Student Reflections - Shruthi Bhatt

Reflections from Non-traditional Students

To the prospective non-traditional study abroad student:

As high school student, I knew that I wanted to go to college and eventually travel the world. However, my travel plans were put on hold due to my undergraduate course load and work responsibilities. I had to take on 15-18 semester hours every semester to meet my major and minor class requirements, all while working half time at a research lab. My major was Biomedical Engineering, and there weren’t many study abroad programs that fit in with this area.  

Studying abroad during my undergrad years just was not feasible. As a graduate student, I found out about the India Winterim program and immediately grasped the opportunity to travel and do fieldwork in global health and epidemiology. I initially assumed that this would be something that I would participate in for leisure and did not think that this course would be applicable for graduate credit. I was really glad to hear that the program would count as one of my MS electives and am tremendously grateful for having had the opportunity to partake in the program.

Traveling and studying abroad are extremely important and can be truly rewarding at any stage of life. The course that I was enrolled in required students to take a deeper look at maternal and child health in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. My class consisted of undergraduate and graduate (MS, MPH, and PhD) students, 18 to 50 years old, with various academic backgrounds and travel experiences. I worked with an undergraduate student on a project to assess knowledge and attitudes regarding family planning and contraception in rural areas of Tamil Nadu. We had to opportunity to travel to rural villages and talk with the residents about various topics related to maternal and child health.

In addition to learning about fieldwork and maternal and child health, the group had several opportunities to explore the city and be adventurous. Every evening we would split up into smaller groups to explore the city, try adventurous foods and go shopping. Our hosts took us on several trips to hill stations, palaces, and temples. The highlight of the trip, in my opinion, was when an elephant was brought to the hospital entrance to greet and garland the Iowa students!

I met some amazing people on this study abroad and made life-long friends. I’ve learnt valuable lessons that I will carry throughout life. I feel that I made the right decision in participating in this program and am thankful that the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship Program made this happen!

Good luck on your future travels; I’m sure you will enjoy it!

Shruthi Bhatt