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Term Abroad: Spring Break '17
Major/s: Biology and Spanish
Career Plans: Medicine
What do you think you gained from studying abroad?
IUPUI has given me not one, not two, but four opportunities to study abroad during my undergraduate career. I am so grateful for all that the IUPUI’s Study Abroad Office has offered me. As cheesy as it sounds, studying abroad is a life changing experience. I learned to be more independent and responsible. What is special about the study abroad programs that I have participated in is that they are all located in Spanish-speaking countries (the Dominican Republic, Spain, Panama, and now Nicaragua). As a Spanish major, it is important to not only learn the language but also learn the culture. Studying abroad has given me a two-in-one experience. It is always in a foreign place that I find myself, what I am passionate about, and what I love most. My study abroad experience started my wanderlust and made me fall in love with traveling. It is one of the few things in the world that allows me to open my eyes to a different world, while learning more about myself and becoming a better person. On this particular experience, I am humbled to say that we were able to serve 902 individuals during our 3-day medical brigade and 220 families on the 1-day water brigade. I was also able to meet 45 genuine and passionate students that participated on the brigade with me. My biggest takeaway from this experience is that although it may be difficult to change the world in one day, you can easily change someone’s life in one day.
Although this study abroad program was not credit-bearing, Global Brigades at IUPUI hosted 4 pre-trip meetings to prepare students for their experience abroad. We learned about Nicaragua culture, basic useful Spanish phrases, safety and security, and held a mock clinic. This was a service-based experience where I was able to serve many individuals in the community of La Corona in Nicaragua.
Initial thoughts on Arrival
I, along with two other students, arrived early to Nicaragua to get a chance to explore the city prior to the start of the brigade. As my third opportunity in a developing country, it was not a huge culture shock. Thinking back to my first experience in a developing country, I was shocked by the differences between the United States and the other country. I had to become accustomed to the cold-water showers, brushing my teeth with bottled water, etc. It humbles me to think about all the luxuries that we have here in the United States. These experiences abroad have helped me realize that we are truly blessed with all that we have.
We stayed at Hostal el Rey, which provided nice accommodations for almost 45 students. We were paired with New York University for this brigade, so we also shared housing with them. There were approximately 9 individuals per room, where we were sleeping in dorm-styled beds and shared a bathroom. We had meals at a sitting area in the middle of a garden. There was also WIFI provided at this location.
Yes, studying abroad is expensive! What is great about IUPUI is that it provides many scholarship opportunities. I was able to get my complete study abroad experience to Spain covered by scholarships. The School of Liberal Arts, the Honors College, the Study Abroad Office, and many other schools offer many scholarships to help support students that want to participate in a study abroad experience. There are also websites like Crowdrise, Empowered, and GoFundMe that allows friends and family to help fund your study abroad experience by just sharing your link on social media. When there’s a will, there’s a way.
Leisure & Travel
When we weren’t out serving the community, we were in the hostel getting to know the fellow students on the program. By spending 24 hours a day for 5 days with these individuals, we got close very quickly. Sometimes after the clinic day, we would also stop by the grocery store to pick up Nicaraguan snacks. It is also important to bring cash because many places do not take cards (Nicaragua did accept US dollars though). After the program ended, my two friends and I decided to stay in Nicaragua to explore the country. If you ever get the chance to go to Nicaragua, please go volcano boarding down Cerro Negro. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Many of the locals in Nicaragua only speak Spanish; therefore, if you do not understand or speak Spanish, it might be a bit difficult to communicate. Although Spanish was not a requirement for the trip, it was recommended. Also, all the Nicaraguans welcomed us with open arms. We even set up the clinic in a community member’s house and backyard.
My one and only advice I always give people studying abroad is to go with an open mind. Things will not go as planned. If you go in with an open mind and adapt to the unexpected, then you will come back with so much more.