing a corner, scrubbing vigorously, I rid the fabric of all the dust smudges, sweat, and rice I tried to eat with my hands but that decorated my shirt instead. The sun hits hot on the nape of my…

12 October, 2017

The Toubabs of Thies

      In a street shop bursting wall to wall with colorful boxes and packaged foods, I ignore the curious eyes on me and step up to the counter with my attaya and bleach. Conversation blurs around my ears in a rapid-fire stream of unintelligible words. “Toubab,” I hear. Foreigner. I smile, the one universal gesture…

08 September, 2017

Short Hair, Don’t Care

      Phones recording, people yelling, razor buzzing, I flicked remnants of my hair to the floor of the Stanford dorm bathroom. The electric atmosphere of the overcrowded space hummed, punctured with gasps and uncontrollable laughter. In the space of four days, not even the duration of Global Launch, the Fellows around me flipped…

07 September, 2017

On Preconceptions

She grasped a stick of honey in her fingers, carefully, as if handling a precious possession. “Here,” she said. “I want you to have it.” Five years old, she stood in front of me, serious, dark hair brushing her shoulders. She didn’t have that much to spare, her family didn’t have a lot to get…

26 August, 2017

So Long, Sayonara, See You Later: Goodbye In My Own Language

​ Au revoir. Ba beneen. Mornings spent struggling with vowels on Rosetta Stone have equipped me with basic French. My small, yellow Wolof phrasebook, sure to remain my trusty sidekick throughout the year, helps me bid adieu in a Senegalese language totally foreign to me. Yet the translation in English is the hardest to say….

14 August, 2017

High School Seniors, Listen Up.

  Transcripts. Letters of recommendation. Freaking out over the relative merits of extracurricular activities. It’s August, and college application season is officially upon us, marking the final culmination of the high school experience. It seems as if the school of your choice will decide your success, wealth, and happiness for life. Not in actuality. But…

02 August, 2017

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Elise Leise