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Learning from Soccer, Poetry, Sharks and Psychology

How do you study human nature?

If you are Jacob Ebbs ’16 you do this by serving as captain of the men’s soccer team, reading and studying the genius of master poets, researching ways to improve vaccination rates, and reflecting on a summer internship in Australia that included counseling and mediation with teens and cage diving with great white sharks.

“I like getting close to the answers to questions of human nature,” he explains. “I really like the idea of being a philosopher of people.”

Ebbs, a psychology major, also enjoys travelling.

“I knew I needed to think practically and boost my résumé, so I decided to look for an internship in a new place if possible,” he says. In-Sync Youth Services outside of Brisbane, Australia, offered a summer internship allowing Ebbs to work with young people who are at risk of homelessness or are homeless.

“This was all the way across the Earth, and it seemed like a good adventure,” he says. “And, every day was an adventure in both the work that I did and experiencing the country. I was surprised by how integrated I was in the process. Counseling was the most educational and the most rewarding aspect by far. It was really good to see theories put into practice.”

Ebbs had worked with kids and teens through coaching, tutoring and volunteering with Special Olympics.

“This summer I saw that becoming independent at age 15 changes the way you think,” he says. “I saw these youth become hardened earlier. When you are that young and you are forced to think about survival, it changes you in a way that people with stable homes are not. You are forced to see the world in ways that most people don’t.”

He learned that once youth start down the path of homelessness, it is much harder for them to heal.

“I am not sure that I will go into social work or counseling, but this helped me to find what I do and don’t like about these career paths,” says Ebbs. The internship utilized a four-day workweek, which left ample time for excursions.

“Every weekend was a three-day weekend, so I had lots of time to explore,” he says. “The highlight of the outdoor adventures was cage diving with great white sharks. We were put in cages out in the middle of the ocean, the area was baited, and 15-foot long great white sharks were swimming all around us.”

Ebbs anticipates attending grad school.

“I definitely see myself living in a different country for an extended period of time,” he says.

On campus, Ebbs is convener of Athlete Ally, and is involved in two Ford/Knight projects. In one study, Ebbs, three other students and Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Rachael Reavis research health messages and how they are received by people who are against vaccinations.

“We are trying to find alternative ways to access people who are against health messages,” he says.

A second Ford/Knight is lead by Research Professor of Classics Steve Heiny, and is an in-depth study of Seamus Heaney’s “The Bookcase.”

“Heaney mentions a whole bunch of poets on the bookcase,” Ebbs explains. “We are looking at what sort of poetry is included and why, and the central themes. We get into the psychology behind these poems, the feelings and the technical aspects. It is so awesome to meet with Steve and five other students twice a week for an hour and a half and talk about masterful works of poetry. It has opened my eyes to how much of a genius you have to be to write poetry.”

Ebbs also plays midfield and forward on the men’s soccer team, and he serves as team captain. Juggling it all takes commitment, he says.

“You have to be OK with always being tired, and you have to find little pockets of time to do homework rather than doing it all after a game or practice when you are tired,” he explains. “You have to learn to do a lot of it a little at a time.”

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Jacob Ebbs

Jacob Ebbs 2016

Hometown: Brookline, Mass.

Major at Earlham: Psychology

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